Jul 012019
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best elton john covers

The first big film to to emerge in the post-Bohemian Rhapsody biopic boom is Rocketman. Compared to the Queen movie, critics like Rocketman better (somewhat), fact-checkers call it more accurate (somewhat), and LGBT advocates praise it for more honestly addressing the star’s sexuality (somewhat). Also – and hopefully this is unrelated – it has fared worse at the box office. Again, somewhat worse; it’s done fine, but does not seem to be the smash Bohemian Rhapsody was.

Unlike Queen, though, Elton John didn’t really need a mega-blockbuster to return to the public eye. He never left (after all, it’s hard to look away from clothes that sparkly). The farewell tour he launched last year will take him through 2020, and 2018 also saw two tribute albums featuring megawatt performers: from Lady Gaga to Ed Sheeran on the pop one, Miranda Lambert to Willie Nelson on the country one. For Elton, the Rocketman biopic is just the latest tribute in a career full of them.

And nowhere has tribute been paid more often than in the world of cover songs. From his second, self-titled album onward (no one covers songs off his 1969 debut), Elton’s songs have been covered constantly. Hell, Three Dog Night released their cover of that second album’s “Your Song” a month before John’s original even came out. Though artists inevitably gravitate towards the huge hits, John’s songbook boasts a long tail, with even some relative deep cuts generating classic covers. So this month we count down the thirty best Elton John covers ever.

Best so far, at least. At the rate he earns tributes, it won’t be long before the next batch lands.

Oct 112018
 
amy helm mandolin wind

Rod Stewart, one of the most prolific cover song performers around, is also an underrated songwriter. While his first two solo albums after departing The Faces included several cover songs – sterling versions of Dylan’s “Only A Hobo” and Tim Hardin’s “Reason To Believe” – his superior self-penned tunes including “Gasoline Alley” from his second proper release, and the beautiful “Mandolin Wind” from Every Picture Tells a Story are the songs that really cemented his legacy. Continue reading »

Oct 022018
 
rollin and tumblin covers

“Rollin’ and Tumblin’” is a blues standard that dates back to the 1920s. William “Hambone Willie” Newbern made the earliest recording the track, then known as “Roll and Tumble Blues.” In 1950, the song was famously recorded by Muddy Waters, who claimed credit as the songwriter. His rendition served as inspiration for the rash of covers by psychedelic blues artists in the ‘60s, including Cream, Canned Heat and Johnny Winter. With such a legacy it’s not really a surprise that classic rockers Rod Stewart and Billy Gibbons — the lead singer and guitarist for ZZ Top — each cover the track on their recent albums.

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Aug 152018
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question, from Cover Me staffer Sean Balkwill: What’s your favorite original song that’s best known as a cover?
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Jul 132018
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Time travel is impossible, say some physicists. But ask any true music fan if it can be done, and the answer will be an enthusiastic “Yes!” And it’s a lot easier than you might think.

How? Just traipse on over to your laptop (or, more likely, the smartphone currently warming your pocket). Punch in “Sheryl Crow First Cut is the Deepest,” and within seconds you’ll be transported back to 2003, Crow’s supple mezzo-soprano filling your earbuds and floating out over a lovely mandolin and steel-string guitar intro. It’s a powerful song, too: An affecting plea for love after the scorched-earth anguish of an affair gone awry.

When it was released, Crow’s song was a perfect encapsulation of that era’s modern, high-gloss folk-rock: Well-oiled, heavy on heartstring-tugging touches and somewhat light on passion. It was a hit, too, peaking at #14 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March of 2004. But as regular Cover Me readers, you’re already bracing yourself for the inevitable pull of the rug: Sheryl Crow didn’t write “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” nor was she even the first to chart with it.
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Nov 062017
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

The Yardbirds’ write-up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame begins with an immediate reminder that the group started off as a blues cover band. Little did Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-Smith, and (probably) Jeff Beck know when they wrote their first band-written, non-cover hit in 1966, “Shapes of Things” would eventually be included in the Hall’s permanent exhibit of “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Much has been written about its recording, composition, arrangement, and socially conscious lyrics. (A check of Wikipedia or SongFacts will suffice.) Cover Me readers might enjoy hearing the jazz bass line from Dave Brubeck’s “Pick Up Sticks” that influenced Samwell-Smith. Legions of rock guitarists have paid their respects to Jeff Beck’s groundbreaking, feedback-laden lead guitar work on the song. Like The Godfather film, the ingredients combined to become a commercially popular and artistically appealing hit; the song reached #11 in the US, #7 in Canada, and #3 in the UK.

When we looked at over 40 verified covers of the song, we could see they pretty much fell into three categories: versions by the original members of the band (“All In The Family”); versions by numerous guitar gods (“The Shredders”); and other rock versions that don’t fit in either of the two previous categories (“Rock of Ages”). So for this special edition of Good, Better, Best, we’ll take a look at the top three for each category…

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