Dec 012017
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Today we conclude our series of posts about The Yardbirds.

But wait!” you exclaim. “The headline says ‘Led Zeppelin‘. Aren’t we talking about the folk-rock ballad that originally appeared in 1970 on the softer acoustic second side of Led Zeppelin III?”

Indeed we are, and “Tangerine” has been mentioned once or twice before on these pages. But a recent re-release, widely anticipated by fans of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, The Yardbirds, has re-opened the discussion about the songs’ origins. Is “Tangerine” really a Led Zeppelin song?

When it comes to songwriting credits, things aren’t always cut and dried with Jimmy Page. As it were, this particular instance follows suit. Around the time of last year’s “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarism lawsuit – won by Led Zeppelin – Rolling Stone cited 10 other Zep tunes with cloudy origins. The article mentioned “Dazed And Confused” – a song with ties to Page’s stint in The Yardbirds – but made no mention of “Tangerine” a song sharing similar ties. Both songs were the only two non-instrumental Led Zeppelin tracks to carry a songwriting credit attributed solely to Jimmy Page. The writing credit on “Dazed” was later amended in 2012 (singer-songwriter Jake Holmes was added as Page’s inspiration), but a cloud continues to hang over “Tangerine.”

Why the fuss? Cover Me readers might be interested in some of the forensics. Two years prior to the release of Led Zeppelin III, The Yardbirds, with Page as a member, recorded a demo for a song titled “Knowing That I’m Losing You” which was never officially released. Thirty-two years later, “Knowing” was scheduled to be included on The Yardbirds’ 2000 album Cumular Limit with other live and unreleased material, but the track was pulled. Seventeen years after that, Page, as producer, included an authorized re-mastered instrumental version, with the modified title “Knowing That I’m Losing You (Tangerine)” on the new Yardbirds ’68 compilation. Continue reading »

Sep 082017
 

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

yardbirds

The Yardbirds are back! Sort of. The quintessential R&B-influenced British Invasion band has made a few recent headlines, and any headline from a group that can boast Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page as alums is probably worth checking out.

Last month, the music press was buzzing when Page announced a November 5th release for Yardbirds ’68. The legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist is producing the newly unearthed compilation of live and studio recordings along with outtakes. Rolling Stone has more about it here. Additionally, in early August still-active founding member Jim McCarty and the bands’ current line-up announced a new Yardbirds studio album to be underwritten by a PledgeMusic campaign. The album promises to be “a totally new recording of original songs with a couple of carefully selected covers.” Fans can find out more and get involved here.

We’ll celebrate all this good news with several Yardbirds-related features leading up to the release of Page’s ’68 in November. Today, we’ll pay our respects with a recap of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. The first of countless compilations, this one passed a significant 50th anniversary milestone in March. Arguments abound among aficionados as to which Greatest Hits / Best Of / Retrospective is their “best,” but only one can claim to be their highest charting US album; Greatest Hits peaked at #28 on the Billboard chart in 1967 and arguably gave the band a second wind at the time. The album is no longer commercially available in its original LP configuration and packaging, but nowadays it can be put together with just a few taps on the screen/keys.

Included on Greatest Hits are all six of their singles up to 1967, plus three B-sides and a live track. Five tracks were written by at least one member of the band. Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, and Mose Allison are credited with one R&B cover each. Finally, two were written by Graham Gouldman, about whom we’ll have more to say in the near future.

So… let’s get ready, steady, go!

Continue reading »

May 192017
 
Cover Me

As we’ve noted already, 2017 marks Cover Me’s tenth birthday. We’ll have some more celebratory posts leading up to the actual date this fall, but I’m thrilled to announce one thing that’s on deck for October: the release of my first book, Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time!

Ever since I started this site, friends and readers have suggested that I should write a book about cover songs (surprisingly, a comprehensive book doesn’t really exist). For years, I resisted. “That’s like saying ‘I’m going to write a book about original songs’,” I’d snarkily reply – i.e., that’s a stupid idea. Cover songs seemed too broad a category. There’s no grand unifying theory of cover songs to fit tidily between two book covers; it’s too big and messy and wonderful a tent for that.

Aretha FranklinAfter years of saying no, I finally came up with the solution. I wouldn’t write a book about cover songs – instead, I would write a book about twenty specific cover songs, and through those twenty covers, a broader narrative would emerge.

The story of covers as traced in Cover Me involves artistic triumphs and music-industry shenanigans. It touches on trends in record-making, music videos, and the internet’s impact on music (did you know the first viral song was a cover?). There are beautiful moments of unlikely artists coming together, and some uglier instances of exploitation and racism. Every major change in the music industry since the advent of rock and roll finds some expression in the world of cover songs. Continue reading »

Sep 152016
 
son-little-by-anthony-saint-james-6229

Reviews of Son Little’s music tend to note all the genres he covers. He’s been compared to Marvin Gaye and to Tom Waits – in the same article. Though he certainly has a soulful voice, there’s a lot more to this former Roots collaborator than the limiting label “neo-soul” might encompass. And his wide tastes is showcased in the songs he’s picked to cover recently, from Drake to Led Zeppelin to, most recently, Bruce Springsteen. Continue reading »

Jul 052016
 

train led zepThe whole reason for a good cover to exist at all is that it takes the original source material, gets to the heart of the song, and extracts the most important elements, which are then refashioned in the image of the cover artist. There must be an element of band or artist doing the covering within the cover itself; otherwise it’s simply a note-for-note recreation of a superior (often iconically so) performance. Furthermore, there’s little in the way of artistry behind strict recreations of popular music. This approach is little more than an impression that ultimately serves little to no purpose aside from existing to remind listeners how much better the original was, is and always will be.

For a band like Train – whose music has served as the backdrop for innumerable cloying “romantic” moments in film, television and perhaps even real life – to take on the decidedly heavier sounds of Led Zeppelin would initially seem like something of a joke. What qualifies the group behind such saccharine megahits like “Drops of Jupiter” and the insufferable “Soul Sister” to cover a band like Led Zeppelin, let alone replicate an entire album? Well, it seems that when you reach the level Train has, you can do pretty much whatever you want and no one will question you.
Continue reading »

May 032016
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

sister sparrow covers

“Our music is loud, fun, and it’s supposed to make you feel good.”

That’s straight from the mouth of Arleigh Kincheloe, the lead singer and Sister Sparrow to the collection of Dirty Birds that backs her up in this amazing rock/soul/funk band. Arleigh and her brother Jackson, who plays the prominently-featured harmonica for the ensemble, came from the Catskills to the band’s base of operations, Brooklyn. They formed in 2008, and by 2010 they had their self-titled debut album available. Since then, they’ve been road warriors, hitting venues and festivals all over the country. They’ve won listeners over the old-fashioned way: putting on the best damn shows they can and bringing to music to every pair of ears they can find.
Continue reading »