Aug 302019
 

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

Immaculate Collection

Madonna was back in the news recently, as her latest release Madame X got the music press dishing out the full “return to form” treatment. No surprise, really – that’s the de rigueur clarion call to anyone of her vintage releasing, well, almost anything. To be fair, it has its moments, but nothing can beat The Immaculate Collection, the collection of Madge’s early singles that charts her journey from odd-voiced popstrel to soft-porn audio-provocateur. Continue reading »

Aug 162018
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

madonna covers

Today is Madonna’s birthday, when the Material Girl herself turns – well, one isn’t supposed to talk of such things, so let’s just say it’s a nice round number. Round enough for us to devote this month’s Best Covers countdown to her many hits and, in a few cases, underexposed deep cuts.

A very few cases, to be honest. More than anyone we’ve done these lists about before, Madonna remains best known as a singles artist (even Beyoncé now gets thought of as an album artist). As a result, it’s the singles a cover artist tends to focus on – f’rinstance, the song “Like a Prayer” has been covered more than every other track on the album Like a Prayer combined. The repeated dipping into the same dozen or so songs sets the bar pretty high. You can’t just tweak a tune here and adjust it there. To stand out amidst the million other “La Isla Bonita” covers, an artist needs to attempt something radical.

Many have taken up the challenge. Not one cover on our list would you confuse with Madonna’s version for a second. These artists translate her dance-pop smashes into garage-punk, gypsy-jazz, reggae-soul, and a few genres that no amount of hyphenates will do justice (just wait ’til you reach that Sonic Youth side project).

So get into the groove below. And, if you have any favorite covers we missed, express yourself in the comments! Continue reading »

Sep 022010
 

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

In 1966 the Rolling Stones already had five chart-topping singles under their belts in Britain (two in America). Over the previous few years, classics like “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” “The Last Time,” and “Get Off of My Cloud” had hit the world like an atom bomb. Great songs all, but much like the Beatles‘ earliest work, they were all a bit…samey. To be sure, it was the best sort of sameyness, but it wouldn’t have forecasted the group still selling out stadiums 45 years later.

“Paint It Black” gave the first whiff of that longevity. It wasn’t as big a hit as the three aforementioned singles, but it was their first real departure from the blues-band mold. The middle eastern melody, the spooky sitar riff underpinning the verses, the humming break two-thirds of the way through. This was different. This was out there. Continue reading »

Aug 112009
 

Look up. No, not at the ceiling, at the top of this blog. See that masthead? It’s ugly. I know you’ve been thinking it every time you visit here but were too polite to say anything. For that I thank you. Still, it’s time for an upgrade.

For that, I need your help. I am no artist, but I’m sure some of you are! Whether your medium is paint or Paint™, photos or Photoshop, I’m looking for someone to design a logo, a masthead, a title image to replace that ugly text up there. So let’s have a contest! Aspiring artists can design an image to go at the top of the blog and the winner (or winners, if I can’t pick just one) gets some fun prizes.

Prize(s)

  • Street cred, resume-booster, your image seen by thousands of readers a week.
  • The opportunity to choose one week’s theme and the opportunity to choose some songs for that theme (you provide the files if I don’t have them). You can even write the descriptions if you like!
  • If you are a musician, an opportunity to have you or your band be featured in an upcoming Cover Commissions. If you’re not a musician, you can pick someone for me to try to get!
  • A grab-bag assortment of cover CDs mailed to you. Who knows what you’ll get!

Rules:

  1. The image should legibly say “Cover Me.” You can include the “Songs done different” slogan or not, at your discretion.
  2. The image should be sized to fit in that space above. The width is 730, not sure about the height (anyone?)
  3. Bear in mind the blog’s color scheme when you design your image. Don’t make it look out-of-place.
  4. For bonus points, design a logo for any or all of our regular features: Cover Commissions, Cover News, Shuffle Sundays, or Full Albums. Those should be sized to fit at the top of an individual blog post. Prizes for this to be allocated as applicable.
  5. The deadline for submissions is Monday, August 24 (two weeks from today). Email submissions to covers86[at]gmail.com.

To get those creative juices following, here are some songs about art.


Elvis Costello – When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan)
It’s a live one from fall of 2006, only a year before Costello would go on tour opening for Dylan himself. This is a full band affair though, rough guitars laying the bed for Elvis’ signature nerd-boy croon. Not sure who the woman dueting with him is. Anyone know? [Buy]

Adam Selzer – Stop Talking About Comic Books or I’ll Kill You (Ookla the Mok)
Ookla the Mok, in addition to being a phenomenal band name, was a character in the Saturday morning cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian. Yet this songwriter hates comic books? Ah, sweet irony. It’s a side-splittingly funny song, made all the better in this hyper-sincere take. Oh, and did we mention Adam is doing this month’s Cover Commissions? Only a few days left to vote! [Buy]

Clinker – Story of an Artist (Daniel Johnston)
Adding a bed of strings and echoed vocal should totally kill this beautiful song, but all the elements are arranged so perfectly they take the oft-covered tune to a whole new place. [Buy]

Ericka Nova – Let It All Go (Mark Knopfler)
This one’s the source of Mark’s 2007 album title Kill to Get Crimson. It’s a truly brilliant song by the most underappreciated songwriter in rock, so I will send you to look at the lyrics. A lament about a failing artist being told to just give up, there are more important things to do. “It’s the end of the thirties / No time for arties / Over in Poland a right old to-do.” [Buy]

Holly Ramos – Art Lover (The Kinks)
There’s something about the delicate Ramos singing “I’m not a dirty old man” that gets me every time. [Buy]

The Thing – Art Star (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
It’s instrumental horn-fueled grunge-free-jazz and, awful as that sounds, it’s somehow grin-inducing as these guys say the hell with convention. [Buy]

Marc Almond – Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
After “Tainted Love” it should be no secret that the Soft Cell frontman has a way with covers. This one’s dark and huge, like a Phantom of the Opera outtake. [Buy]

Treepeople – Andy Warhol (David Bowie)
You can’t have songs about art without a few songs about artists. David Bowie’s off-kilter meandering gets a grunge-punk treatment here which, ironically, warps the strange rhythms into a more conventional-sounding tune. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – Vincent Van Gogh (Robert Friemark)
Dylan busted this one out with his old parter-in-crime Bob Neuwirth at various dates on the second leg of his legendary Rolling Thunder tour. It’s a shame the recording quality isn’t better, but I recommend playing it yourself anyway. [Buy]

Pearl Jam – Picture in a Frame (Tom Waits)
Tom Waits himself wouldn’t perform at one of Neil Young’s legendary Bridge School Benefits until the following year, but he was already a presence in 2006 when Eddie Vedder led Pearl Jam in this cover that sounds like it was made for his gruff voice. [Buy]