Sep 302016
 
Fugees

They say nostalgia works in 20-year cycles, and this year the music of 1996 has been in the media a lot. And if you believe the music blogs, it turns out 1996 was a truly groundbreaking year for every possible genre. Over at SPIN: “The 96 Best Alternative Rock Songs Of 1996.” Complex: “Best Rap Songs of 1996.” Junkee: “Ten reasons 1996 was a great year for dance music”. Loudwire: “10 Best Metal Albums of 1996.” Red Bull Music: “1996: Why it was a great year for pop”. Suck it, 1995! (Kidding; similar articles were of course written last year too.)

We’ll be honest: 1996 was not some magical, pioneering year for cover songs. It was also not a terrible year. It was just, you know, another year. There’s no overarching theorem of 1996’s cover songs that wasn’t true in ’95 or ’97. But even so, Cover Me wasn’t around in 1996, so we never made a Best Cover Songs of 1996 list (our first year-end list came in 2009, with the Kings of Convenience’s “It’s My Party” topping it, and you can catch up on all the lists here). So we decided, before the year ends and we take our look at the best covers songs this year, why not take a nostalgic rewind and do 1996 just for fun, twenty years too late. Continue reading »

Jan 102014
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Rasputina are number one in a field of one (unless you know of other steampunk cellist trios), but the territory they carved out for themselves has proven to be a touchstone for any artists who want to marry goth to chamber-pop. Melora Creager is the band’s sole constant, and she and her compatriots have been donning Victorian duds and partying like it’s 1799 for over two decades now.
Continue reading »

Jul 122010
 

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

Releasing your record with no identifying information whatsoever seems like a truly dumb idea. In the days before the Internet, how would anyone know who was behind it? When Led Zeppelin released their untitled/self-titled/titled-with-symbols fourth record, Atlantic Records called it “professional suicide.” Apparently 37 million people disagreed. It spawned enduring classics “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and of course the Wayne’s World-despised “Stairway to Heaven.”

Zeppelin covers can be tricky, since many artists try to mimic Jimmy Page’s every note (and, naturally, fail). For that reason only one of the covers below would even count as rock. Otherwise, there’s gothic cello, Cuban salsa, and – why not – another dose of Tuvan throat singing.
Continue reading »

Tom Petty

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Nov 302009
 

Petty’s back, baby! His career resurgence began with his Super Bowl Halftime slot in ’08 (and history has already forgotten that he was purportedly the NFL’s second choice, after Bruce Springsteen), continued with sell-out summer shed tours, and has recently hit a new peak when his four-disc Live Anthology dropped last week to a combination of critical acclaim and some why-don’t-more-artists-do-this speculation. The quirkiest Petty honor has to be the Courteney Cox show Cougar Town though, where each episode is named after a Petty song. Is the producer just a fan, or has Tom Petty become “Official Music of Cougars”?


Melora Creager – American Girl
One of the best covers I’ve ever heard. Period. The cello-goth Rasputina frontwoman wails the darkest minor-key duet you’ve ever heard. Rasputina have an entire cover album themselves, The Lost & Found, that is to die for. Literally? [Buy]

Johnny Cash – I Won’t Back Down
As Johnny Cash began recording 2000’s American III: Solitary Man, he began getting sick. He had been forced to stop touring due to a variety of ailments and he would never fully recover. This election-season staple thus takes on a whole new meaning from country’s most resilient badass. Petty himself chimes in on vocals and organ here (he had previously backed Cash on the entirety of Unchained [American II]). [Buy]

Allred – Free Fallin’
A bearded Petty played this one in his 2008 Super Bowl Halftime Show set (in fact, the first three songs I’ve posted are 3/4 of his Super Bowl set list). Watch the whole thing here and marvel at the sweet guitar/heart stage. Petty played four songs with the Heartbreakers, but all except for “American Girl” originally appeared on his solo albums. Irony. [Buy]

Mobius Band – You Don’t Know How It Feels
The lead single from 1994’s Heartbreaker-less Wildflowers, “You Don’t Know How It Feels” featured the controversial line “let’s roll another joint.” Yes, those were simpler times. However, reactionary consumerism being what it is, MTV reversed the word “joint” for the music video. [Buy]

