Jan 312019

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

best neil young covers

Neil Young released his self-titled debut solo album on January 22, 1969. Well, technically he re-released it that day. It had initially landed without much fanfare the previous November, only for Young to quickly pull it from shelves due to what he deemed a subpar mix. Even in his professional infancy, decades before Pono and the Neil Young Archives, he was a stickler for quality control.

We hope this list would pass muster with him. At 50 songs, it’s our longest to date (tied only with The Rolling Stones) and still barely scratches the surface. We could have quite easily listed the best 50 covers of “Heart of Gold” or “Like a Hurricane” alone. He gets covered about as much as any songwriter alive, and about as well too.

Neil hasn’t slowed down in his own age, and neither has the flow of new covers. Some of the covers below came out near 50 years ago themselves. Others only landed in the last year or two. No doubt another contender will arrive tomorrow. Neil never stops, and, thankfully, neither do covers of his songs. Continue reading »

Oct 202017

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

exile on main street

It’s a bit overrated, to be honest. Compared to Let it Bleed and Beggars Banquet, which I think are more of a piece, I don’t see it’s as thematic as the other two. I’m not saying it’s not good. It doesn’t contain as many outstanding songs as the previous two records. I think the playing’s quite good. It’s got a raw quality, but I don’t think all around it’s as good. – Mick Jagger

Every time I (choose my favorite Stones album), I keep thinking about the ones I’m leaving out. It’s like babies. But if I’ve got to pick one I’ll say – and you can take it with a large dose of salt – Exile. Because of its amazing spirit, the incredible amount of enthusiasm and screw-you-ing, You can throw us out but you can’t get rid of us. – Keith Richards

Now seen as a masterpiece, Exile on Main Street has been getting mixed reviews for most of its life, and not just from its creators. Lester Bangs wrote a review calling it “at once the worst studio album the Stones have ever made, and the most maddeningly inconsistent and strangely depressing release of their career”; later, he wrote, “I practically gave myself an ulcer and hemorrhoids, too, trying to find some way to like it. Finally I just gave up, wrote a review that was almost a total pan, and tried to forget about the whole thing. A couple weeks later, I went back to California, got a copy just to see if it might’ve gotten better, and it knocked me out of my chair. Now I think it’s possibly the best Stones album ever.”

Now the critics of yesteryear who trashed Exile have turned into critics calling the record overrated. But that’s a hard criticism to support. The record shows the Stones at their bravest and least calculated, playing blues, gospel, country, boogie, good old rock ‘n’ roll, even a couple of covers, as if the music exuded from deep inside their selves. These multiple genres weren’t accoutrements to dress up in as the mood struck, but were part of the sweat and grime that hung in the air and coated the basement walls at Nellcote as the Stones recorded there.
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Sep 292017

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

for your love

“For Your Love” was where English teen Graham Gouldman’s songwriting trilogy for the Yardbirds began. The band’s pivot away from their R&B roots to a more “experimental-yet-accessible” sound kicked off in 1965 when they picked up three Gouldman-penned tunes. “For Your Love,” the first single to be released, became an immediate hit in the UK (#1 on NME) and reached #6 in the US and #1 in Canada. It’s become known as one of the great classics of the British Invasion and paved the way for the similar success achieved by Gouldman’s other contributions, “Heart Full of Soul” and “Evil Hearted You.”

The band made a concerted effort to create a unique arrangement for the song. Gouldman and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja are both on the record citing the song’s “weirdness” due to elements like the (accidental) addition of the now-signature minor chord harpsichord introduction, bongos, and a bowed bass. The end product sounded like two songs fused together; one with an ancient or middle eastern feel, the other, an R&B standard. Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton can be heard playing on the bridge, his final recorded notes with the Yardbirds before leaving the group after the song’s release (to be replaced by Jeff Beck).

We’ve identified over 60 verified covers of the song. Gouldman fans can find the first recording of his own song in our covers review of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. For this global hit, we’ve selected five additional favorites and a bushel of bonus tracks for you to enjoy…
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Jan 242012

Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. Continue reading »

Jun 092010

Under the Radar shines a light on a lesser-known cover artist. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should.

“How can a man who plays guitar for Bruce Springsteen and used to be in Crazy Horse be considered under the radar?” you may be asking. Fair question. Millions of people have watched Nils Lofgren spin and flip during his “Because the Night” solos, but how many of them own any of his solo records? I rest my case.

Out of all the E Street Band’s solo records, Lofgren’s may be the best. Originals like “No Mercy” and “Keith Don’t Go” became minor hits, but Lofgren sprinkles his albums liberally with covers. His most recent release is a disc of acoustic Neil Young songs titled, appropriately, The Loner: Nils Sings Neil. One of the songs he performs is “Like a Hurricane.” On the album it lasts 3 minutes and 59 seconds. An outtake he posted on his website jams past the nine minute mark. Needless to say, that’s the one we’re posting.
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School Days

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May 262008

I’m in the midst of finals these days – hence the less frequent posting – but I’ll tide you over with some school and test themed covers. Now back to “Immigration, Race, and Ethnicity in Contemporary American Society”. Woohoo!

Snatch – Another Brick in the Wall (Pink Floyd)
Sometimes the most interesting cover is the best, sometimes it isn’t. I didn’t do enough research to know which is the case here, but the moment I heard this funk-disco version I knew it was too unique not to post. So love it or hate it, but at least it’s different.

Nils Lofgren – What a Wonderful World (Sam Cooke)
I saw Joan Baez bust this one out a month or so back (read my review here), but I think Lofgren’s cover has it beat. Nils, incidentally, is Bruce Springsteen’s guitarist, but a phenomenal musician in his own right, with a voice way better than the Boss’s.

Bruce Springsteen – High School Confidential (Jerry Lee Lewis)
On energy though, Bruce has him beat. It’s been a while since I was in high school, but I don’t remember it being quite as fun as this live take from ’78.

Julie Doiron – Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard (Paul Simon)
Luckily, my high school career was also not as law-breaking as Paul Simon’s apparently. Doiron gives it a quiet and slow acoustic take. If she was a guy, this would be emo, but as it is it’s just pretty.

Bree Sharp – We’re Going to Be Friends (The White Stripes)
Looking up covers for this post, I discovered that over at Cover Lay Down bowhowdy had done a similar post last month! I limited myself to only stealing one song for this post, but the rest are all worth hearing, so head over here. Oh yeah, and this is way better than Jack Johnson’s version. Surprising? Didn’t think so.

Laibach – The Final Countdown (Europe)
I should have a gothic-techno themed post at some point, but until then this Europe cover will have to suffice. Sounds like the angriest rave ever. Oh, and it’s relevant to the theme cause I’m taking finals, see?

A-Teens – School’s Out (Alice Cooper)
Looking at the artist here, you might expect this to be awful. And you’d be right. But sometimes novelty is good enough, and if you need a pick-me-up from your own finals, this terrible cover (featuring Cooper himself…wtf?) should give you a laugh.