Laura Nyro was one of the unsung heroes of 1960s pop. Though the singer/songwriter released a number of albums, many of her most enduring songs were covers recorded by other artists such as Three Dog Night and Blood, Sweat & Tears. “She had a kaleidoscopic musical sensibility that fused elements of folk, soul, gospel and Broadway tradition into intensely introspective songs that transcended easy stylistic categorization,” The New York Times wrote when Nyro passed away in 1997.
Amaara – House of Cards (Radiohead cover)
We just posted the 45 best Radiohead covers ever, but there’s already a 46th. Unsurprising, really, considering how much this band gets covered. The musical project of actor Kaelen Amara Ohm, Amaara took on the In Rainbows gem “House of Cards.” Her cover carries echoes of the haunting original, but with a smoother electro-ambient sheen.
Chris Anderson – Eh-Hee / Digging in the Dirt (Dave Matthews / Peter Gabriel cover)
Composer Chris Anderson draws from some pretty deep wells of music knowledge on his new Song Cycle. He covers Laurie Anderson and John Cage and Tom Waits – twice. He covers Peter Gabriel twice too, on a beautiful “Mercy Street” and more subtly here, working bits of “Digging in the Dirt” into – of all things – a gospel Dave Matthews cover. “The addition of a choir was important to me to create the feeling of a ground-swell of support,” he writes in an email. “The fact that the song is about ‘knocking the devil to his knees’ made the gospel choir a natural choice.”
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
I know, I know, cheating with a compilation album, but believe me, I tried, hell, I tried. I wanted to cover the 1972 debut, Roxy Music/Roxy Music, not least as it is “their best,” but also to celebrate this year’s inauguration of the band (or brand) into the R&R Hall of Fame. But let’s face it — however good (most of) the songs are, the cover versions, give or take, are decidedly not. And so few anyway, most being limp copies and ersatz imitations. (And I’m talking about you, Velvet Goldmine, with your Thom Yorke and your faux recreations.) Indeed, it seems, as I researched, that the only person regularly covering Roxy was Bryan Ferry himself, either in solo mode or, now and gloriously, in a jazz age great Gatsby style, both ruled out automatically by default. But they are good….. So I have had to resort to this 2nd best, even if it misses out the sole reason I wanted to take this on in the first place, the superb Tin Machine/Bowie take on “If There is Something,” my favorite-ever Roxy track.
I loved the Roxy, being just the right age as they emerged, in my mid-teens, looking for the hit of new to fertilize my hungry ears. I recall listening to the debut in a Brighton record shop. There was a wiring disconnect in the headphones, giving a buzz in the left ear. I didn’t realize this wasn’t part of the sound for some time (years, actually), thinking it part of the process, and it added to the band’s mystique. The succession of records continued to enthrall, arguably better put together songs as more of the experimental gradually fell by the wayside, not that I could allow myself to admit it. As Eno and every bassist in turn left, so the musicianship upped, the Eddie Jobson years an especial highlight. A few years silence and back they bounced, now a smoother beast altogether, a trio of Ferry, Mackay and Manzanera with the pick of sessiondom’s finest, still great, if mellower. Did they ever really officially fold? There was always the promise of some new undertaking, inevitably subsumed into more Ferry solo projects, his live shows increasingly and ever more Roxy-based. I don’t suppose it will ever happen now, but maybe the memories are stronger.
Have some hits…
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
There are many reasons to love Paul Weller, the primary songwriter and singer for The Jam, but here’s a reason to hate him: he claims to have written 1981’s great “That’s Entertainment,” in ten minutes, while drunk. I suspect that most of us couldn’t write a song as good as “That’s Entertainment” if we spent our entire life trying, whether or not we were under the influence of any substance.
The Jam rose to fame, at least in England, on the back of songs that were mostly angry, fast and loud. As time went on, though, they began to include softer songs, without diluting their powerful political and social point of view. What makes “That’s Entertainment” so potent is the sense of barely contained rage in its mostly acoustic, relatively quiet arrangement. The lyrics are a stream of consciousness collage of scenes from ordinary life in Margaret Thatcher’s England, a country that Weller felt was tilting strongly toward the wealthy and privileged and away from the needs of ordinary people. According to Weller, these vignettes were all visible from the bus he was on the night he wrote the song, and as a whole, they paint a picture of sadness and hopelessness.
So, Weller sings about “paint splattered walls and the cry of a tomcat,” “a freezing cold flat and damp on the walls,” and “opening the windows and breathing in petrol,” each verse followed by the sarcastic refrain “That’s entertainment, that’s entertainment.” (The song was, in part, inspired by a poem, “Entertainment,” by Paul Drew, and I wonder if there is also a backhanded reference to the glossy musicals compiled by MGM in their films from the mid-1970s with the same title).
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!
The paths of songwriter Graham Gouldman and all-time greats The Yardbirds are forever linked in rock and roll history, but not inextricably. In 1965, a nineteen-year-old Gouldman had the good fortune to begin his career by penning the iconic Yardbirds hits “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Evil Hearted You.” The songs helped establish the now-legendary group as they transitioned from one eventual rock guitar god (Eric Clapton) to another (Jeff Beck), but the hits wouldn’t define Gouldman’s career.
Gouldman, a musician in his own right, neither performed with the band (that we’re aware), nor wrote any further hits for them. However, his career was just getting started. The ‘60s saw him writing additional hits for The Hollies, Herman’s Hermits, and the aforementioned Jeff Beck, along with songs recorded by Cher, Wayne Fontana, and Ohio Express. The ‘70s brought hits with his own band 10cc. Additionally, Joe Cocker, Paul Carrack, Gary Wright, and Kirsty MacColl all recorded Gouldman tracks over the ensuing decades.
Today, the 71-year-old consummate troubadour is still at it; he just finished up his appropriately-named “Heart Full of Songs” tour in the UK before he rolls back out to Europe with 10cc in November. Let’s take a look at some standout covers of songs written by Gouldman from the major eras of a career that’s now spanned over fifty years…
Well, it has been quite a week in politics. President Trump got sworn in Friday, then on Saturday hundreds of thousands of protesters marched across the country. We don’t need to go into the many (many) controversies and debates the first few days of the Trump administration have already brought us. You know them, and that’s not really our beat anyway.
What is our beat is cover songs, and a whole lot of politically-minded covers came out in the past week. Some are explicitly covers of songs with political lyrics, like Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs covering Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” and OK Go covering Morrissey’s “Interesting Drug” (opening lines: “There are some bad people on the rise / They’re saving their own skins by ruining other people’s lives”).
Other covers are only political in the sense that they were released to raise money for groups like the American Civil Liberties Union or Planned Parenthood. Barsuk Records put out a covers comp featuring Nada Surf, David Bazan, Mates of State, The Long Winters (wonderfully titled Sad!). Members of the Philadelphia punk scene came together for a 35-song set of covers by the likes of Laura Stevenson and Jeff Rosenstock, which range from the covers of political artists like Against Me! and Bikini Kill to a cover of the Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping,” which would be difficult to find a political take on.