Dec 122014
 

Follow all our Best of 2014 coverage (along with previous year-end lists) here.

Back when we redesigned the site in 2010, we created basic star icons to represent the ratings we’d give an album when we reviewed it. 2 stars, 3.5 stars, etc. When we posted an album review, we’d find the corresponding icon where we last uploaded it. However, earlier this year we couldn’t find one of the icons we were looking for. Why? It turns out we’d never used it. We’d never before given an album a perfect five stars.

This year, for the first time, we did. Which should suffice to say it’s been an excellent year for cover albums. True, a few of the marquee tributes we most eagerly anticipated fell flat, either too formulaic (The Art of McCartney) or too out-there (that Flaming Lips’ Sgt. Peppers tribute we’ll never speak of again). But in the cracks and under the radar, cover and tribute albums thrived.

In our list of the twenty best, we’ve got everything from big names on major labels to DIY projects thrown up on Bandcamp. We’ve got New Orleans jazz, Parisian dub reggae, and songs that were popular when your great-great-great-great grandfather was calling town dances. Something for everyone, I guess. Something for all our fwends (sorry, that was the last time, promise).

Start the countdown on Page 2…

Feb 142014
 

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

In 1988, Rolling Stone named “Stayin’ Alive” one of the 100 top singles of the last 25 years, and they asked the Bee Gees to comment; how did they feel about the song? The terse response: “We’d like to dress it up in a white suit and gold chains and set it on fire.” It’s an understandable reaction – for all the wealth and fame the song brought them, it also swept aside their estimable back catalog and pigeonholed them as Disco with a capital Dis, so much so that when the genre died, the Bee Gees’ commercial success in the U.S. died with it.

But for all the venom directed “Stayin’ Alive”‘s way, for all its use as a punchline from Airplane! to Ted, people can’t get away from how good a song it is. “Look at great huge Maurice Gibb, singing like Donald Duck on ‘Stayin’ Alive,'” Roger Daltrey of the Who carped in 1978, then instantly added, “And that’s a great song. Bruce Springsteen could sing that lyric.”
Continue reading »

Nov 292010
 

Download This! scours the web’s dark corners for cool cover freebies. View past installments.


Bonnaroo Music Festival has worked hard to build up its reputation as a haven for experimentation of all types. Many attendees would consider it a disappointment to travel all the way to Manchester, TN on a hot June weekend and not experience something totally weird and trippy. Musically, this philosophy finds its realization in the yearly tradition of the Bonnaroo SuperJam, which brings together odd pairings of artists just for the hell of it.

For lovers of covers, the 2008 SuperJam is especially noteworthy. New York City Gypsy-punk band Gogol Bordello joined Primus bass-master Les Claypool for a set consisting entirely of songs by the peerless Tom Waits. But wait, there’s more! Metal-head Kirk Hammett of Metallica fame joined this already-crazy pairing for three songs. Continue reading »

Sep 152010
 

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

When Roger Waters began touring his performance of Pink Floyd‘s Dark Side of the Moon, Death Cab for Cutie’s Ben Gibbard quipped that this was “like Ringo doing Sgt Pepper’s.” The point being that Dark Side was really David Gilmour’s baby. Well tonight Waters embarks upon a new tour staging The Wall in its entirety (complete with actual wall). That’s more like Paul McCartney and a resurrected John Lennon doing Sgt. Pepper’s. Waters built the wall once; let him build it again.

In honor of tonight’s tour opener in Toronto, we dedicate the latest Full Album set to Waters’ masterpiece The Wall. At 26 tracks, it’s a pretty massive undertaking, so we’re making it a two-parter. Disc 1 comes today, disc 2 comes tomorrow. Incidentally, this marks only the second time we’ve tackled a double album; the first was a run at the Clash’s London Calling (find it here). Continue reading »

Apr 072009
 

I never listened to Metallica until Bonnaroo last year. I was among those most furious that they were on the lineup (as you can see here), and I made sure not to see their show. I could hear it from my campsite though, and ended up spending two hours lying in my tent listening to the music. This may not be the classic viewpoint, but to me these songs are just fun. Every time I listen to Master of Puppets a huge grin spreads across my face. I don’t know if I’m missing something or not, but what I do know is that these tunes make for great covers, particularly of the out-of-genre instrumental variety.

Lots of interesting stuff didn’t make it here, so if you want to jig check out the Celtic Tribute to Metallica or, when December rolls around, how about And Christmas for All! A Holiday Tribute to Metallica, featuring a very disgruntled looking Santa on the cover. Then drift off to sleep with Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Metallica. Each is shockingly good; I’ve loved listening to as many strange versions of “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” as I can find. Hope you like listening too.

Van Canto – Battery
A German a cappella metal group? Where do I sign up? All these five singers need is someone holding down the drums; every other sound from that furious guitar line to the bass progressions is voices. Absurdly good voices. Watch the video here to see for yourself. [Buy]

Harptallica – Master of Puppets
Harptallica sounds like a gimmick, and of course it is. A harpist duo performing mini-concertos of everything from “Fade to Black” to “Enter Sandman.” The thing is though, the melodies in the songs are strong enough that it works, producing a very soothing result. Just don’t expect any “Master! Master!” shout-alongs. [Buy]

Primus – The Thing That Should Not Be
Frontman Les Claypool auditioned to take over bass duties for Metallica after Cliff Burton’s tragic death, but it didn’t go so well. Lars responded to his suggestion that the crew jam on some Isley Brothers tunes by asking incredulously if he knew what kind of music they played. James Hetfield later said they turned him down because “he was too good.” [Buy]

Scott Davis – Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
I’ve posted Davis’ solo piano covers before, but they never disappoint. Listening to them, I always begin each tune amused by the novelty of the familiar tunes arranged on the keys. However, I’m quickly so drawn in to his masterful playing I forget that these are covers at all. He did a whole Metallica tribute album well worth getting. [Buy]

Adam Selzer – Disposable Heroes
A little backwoods folk from Selzer, a violin underscores his joyful singing. It’s off a full Metallica covers EP he released years ago. The fact that it sounds like it was recorded in his living room is part of the charm. [Buy]

The Scorched Earth Orchestra – Leper Messiah
I can’t find any information on this metal tribute act, but they’ve released three records, tributes to Metallica (Masters itself in fact), Slipknot, and Cradle of Filth. They’re so unknown that the About the Artist description on Amazon is about Metallica themselves. However, that same page features four reviews, all of them five stars, all lengthy and written with passion. If people actually putting thought into an amazon review doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what does. [Buy]

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Orion
Rodrigo y Gabriela is a guitar duo without parallel, playing mostly original material of flamenco-tinged guitar influenced by Megadeath and Slayer. So a Metallica cover, of an instrumental no less, was perhaps not a surprise. What you may not expect is how truly phenomenal it is. [Buy]

Razed in Black – Damage Inc.
When I saw a cover by a group called “Razed in Black,” I thought “Oh God, tribute band.” Metallica released The Black Album once upon a time you see, and razing seems like one of those things they’d sing about. I’m glad I looked deeper, to discover that Razed is a gothic electronic act that has been featured in shows on NBC and the WB. They hop on board plenty of tribute discs, but this one comes from a mostly original album. It starts off sounding somewhat like the original but give it, oh, twenty seconds. It’s different. [Buy]