In the world of alt-country, Asleep at the Wheel frontman Ray Benson has more cover song credibility than most. In their four decade career, the nine-time Grammy winners have recorded not one but two Bob Wills tribute albums with guests like Willie Nelson and the Dixie Chicks, which were so successful that they turned into a touring musical (which Ray starred in). He’s covered W.C. Handy with Willie Nelson and Red Foley with Brad Paisley. And on his new solo album A Little Piece, out next week, he takes on Randy Newman‘s “Marie”. Continue reading »

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

You kids today, with your Now That’s What I Call Music compilations – you don’t know how different it was back in the day. When K-Tel was in their ’70s prime, their ubiquitous commercials made them the “As Seen On TV” company and served to get the words and music on the street. They fit twenty or so songs on one album, making for tinny sound and many songs edited for single length. Not all the songs on them were hits; you bought them for the big names and sat through the one-hit wonders, novelties, and other filler. But for only $5.99 (8-track or cassette only $7.99!), you could get a wide-ranging look at a year in music, complete with packaging ugly as a burnt-orange couch, and somehow the experience wouldn’t have been the same if the treasures hadn’t been mixed in with the trash.
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Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Harry Nilsson’s two best-known songs, both of which won Grammys, were cover songs – “Everybody’s Talkin’” came from Fred Neil, and “Without You” was originally Badfinger’s. Meanwhile, his peers knew that as talented a singer as he was, he was an even greater songwriter. For the Love of Harry: Everybody Sings Nilsson, released a year after his 1994 passing, shone a light on nearly two dozen of his compositions and showed the esteem two generations of musicians held him in. Continue reading »

Who is Mike Doughty? The ex-frontman of Soul Coughing? An acoustic singer/songwriter? An acclaimed poet and writer? The latest offering from Mr. Doughty, whoever he may be, is The Flip Is Another Honey, a smattering of cover tunes ranging from John Denver to Cheap Trick to Guys and Dolls. And, as you may expect, Doughty will break some rules. Continue reading »

Mike Doughty, who first found fame in the mid-90′s with his alt-rock outfit Soul Coughing and has been a solo act since 2000, announced last week that his next album will be comprised of nothing but covers. The Flip is Another Honey, due out November 6th, has a tracklist covering commonplace songs (“Take Me Home, Country Roads” by John Denver, “Southern Girls” by Cheap Trick) and lesser-known tracks (“Boy + Angel” by Doveman, “Ta Douleur” by Camille, “Mistress” by Red House Painters). Continue reading »

Sep 272011

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!

Few would argue that Harry Nilsson was one of the best and most unique American singer-songwriters of his time. Nilsson crafted complex multi-layered vocal pop for his amazing voice, which had a range of three and one-half octaves. He wrote beautiful, personal, and emotional songs that earned him the respect of his peers, critical acclaim, and occasional commercial success – though his two Grammy awards were not for originals. Yet Nilsson is a largely forgotten cult figure; a legacy he himself insured with his stubbornness, his insecurities, numerous bad career decisions and an appetite for destruction more commonly associated with contemporaries like Keith Richards, John Bonham and Keith Moon. (Ironically, both Moon and Mama Cass would die in Nilsson’s London apartment, which he allowed his friends to use when he was in the States.) Continue reading »

Last year Brian Wilson released the four-star album Brian Wilson Reimagines Gershwin (read our review). Perhaps buoyed by that success, he has just announced his next album: a tribute to the songs of Disney movies. With anyone else, we might be inclined to roll our eyes, but if there is anyone who can deliver definitive performances of these oft-covered songs, it’s Wilson. Continue reading »

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

Originally a solo project of frontman Chris Chu, The Morning Benders quickly evolved into a full-fledged quartet. They relocated from Berkeley to Brooklyn a couple of years ago and, with the assistance of Grizzly Bear’s Chris Taylor, recorded their critically acclaimed second album, Big Echo. Even the notoriously fickle folks over at Pitchfork loved the bright, atmospheric pop of the album, adding it to their “Best New Music” list.

Never ones to hide their influences, the band recorded a collection of covers shortly before their departure from the West Coast and posted it as a free download on their blog. The Bedroom Covers features, suitably, a collection of lo-fi, low-key acoustic versions of a cross-section of pop tunes. The song selection won’t surprise you, but there’s something refreshing about seeing a young band that has an appreciation for musical history. Continue reading »

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