Jan 092015
 

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

“Hey Joe” ranks right up there with “Stagolee” in the list of deathless murder ballads, and we have Billy Roberts to thank for its existence.

Billy Roberts? Who he, you ask, as did I, long believing the tale that Tim Rose spun about it being trad.arr. It certainly should be, call and refrain being common features within the traditional canon, but there isn’t enough evidence to nail that theory, so Billy Roberts, a ’60s coffeehouse folkie, has the official rights thereto. (Never mind the theory that he “gave” the song to Dino Valente, author of the Youngbloods’ “Get Together,” in order to give Valente some royalty income while he was in prison.)
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May 132014
 

With the possible exception of Martin Scorsese, no movie director has been more closely identified with his soundtracks than Wes Anderson. He has consistently selected songs by well-known artists that, through no fault of their own, have become three-quarters forgotten over the years, and reintroduced them to the world as the classics they had always been. If someone calls a song a prime candidate for the next Wes Anderson soundtrack (Guilty!), an instant and accurate picture is created. The soundtracks show a cohesion that’s rare in these days of we-want-a-hit soundtracks, where the earmarked smash doesn’t play until the final credits have started rolling, and they have become high points in the experience of watching Anderson’s movies. Now the American Laundromat Records label has collected covers of some of those high points on I Saved Latin! A Tribute to Wes Anderson, resulting in the best tribute album of the year.
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Apr 182014
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

The Elektra label has a history of celebrating itself with various books and anthologies, but then, there’s a lot to celebrate. Started by a teenaged Jac Holzman in his dorm room in 1950, it grew into major label status while retaining an eclectic roster of musicians who were given the chance to spread their artistic wings, just as likely to reach pinnacles of cult fandom (Tim Buckley, Love) as pinnacles of worldwide success (the Doors, Queen). In 1990, Elektra celebrated its 40th anniversary by releasing Rubaiyat, a 4-LP/2-CD/2-cassette box set with a unique premise – the label’s current artists covering songs from the label’s prior artists. Rarely have such disparate musicians rubbed shoulders as they do on this release, whether on levels of dissimilarity (Tracy Chapman and Metallica – together again!) or familiarity (the Shaking Family was infinitesimally as well known as the Cure), but that was the point, and they all got together here for some fine and enlightening work.
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Jul 062012
 

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.

A good ’60s cover act has two duties: 1) come up with a creative, memorable name to help them stand out among their peers, and 2) play the songs that everybody knows. The Strolling Scones handle the first part with an enviable nonchalance – how could anybody forget that name? But when it comes to the second part, they go in another direction entirely. Continue reading »

Jul 122011
 

The White Stripes may be broken up, but that doesn’t mean they can’t dig through the archives occasionally. In the latest installment of the aptly-named From the Vault series, Jack White and his label Third Man Records unearthed two super-early Stripes gems, both covers. On the a-side, the duo perform a subdued “Signed D.C.,” a Love cover. Then on the flip, they go through Otis Redding’s “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long.” Continue reading »