Feb 202012

Original Pop Diva. Powerhouse. Train-wreck. Amongst these and other controversial titles eulogizing Whitney Houston upon her passing last week, let us add one more: Queen of Covers.

It’s true that Houston’s legacy shines bright with accolades that are all-Whitney. The diva received more than 400 industry awards in her lifetime, including six Grammys and 20 Billboard Awards; she scored an impressive string of seven number-one singles with “Saving All My Love For You,” “How Will I Know,” “Greatest Love of All,” “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Loves Me),” “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” “So Emotional,” and “Where Do Broken Hearts Go;” her debut album, “Whitney Houston” was the best-selling female vocal record, ever, upon its release. And never mind the music career, the lady was also a critically acclaimed actor, model and producer. Oh yes, and a mom. Continue reading »

Dec 062011

I have no hard data to back this up, but I suspect that EPs play a larger role in the world of cover songs than they do elsewhere. In the wider world, EPs tend to be an afterthought, a set of rejects or remixes that may or may not be worthwhile. People pay little attention to EPs, and artists act accordingly, saving their real statements for the full-lengths. In our world, though, we see as many EPs as we do proper albums, and they’re every bit as good. An artist may hesitate to put out a “cover album” – still a loaded term in some circles – but in the age of Garageband and Bandcamp, it’s only too easy to record a half dozen covers and toss ‘em out between albums. Therefore, in honor of the EP’s prominence in our world, we present our favorite EPs of 2011 (with an MP3 from each). Continue reading »

Nov 092011

Every Wednesday, our resident Gleek Eric Garneau gives his take on last night’s Glee covers.

In “The First Time,” McKinley High prepares to open their production of West Side Story, but stars Rachel (Lea Michele) and Blaine (Darren Criss) find themselves full of indecision after musical director Artie (Kevin McHale) suggests they need sexual experience to properly portray their roles.

West Side Story‘s over, and I’m not sure how much there’s left to say about McKinley High’s (really professional-looking) production of the classic musical. I’m really surprised this plot sustained itself over five episodes (with its songs making it into three of the last four), but it seems that for now we’ve seen the last of the West Side. Is that a good thing? Continue reading »

Sep 142011

Fun, Sing in Japanese proves, is not language-specific.

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes are longtime punk stalwarts with a bent for alcohol consumption and other people’s songs. Their whole “career”–not that this is any of the Gimmes’ main gig (guitarist Chris Shiflett of Foo Fighters fame, bassist Fat Mike of NOFX and drug-fueled-antics-on-basic-cable fame)–has been based on the phenomena of the punk rock cover, a special breed of aural pleasure reserved for the…warped…part of all of us.

Sing in Japanese is another theme collection from the Gimmes like Go Down Under or Love Their Country, only these songs might be a little more foreign to you (I would say no pun intended, but after I realized that I was about to say it I went ahead and typed it out anyway, so there, cliche). Have you ever heard of Yoshida Takuro? Didn’t think so. Continue reading »

Aug 092011

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s big day with cover tributes to his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

In her 48 years, Whitney Houston has accomplished more than most of us will in a whole lifetime. From modeling to acting to (of course) singing, this New Jersey native has done it all. Her signature powerhouse voice has won her over 400 awards over the course of her career, and ever since her self-titled debut album, Whitney Houston, was released back in 1985, Houston has proven herself to be a game-changer. Her outstanding success helped topple gender and racial barriers in the music industry, paving the way for female recording artists like Beyoncé and Rihanna, who rule the airwaves today. But, really, who would expect anything less from the cousin of Dionne Warwick and goddaughter of Aretha Franklin? Continue reading »


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Mar 112008

It’s been a little while since we had a strictly thematic post, so here we are with streets, both specific and general.

I Can Make a Mess Like Nobody’s Business – Positively 4th Street (Bob Dylan)
The organ-fueled rant of the vitriolic original has been taken down to a light folk-rock take that, though the sound seems superficial, keeps the fury intact in a more passive-aggressive mode. Probably a bad choice to start this set with though, as other than the title the song actually has nothing to do with streets. Oh well.

Abbie Gardner – Hit the Road Jack (Ray Charles)
Gardner takes a Joan Osborne-esq approach, stripping the soul classic down to some slapped guitar and understated vocals.

Patty – Highway to Hell (AC/DC)
Off of the pretty good Backed In Black tribute album, it sounds about what you would expect the track to sound like on an acoustic guitar. Which isn’t a bad thing.

Marah – Streets of Philadelphia (Bruce Springsteen)
Bruce has got a lot of street songs: Thunder Road, The E Street Shuffle, Tenth-Avenue Freeze-Out, Streets of Fire, Incident on 57th Street, etc. Only one of them has won him an Oscar however. So, though it’s far from one of my favorite Springsteen songs, it’s hard to knock it. Fellow Jersey boy Marah gives it a little more life in an uptemp country take that replaces the synths with banjos.

Al Jarreau – (Get Your Kicks On) Route 66 (Bobby Troup)
A bop-jazz instrument-less version of this rock standard stands out from the competition, most of which all sound identical (though Depeche Mode does a decent take too). The sounds of a Beat coffee shop.

Anti-Nowhere League – Streets of London (Ralph McTell)
Though not in the same league fame-wise as the Sex Pistols or The Clash, they certainly have the sound down on this punked updated of the folk standard, off-key nasal drawl and all. Fast and straight-ahead, with no fucking around.

Brandi Carlisle and A Fine Frenzy – Goodbye Yellow Brick Road (Elton John)
Two great indie-fabulous female vocalists combine for this live duet

Me First and the Gimme Gimmes – Take Me Home, Country Roads (John Denver)
These guys only do one thing, but they do it well. So here’s one of dozens of their non-rock songs turned into pop-punk. Sounds exactly like you’d expect.

John Hammond – Fannin Street (Tom Waits)
It’s a cover, but Hammond (the producer’s son) released it years before Tom released his own. Named after a Leadbelly song, John’s version is much smoother, slow country-blues in this live take from an ’01 show.

Tenacious D – Abbey Road Medley (The Beatles)
Jack Black and Kyle Gass, known mostly for songs about slow sex and farting, occasionally do a cover…and are surprisingly adept at it. Here’s Side B of Abbey Road, minus the Ringo drum solo. That famous side can’t be discussed, however, without a link to Chris Bliss juggling to it.