John Dissed – Even the Losers
Dissed produced a top-notch cover of T.Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get In On)” for our Cover Commissions last month. Check that out on this page if you haven’t already. Then come back here and listen to his take on Petty. [Buy]

Taking Back Sunday – You Wreck Me
Warner Bros. produced Covered, a Revolution in Sound to celebrate its fiftieth anniversary with classic Warner songs covered by younger WB artists. The Flaming Lips do Madonna, The Black Keys do Captain Beefheart, and Taking does Tom. [Buy]

Mark Erelli w/ Jeffrey Foucault – Alright For Now
This one originally appeared on Full Moon Fever, Petty’s first solo album. “Free Fallin’” and “I Won’t Back Down” come off there too. He couldn’t match these sensitive-guys duets. [Buy]

Matthew Sweet and Susanna Hoffs – Here Comes My Girl
Another duet here, with the rare female voice appearing in a Petty cover. This comes from Sweet & Hoffs’ recent Under the Covers Vol. 2. Well worth a listen. I always think of this song as a companion piece to Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man.” [Buy]

Wilco – Something In the Air (Thunderclap Newman)
A lot of people thing this was originally by Petty, but in face they just covered a 1969 song for their 1993 Greatest Hits album. Wilco played Madison Square Garden on New Year’s Eve ’04 and once the ball dropped they went into an epic cover marathon. Judas Priest, Captain and Tennille, Bob Dylan, this, Randy Newman, Blue Öyster Cult and Devo. Epic. [Buy]

Setting Sun – You Got Lucky
Tom gets the spacey synth treatment here from the free second volume of the Buffetlibre compilation (downloadable here). It would all be a little much without the hauntingly distant voices. [Buy]

 

 

The Moon

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Jul 232009
 

The fortieth anniversary of our moon landing has generated a good deal of buzz (pun intended). Much of it is bemoaning the current state of N.A.S.A. which, without the Soviets around the keep them on their toes, hasn’t done a lot of late. They’re currently saying by 2020 we can get somebody to the moon. Again. Umm…yay? I understand that with the current economic and political climate we’ve got larger priorities, but with the current climate climate we can’t forget about the rest of space entirely. Earth’s only got so long.

Shout Out Loud – Man on the Moon (R.E.M.)
There’s no doubt this is a great song, but if you’re like me you’ve heard it just one too many times. It’s starting to get a grocery-store vibe, which is a shame. Add a little world-techno backbeat, some gospel harmonies and it’s rejuvenated. [Buy]

Keller Williams – Moondance (Van Morrison)
Keller’s an interesting cat. He’s a staple of the jam band scene on one hand (generally a negative in my book), but he does all sorts of interesting things with loops, creating songs with layer upon layer, all by himself. Here’s a live trick of that sort, a ten-minute long acoustic-jazz frolic. [Buy]

The Pale – Walking on the Moon (The Police)
The moon, being smaller than the earth, has a weaker field of gravity. Sting seems to get that on one hand, noting that “giant steps are what you take.” But then he confusingly follows that with “I hope my legs don’t break.” With so little gravity, why exactly is he worried about his legs breaking? Perhaps this should have gone in last week’s bad lyric post. [Buy]

The White Stripes – Moonage Daydream (David Bowie)
I can’t quite figure out why Jack White seems to be hacking an English accent in the intro here, but trying to second-guess Jack never ends well. Regardless, he’s clearly a big Ziggy Stardust fan; in 2006 “It Ain’t Easy” became a Raconteurs set staple. [Buy]

Rasputina – Bad Mood Rising (Creedence Clearwater Revival)
When I saw her play this live Melora Craeger mentioned that she loved the song, but thought the original was way too peppy for the lyrical content. Transpose into a minor key, play on a cello, and her goth-swamp take creates a song both haunting and haunted. [Buy]

Clinker – I’ll Shoot the Moon (Tom Waits)
Tom Waits has a lot of moon tunes. “Grapefruit Moon.” “Drunk on the Moon.” Etc. This one gets a little white-boy Latino touch, bouncing along with cocky swagger and background singers who seem to accept the offer. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – Moon River (Mercer/Mancini)
Bob’s only played this one once, at an Indiana show in August of 1990. He dedicated it to “Stevie Souls” or something of that nature, but I can’t figure out who that is. This here’s an audience recording and it ain’t pristine, but it’s more than listenable. [Buy]

