Mar 132015
 

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!

When you consider their longevity, the sheer number and variety of their live performances, and influences as diverse as bluegrass, country, soul, rock, psychedelia, blues, and jazz, it is likely that the Grateful Dead may have recorded and/or performed more covers than any other band that is best known for its original songs. (There’s probably a wedding band out there that has a bigger songbook, but that’s not really the point.) Grateful Dead fans have been trading and cataloging their favorite band’s performances since long before the idea of digital music and the Internet even existed, and now there are numerous databases available online — one of which shows 343 separate covers performed by the band (and solo projects and offshoots), including soundchecks and performances with guests.

Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that Cover Me has never turned its lovelight directly on the Grateful Dead. We have written numerous times about covers of Dead songs, but a quick review of the archives indicates that only three covers by the band have been featured—Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” and “Mama Tried.” So, that leaves us a mere 340 to choose from today. To make this project (inspired in part by Phil Lesh’s 75th birthday this Sunday and by the recent announcement of the band’s 50th anniversary shows in Chicago this summer) somewhat less insane, we will limit ourselves only to recordings or performances by the Grateful Dead, proper — no solo projects or anything from after the death of Jerry Garcia.
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Oct 032014
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

 
Aretha Franklin is back in the news again, promoting her upcoming cover album Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics and letting fly with her 72-year-old chops on Letterman. Meanwhile, Derek Jeter played his last game, and the Red Sox saluted him by inviting Michelle Brooks-Thompson from “The Voice” to sing “Respect.” She was promptly dubbed “Fake Aretha Franklin.”

Anyway, both events brought back memories of one of the undisputed greatest covers ever recorded. And the original’s nothing to sneeze at, either – this is Otis Redding we’re talking about, expressing as only he could what he’s got-ta, got-ta, got-ta have. “That’s one of my favorite songs because it has a better groove than any of my records,” Redding said. “Everybody wants respect, you know.” It was true – the song took him into the top 40 for only the second time, and the stampede to cover it began. Some of those covers were on the same level as the version by the nun in Airplane!, but a lot more of them rose far above that level…
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Sep 112013
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much-maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

News flash: Dexys Midnight Runners are more than just “Come On Eileen.” However, Kevin Rowland’s adenoidal voice and over-the-top emotion are not for everyone. Not only that, Rowland’s behavior and strange decisions definitely hindered the band’s popularity. With that in mind, we embark on a defense of the band that released some great music during their brief (if recently revived) career. If you are a Dexys skeptic, or are unaware of their output beyond “Eileen” – and let’s face it, that’s most of the world – maybe this selection of their covers will convince you to dig a little deeper into their catalogue.
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Jul 262013
 

Covering a classic such as Otis Redding‘s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay,” can be daunting, even blasphemous to some. Psychedelic rock trio Unknown Mortal Orchestra took on the timeless tune while visiting Marc Riley on BBC 6Music and definitely did it justice. Continue reading »

Nov 222011
 

It’s the end of the era of Etta and her more than fifty year stretch of hit singles, cross-genre awards and industry-shaking influence concludes with a dream. A dream that features Axl Rose… without being a nightmare!

With her most recent release, The Dreamer, Etta James announced her retirement from the music business. Her family recently disclosed that the 73-year-old suffers from leukemia, along with a number of other physical complications, and revealed her diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in 2009. While her decision to end her career is no surprise, what does startle is the nature of the final album with which Etta chose to take her bow. A curious collection of covers in which a handful of true blue soul and R&B standards rock alongside the likes of Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle.” Continue reading »

Sep 062011
 

It would be hard to mention Otis Redding’s “Try a Little Tenderness” without noting its prominent resurgence in the past few months. Thank Kanye West and Jay-Z, who prominently featured a chopped-and-screwed sample in Watch the Throne single “Otis.” If that reimagining was a little too off-kilter for you, perhaps you’ll enjoy Peter Bjorn and John’s new cover, recorded as the second-to-last song for A.V. Undercover. Continue reading »