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.
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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]


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Feb 132008

Sorry this post is a couple days late, but hopefully there’s enough here to make up for it. It’s about a diverse a post as I’ve had, with the only theme being artists who are playing Bonnaroo 2008. It’s a great line-up so far, with more to be added, so check it out at bonnaroo.com. First up we’ll do covers of Roo artists.

Patricia O’Callaghan – Better Man (Pearl Jam)
Having an opera-trained soprano doing a grunge song is a shakey proposition, but it works pretty well here as she reins her voice in from unnecessary theatrics. Starts off with some nice piano that I wish it had stayed with the whole time.

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Orion (Metallica)
Why Metallica is headlining Bonnaroo is beyond me, as there are few bands I can stomach less, but at least there a few nice covers of their songs. This one shows the Mexican acoustic guitar duo (who, incidentally, played Roo last year) put their flamenco-metal spin on the Master of Puppets instrumental, transforming it into something that doesn’t make you want to rip your ears out. Well done.

The Automatic – Gold Digger (Kanye West)
I’m a big Kanye fan, but this is one of the worst singles he’s released. It’s much better as an ironic acoustic rock jam with some screeching backing vocals and flute riffs.

Kind of Like Spitting – Title Track (Death Cab for Cutie)
I need to get myself educated about this band before June, as all I have is a few covers they’ve done. From the one cover of a songs I have though, there’s potential.

And now Roo artists covering others, which gives you a better sense of the festival sound this year.

Jack Johnson – Mama, You Been On My Mind / Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie (Bob Dylan)
I really want to hate this laid-back guitar-strumming surfer dude, but the few covers I have by him are all pretty good. He keeps the momentum here in a song perfectly suited to his voice, before doing a rhythmic melodic version of Bob’s one spoken-word poem. The man knows his Dylan, as I’ve never even heard it covered before.

Phil Lesh and Friends – All Along the Watchtower (Bob Dylan)
Another Dylan one here, but a band it could be argued does only covers (depending on where you place songs by the Grateful Dead, a band Lesh was in). This has to be one of the most covered songs ever, but Lesh keeps it fresh (har har) here at an ’06 concert. Joan Osbourne has a beautiful gospel intro before some lively jamming and solos worthy of the song.

The Raconteurs – Bang Bang (Cher)
Jack White knows how to do a cover as well as anyone and with a little more exposure this could be the band’s Jolene. In almost ten minutes his wavering vocals interact with pounding instruments and waves of distortion in a live staple. They do it in about five parts, each one building on the last in an passive-aggressive tour de force that chills.

Robert Plant and Alison Krauss – Killing the Blues (Rowland Salley)
These guys do almost exclusively covers, with a laid-back swing feel that suits the duo perfectly. Steel guitar and brushed drums give them space to explore vocally here, with T-Bone Burnett at his best production-wise.

Tegan and Sara – Dancing in the Dark (Bruce Springsteen)
You’ve probably heard their cover of Umbrella, but this one’s even better, taking Springsteen’s poppiest song and making it all shoegazer indie.

Willie Nelson – Time After Time (Cyndi Lauper)
Lauper’s inane ramblings trying to deliver a Grammy the other day were pretty pathetic, but she used to be a pretty legit pop star, with some pretty fun songs. I’d think Nelson’s country warbling would be a terrible fit for this song, but the arrangement is perfect and he keeps the twang out his voice in a subdued take that isn’t afraid to mix up the chorus a bit.