Sheila E. and Pete Escovedo – The Ballad of the Sun & Moon (Alejandro Escovedo)
Escovedo Sr. got some big names to pitch in for his Por Vida tribute when he struggled with Hepatitus C. Here Sheila E., of Prince entourage fame, backs up Escovedo Jr. who – surprise! – sounds a lot like his dad. [Buy]

Maria Muldaur – Moonlight (Bob Dylan)
This is exactly the sort of cover I normally hate. Smooth jazz by a woman who thinks she’s the second coming of Billy Holiday. Blech. Muldaur is pure class and, with the right song choice — this is one of Dylan’s jazziest — pulls it off beautifully. [Buy]

The Flaming Lips – Moonlight Mile (The Rolling Stones)
In their marathon Bonnaroo ’07 show, they played their regular set (complete with spaceship), then busted out a series of obscurities and covers for those few still remaining at three a.m. Here’s one of them, slowly welcoming the early morning hours. [Buy]

Nov 182008
 

For many bands, rocking you hard isn’t enough. They feel the need to tell you how hard they’re rocking you. So as a tribute to the many groups too insecure to let the music speak for itself…let there be rock.

Ludwig Van 88 – We Will Rock You (Queen)
I don’t know when Ludwig plans on rocking me, but until then I’ll settle for being pleasantly reggaeed. [Buy]

Patti Smith – So You Want to Be (A Rock’n’Roll Star) (The Byrds)
Having established herself as cover artist extraordinaire with “Gloria,” Patti’s fourth album threw in this Byrds tune. It hews a little closer to the original, but Smith’s punk spitting strips aways the polish of the original to show what being a rock star is really about. [Buy]

Roxanne Morgens – Rock’n’Roll Ain’t Noise Pollution (AC/DC)
Half of the AC/DC catalogue could be used here; those boys love to talk about how hard they rock (more evidence here). Morgens rocks a lot more quietly though, proving that sensitive folk music isn’t noise pollution either. [Buy]

We Are Scientists – Bang Bang Rock and Roll (Art Brut)
For a co-headlining tour with Art Brut a few years ago, the pair put out a tour-only EP that featured them covering each others songs. Art Brut tackled “The Great Escape,” but did a far worse job. [Buy]

Bruce Springsteen – Rockin’ All Over the World (John Fogerty)
Though Bruce deals with more original subjects for his own material, his live covers tend to have a theme. Seven Nights to Rock, Good Rockin’ Tonight, I Don’t Want to Hang Up My Rock’n’Roll Shoes, etc. His focus on rocking is justified by the exuberance of the performances. [Buy]

Twisted Sister – It’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll (But I Like It) (The Rolling Stones)
Oh Twisted Sister, you can’t possibly take yourselves seriously. They stretch it out for over ten minutes in this live raver that features plenty of aggressive crowd participation. [Buy]

Hayseed Dixie – I Love Rock’n’Roll (The Arrows)
This bluegrass cover band got their start doing AC/DC tunes (hence the name), but have since taken on from The Cars to Spinal Tap. Here they do Joan Jett – wait, I mean The Arrows. That’s right, Joan’s huge hit was in fact a cover, and not a very creative one. I’m sure the royalties have been keeping those Arrows boys in gold-plated diapers for years now. [Buy]

Rasputina – Rock and Roll (Led Zeppelin)
Cello goth lends itself to covers far better than one would imagine. Sounds like it’s been a very long time since she’s rocked and rolled – centuries, perhaps. [Buy]

Laptop – It’s Still Rock’n’Roll to Me (Billy Joel)
Billy Joel is criminally under-covered, but this group does it right, turning one of his biggest hits into a weird electronic dirge. [Buy]

The Alarm – Rocking in the Free World (Neil Young)
This cover doesn’t veer very far from the original, but when the original’s so good, does it need to? For a more adventurous take though, check out this post. [Buy]