Jul 022020
 

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

Van Morrison

Some songs have the capacity to weave a legacy greater than simply a sum of their constituent parts. “Into the Mystic” is one such song. It isn’t necessarily the best song Van Morrison has ever constructed, but somehow it strikes chords heavier than it first seems to hit. Prefacing and pre-empting Morrison’s classic mid period of dreamy treatises on humanity and higher powers, all spiritual quests and transcendentalism, “Into the Mystic” actually appears on 1970’s Moondance, that almost most commercial of his works, the follow-up to the way more cerebral Astral Weeks. But for all the FM-friendliness of many of the songs, go read the lyrics, and Van is as philosophical as he ever has been. “Into the Mystic” proves to be the epitome, a yearning hymn to the seeking of an understanding of the cosmos, within and without the body and world.

The first draft was entitled “Into the Misty”; we can be grateful he took a pen through that, the meaning so less, well, cosmic in that phrase, and so more earthbound. The effect of the song is in no small part down to the superlative musicians then at his command, and the consummate arrangements, with the guitar, keyboards, and sax of John Platania, Jef Labes, and Jack Schroer, respectively, exquisite and never bettered subsequently. Even better than the studio take is that on 1974 live opus It’s Too Late To Stop Now, with the same musicians, and a stellar string section, still a high-water mark for live recordings by anyone.

Mind you, the vocals are pretty damn good too.
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May 112020
 

Cover Two reviewJoan Wasser started out as a violinist, performing in a variety of bands throughout the ’90s including The Dambuilders, Black Beatle, and Antony and the Johnsons. She eventually broke out on her own, assuming the stage name Joan As Police Woman (inspired by the TV show Police Woman) and releasing her first solo album in 2006. After two solo records of original material, Joan As Police Woman released a limited edition covers album in 2009 that included a variety of songs, from T.I. to David Bowie. Four albums and over a decade later, Joan is back with Cover Two, a similarly eclectic batch of cover songs.

Joan As Police Woman describes the process of creating this album: “I start with the question, ‘WHY, exactly, do I love this song?’ I take those elements and reform them, sometimes removing much of the remaining material to refocus them through new glasses.” Her process is evident in the sound of the album. Her covers are sparse, but still evocative.

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Apr 092020
 
michael mcdonald what's going on

Those familiar with the solo recordings of Michael McDonald are no doubt aware that in the early aughts he released a pair of Motown-themed covers albums, aptly titled Motown and Motown Two. For some, the records were a passionate reminder of McDonald’s abilities as a vocalist. For McDonald haters, they felt like a long journey into the dark side of human existence. McDonald recently revisited this part of his past by unveiling a new live cover of “What’s Going On.” Continue reading »

Feb 122020
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Michael McDonald

When it comes to cover versions, blue-eyed soul man extraordinaire and erstwhile Doobie Brother Michael McDonald (who turns 68 years old today) has primarily focused on the beautiful, ineffably perfect Motown canon, recording two albums solely dedicated to the label, Motown and Motown Two. Both were enormously successful and reignited a career which had pretty much flatlined through the entirety of the nineties. After the success of those two albums, he decided to push the boat out a little further and so in 2008 released Soul Speak, an odd mix of old rock classics and Stevie Wonder tunes with a few new originals added in for good measure. It could best be likened to one of the Rod Stewart standards albums, but for cooler people (Sorry, Rod, but… yeah).

Conversation regarding McDonald’s performances on these three albums has been well-trod at this point, and while they undeniably feature some real highlights, facts are facts: some of McDonald’s best and most eclectic covers have been of the one-off variety. The selections below run the gamut from traditional reverence to joyfully weird and are all 100% McDonald.
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