Nov 072011
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Joni Mitchell turns 68 today and, in terms of influence, her star burns as bright as ever. As folk stages its umpteenth popular revival, a whole new generation of folkies, freak-folkies, neofolkies, and indie folkies have taken lessons from decades of her simple, heart-wrenching songs. Dozen of hip, Pitchfork-approved artists namecheck Mitchell in interviews and display an obvious debt in their songs. On Joni’s birthday, we pay tribute to her through some of their tributes. 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 »

Jan 122010
 

The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!


In 1967 Jimi Hendrix exploded on the scene with his debut Are You Experienced. It only took about twenty seconds into “Purple Haze” to realize rock and roll wasn’t going to be the same. Though Hendrix covers tend to be an excuse for self-indulgent guitar wankery, approaching Jimi’s compositions from other angles reveals an underappreciated songwriting talent.

Edit 1/16: Links removed by request of the RIAA.

RDM – Purple Haze
If Hendrix had lived longer, maybe he would have experimented with mariachi. Since he didn’t, RDM explores the possibilities. [Buy]

Will Phalen – Manic Depression
The number one test of a good song: being able to withstand the transition to solo acoustic. [Buy]

Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds – Hey Joe (Billy Roberts)
After he blew up in Britain, Jimi brought the Experience to perform on lame variety show It’s Lulu (hosted by the “To Sir With Love” singer). After her inane introduction, Hendrix dutifully makes it through about two minutes of the song before declaring “We’re going to stop playing this rubbish” and busting into Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love.” The show quickly pulls the plug, but the video lives on. [Buy]

Screaming Trees – Love or Confusion
Grunge pioneers Screaming Trees never achieved the fame of fellow Northwest residents Nirvana and Pearl Jam, but before the label blew up Sub Pop released this song on a 1988 compilation. The guitars are just as loud as ever, but crunch and noise take the place of soloing. [Buy]

Emmylou Harris – May This Be Love
When Emmylou Harris released her acclaimed Wrecking Ball in 1995, she brought her sound over to a new generation of alternative radio listeners with the help of a non-country producer (Daniel Lanous in this case). It set the prototype for Johnny Cash’s American Recordings. [Buy]

Beauty Pill – I Don’t Live Today
Some of Hendrix’s hardest rocking songs are also his saddest. [Buy]

Jamie Cullum – The Wind Cries Mary
Jazz-pop pianist Jamie Cullum’s 2003 album Twentysomething featured covers of “Singing in the Rain” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.” Needless to say, this swinging choice came out of left field. [Buy]

Joan As Police Woman – Fire
We named Joan As Police Woman’s simply-titled Cover the sixth-best cover album of the year. Here’s another reason why. [Buy]

Pat Metheny – Third Stone from the Sun
This song has a similar title as the awful ’90s television show 3rd Rock from the Sun (responsible for the cardinal sin of bringing French Stewart into our lives). Try not to hold that against it. [Buy]

Giant Sand – Foxy Lady
Attending the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame 25th Anniversary show in October (my review), I saw Jeff Beck bring out Billy Gibbons for a faithful version of this one (video). As anyone familiar with their work will guess, Giant Sand takes it in a different direction. Dissonance meets spoken-word recitation in this blast of atonal noise. [Buy]

Patti Smith – Are You Experienced?
Patti released this on her 2007 covers album Twelve. While good, it paled next to more ambitious takes on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” and “Gimme Shelter.” In live performances like this one though, she stretched it out to a blistering twelve minutes complete with free-form poetry and dissonant clarinet solos. [Buy]