Aug 282020
 

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

James Taylor

James Taylor’s “Fire and Rain” is a perverse oddball of a song. On the one hand, it’s a comfortable, welcoming armchair, resoundingly easy on the ears with its sweet acoustic picking, memorable melody, and mellifluous vocal. On the other, it’s a harrowing tale of despair, loss and confusion with no real resolution. “Fire and Rain ” got as high as #3 on the Billboard pop chart in 1970, and though it didn’t hit the top spot, its success helped open the door for a veritable flood of like-minded soul-baring singer-songwriters, from Jackson Browne to Jim Croce and beyond.

The story behind “Fire and Rain” is a pretty well-trod one at this point. Each verse describes a particular period of Taylor’s late-’60s life story. The first verse addresses the suicide of an old friend, Susie Schnerr (referred to as “Suzanne” in the lyric), as does the last line of the chorus; “but I always thought that I’d see you again.” The second verse describes James’s own addiction to heroin. The third alludes to his time in a psychiatric hospital while being treated for depression; it includes a reference to the implosion of his band Flying Machine (which has frequently been misinterpreted as a reference to an actual plane crash).
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Jul 222020
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Indigo Girls

Emily Saliers, of the folk duo Indigo Girls, turns 57 today. She and Amy Ray have enjoyed a long collaboration. They have known each other since elementary school and have been playing together since high school in 1985. Since then they have recorded 16 studio albums, including their most recent Look Look that they released in May.

As Karen Tongson writes in her Turning the Tables piece on the band’s influence: “To know if you are an Emily or an Amy is akin to declaring a strong preference for Wordsworth or Coleridge, as much as for Lennon or McCartney.” The pair write songs individually but then join together to perform, building albums with a mix of both of their songwriting styles and points of view. Despite never really becoming mainstream, these two as individuals and as part of their iconic duo have had a powerful impact on their fans and on the culture of music itself. Want to know more about their legacy? Check out the band’s Tumblr blog that documents the history of their work together.

As our contribution to Saliers’ birthday celebration, we’ll hear a cover by the Indigo Girls, covers of three Indigo Girls hits written by Saliers, and a cover of one of their particularly political collaborations.

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Feb 282019
 
best cover songs february
Andrew Leahey & the Homestead – Lips Like Sugar (Echo and the Bunnymen cover)


Nashville Americana musician Andrew Leahey first heard “Lips Like Sugar” a couple years ago while touring through Texas. Dozing in the van, he woke up to a bandmate blasting the Echo and the Bunnymen hit. “I remember thinking, ‘I hope we don’t crash right now, because I absolutely need to learn how to play this,'” he said. “We’ve been playing it ever since.” He recorded it for his new album Airwaves, out tomorrow.

Bill Frisell and Thomas Morgan – You Only Live Twice (Nancy Sinatra cover)


Guitar great Bill Frisell first recorded the classic James Bond theme a couple years ago for his album (one of our favorites of that year). He revisits it now for a live album with bassist Thomas Morgan. Like any jazz musician worth his martini, Frisell changes and expands the Bond song the second time through. It’s barely recognizable much of the time, but would still be worth a spot on our Best Bond Covers list. Continue reading »

Nov 302011
 

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

In “I Kissed a Girl,” Santana (Naya Rivera) grapples with being forced out of the closet while the show’s two elections (Kurt Hummel for student body president and Burt Hummel for Congress) enter their last days. Meanwhile, the competition between the New Directions glee club and rivals the Troubletones cools down as the groups come together to help Santana through her identity crisis.

Before we get too deep into this week’s episode, we need to backtrack a bit to our previous entry. I had mentioned how much I enjoyed last episode’s closing Adele mash-up, “Rumor Has It/Someone Like You,” and apparently I wasn’t the only one. Besides commenters and friends of this site, the music-buying public also voiced their support, giving Glee its best-performing single by far in a long, long time. “Rumor Has It/Someone Like You” hit number 11 on the U.S. charts; the next highest-charting song from this season, a cover of Coldplay’s “Fix You,” didn’t even crack the top 40 (it settled at 59). The last Glee song that did so well was actually one of their original numbers from the middle of season two, “Loser Like Me.” The last cover to rival the Adele mash-up’s performance was “Forget You,” which you may recall unfortunately featured Gwyneth Paltrow. Not a bad accomplishment for Glee‘s 300th song then, eh? Perhaps that mash-up signals a return to a more pop-oriented soundtrack after a first few months dominated by musical numbers. Continue reading »

Sep 262011
 

“Weird Al” Yankovic first debuted his new “Polka Face” covers medley live last year, and now, 15 months later, we move from shaky concert footage to off-the-wall music video. Now, normally Al’s polkas get music videos for his concerts consisting of the original video clips synced to his medley (like this one), so this marks his polka-video debut. Continue reading »

Jun 152011
 

No question, music-comedy pioneer “Weird Al” Yankovic is known for his parodies and, to a lesser extent, his original musical numbers. But he performs a third, perhaps underappreciated, category of song: the cover. Every album includes a “polka” medley which, though not labeled as such, fits the dictionary definition of a cover: same lyrics, different music. His latest, Alpocalypse, includes another instant classic: Polka Face. Continue reading »