Aug 102012
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Let It Be was the soundtrack of a band falling apart. That was never the plan, of course – the Beatles conceived the album as a back-to-basics effort, in which they would rediscover the joys of playing together without overdubs, only to find themselves bored, angry, and miserable, each one trapped with three bandmates who couldn’t understand what he was going through. They were unhappy with the results and shelved them, but a known goldmine won’t stay untampered, and Phil Spector was brought in to make something of the mess. Upon its release, the highest praise any Beatle gave it came from John, and his quote – “When I heard it, I didn’t puke” – scarcely counts as a ringing endorsement.

Today Let It Be is still seen as one of the weakest albums in the Beatle catalog – but then, this being the Beatles, that means there are only three or four immortal classics, plus a few more that would be high points in the catalogs of 98% of the world’s bands. Somehow, this dying gasp of an album, recorded in notoriously joyless circumstances, found its way into the hearts of millions; somehow, that’s where it was always meant to be.
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Mar 052011
 

This March, we pit 64 Beatles covers against each other in what we call Moptop Madness.

Yesterday’s winners: The Black Keys, “She Said She Said” and Teenage Fanclub, “The Ballad of John and Yoko”

For our first weekend set – yes, these contests don’t end with Friday – we have some unusual genre pairings. In ring number one, Aretha Franklin’s soulful “Eleanor Rigby” butts heads with K.J. Denhert’s folksy “Ticket to Ride.” Then, in ring two, Laibach’s industrial “One After 909” challenges Al Green’s smooth “I Want to Hold Your Hand.”

Listen to each pairing below, then vote for your favorite. For added sway, try to convince others to vote your way in the comments. Voting closes in 24 hours. Continue reading »

Queen

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Mar 312009
 

Queen was my first musical love and, re-listening to these tunes for this post, I remember why. Few dispute Freddie Mercury’s position as one of the greatest frontmen of all time, but Brian May’s absurd guitar playing and Roger Taylor’s rock-solid drumming helped propel these tunes to another dimension. As a kid I never went beyond the greatest hits, and I never needed to. They’re that good. So here are some of said hits, done different.

Electric Six – Radio Ga Ga
The Detroit six-piece behind the über-catchy Danger! High Voltage! brings their electro-rock to this Metropolis-themed Queen hit. It’s loud, brash and sassy, and doesn’t forget to include the tune’s signature double-clap-along. [Buy]

Hayseed Dixie – Fat Bottomed Girls
This bluegrass tribute act is about as tongue-in-cheek as you can get (Hayseed Dixie = AC/DC. Get it?) and brings some down-home hootenanny fun to this ode to larger ladies everywhere. Queen hit publicity gold with double single for this and “Bicycle Race,” staging a naked bicycle race with plenty of, you guessed it, fat bottom girls. Check it. [Buy]

Xiu Xiu ft. Michael Gira – Under Pressure
This one at once clings to the original arrangement and pulls away from it, coming apart at the seams even while the performers take it very seriously. Having a female vocalist brings a new swagger to it (inspired perhaps by Annie Lenox’s masterful turn at the Freddie Mercury Tribute concert) while some dissonant horns threatens to bring the whole thing down. [Buy]

Beach House – Play the Game
Left off the indie-tastic Dark Was the Night compilation for some sort of licensing reasons (did Queen really not approve an AIDS benefit disc??), the wavering synths back some neo-folk singing, fragile even with the drum machine. [Buy]

Tenacious D – Flash
Jack Black and Kyle Gass aren’t exactly known for their covers, but this live one is a real gem. The song is just absurd enough as is to count as comedy, so their masterful acoustic playing is put on the spotlight to propel a wry take. If you wonder why it cuts off so suddenly, it’s because it’s an intro to their own “Wonderboy.” Watch the whole thing here. [Buy]

Ingram Hill – ‘39
It’s an irresistible chord progression, showing guitarist Brian May was no slouch at writing songs either, and does it justice with thumping drums, choir harmonies, and a bit of accordion. This comes off Killer Queen, the only Queen tribute comp worth getting, which includes Joss Stone’s slow-burn “Under Pressure” and the Flaming Lips’ spastic “Bohemian Rhapsody.” [Buy]

Laibach – One Vision
German Industrial giant Laibach lets loose with a stomping translation called “Geburt Einer Nation” (Birth of a Nation) that Wire magazine proclaimed one of the greatest covers ever. It’s definitely different, as if the song’s optimism was on the war path for your head. [Buy]

Upsilon Acrux – Bicycle Race
Some sort of low-fi, toy-piano freakout, this one can’t help make you smile at the A.D.D. absurdity of these guys. Like ten covers in one, they transfer from grunge to lounge without flinching, adding some space-age effects en route. [Buy]

Royal Philharmonic Orchestra – Killer Queen
Known as “Britain’s national orchestra,” London’s Philharmonic doesn’t just churn out the standard boring “classical” take on rock music. Their tribute discs are arranged and performed by the very finest composers and players England has to offer, and you can hear the difference. Off of their Passing Open Windows Queen tribute, “Killer Queen” blasts out with horns, drums, and…what is that familiar interlude? “Good bye, everybody…” [Buy]

The Busters – We Are the Champions
True story: In high school my band decided at the last minute to close one of our shows with this one. The only problem: none of us were particularly good, and we didn’t have time to learn the chords. So we just got the audience singing loud enough to mask out dissonance. Thankfully, the samba-reggae Busters did their homework. [Buy]

School Days

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May 262008
 

I’m in the midst of finals these days – hence the less frequent posting – but I’ll tide you over with some school and test themed covers. Now back to “Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in Contemporary American Society”. Woohoo!

Snatch – Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd)
Sometimes the most interesting cover is the best, sometimes it isn’t. I didn’t do enough research to know which is the case here, but the moment I heard this funk-disco version I knew it was too unique not to post. So love it or hate it, but at least it’s different.

Nils Lofgren – What a Wonderful World (Sam Cooke)
I saw Joan Baez bust this one out a month or so back (read my review here), but I think Lofgren’s cover has it beat. Nils, incidentally, is Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, but a phenomenal musician in his own right, with a voice way better than the Boss’s.

Bruce Springsteen – High School Confidential (Jerry Lee Lewis)
On energy though, Bruce has him beat. It’s been a while since I was in high school, but I don’t remember it being quite as fun as this live take from ’78.

Julie Doiron – Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard (Paul Simon)
Luckily, my high school career was also not as law-breaking as Paul Simon’s apparently. Doiron gives it a quiet and slow acoustic take. If she was a guy, this would be emo, but as it is it’s just pretty.

Bree Sharp – We’re Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes)
Looking up covers for this post, I discovered that over at Cover Lay Down bowhowdy had done a similar post last month! I limited myself to only stealing one song for this post, but the rest are all worth hearing, so head over here. Oh yeah, and this is way better than Jack Johnson’s version. Surprising? Didn’t think so.

Laibach – The Final Countdown (Europe)
I should have a gothic-techno themed post at some point, but until then this Europe cover will have to suffice. Sounds like the angriest rave ever. Oh, and it’s relevant to the theme cause I’m taking finals, see?

A-Teens – School’s Out (Alice Cooper)
Looking at the artist here, you might expect this to be awful. And you’d be right. But sometimes novelty is good enough, and if you need a pick-me-up from your own finals, this terrible cover (featuring Cooper himself…wtf?) should give you a laugh.