Feb 152019

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Gordon Lightfoot

Gordon Lightfoot wasn’t happy. He’d learned that Warner Brothers intended to change the name of his album Sit Down Young Stranger, and he flew from Toronto to Los Angeles to ask them why. Stan Cornyn, head of merchandising, responded with his own question: “Gord, did you take algebra?”

“I took it, but I sure as hell never passed it,” Lightfoot confessed.

“Well, Gord, changing the name of the album is the difference between x and 8x.”

“Go ahead and change it,” said Lightfoot. Smart move on both their parts – as If You Could Read My Mind, the album went from 80,000 in sales to 650,000. Credit the now-title track, which peaked at #5 on the Billboard charts forty-eight years ago this month.
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Jun 062011

Belgian women’s choir and cover celebs Scala and Kolacny Brothers dropped an excellent self-titled album earlier this year and now they’ve released a music video for one of the album’s standout tracks, their take on the Foo Fighters’ acoustic gem “Everlong.” The group has been gaining attention since their cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” was featured in the trailer and on the soundtrack of The Social Network, and they’ve enlisted the talents of Mark Woollen, the producer of that very trailer, to direct the music video. Continue reading »

May 102011

In just the past few months, we’ve heard an unprecedented number of Foo Fighters covers. We had “Floaty” by a violinist (Petra Haden). European choir Scala and Kolacny Brothers took on an old favorite, “Everlong.” We even heard a rumor that William Shatner will be recording a metal cover of “Learn to Fly.” With this latest reimagining of Foo Fighters’ new hit off of their April release Wasting Light, the Foos continue their streak of being one of the most covered bands we write about! Continue reading »

Mar 152011

America’s obsession with choirs covering popular hits has been growing with intensity over the last several years. Just look at the television sensation Glee, the Academy Award/Hollywood darlings of PS22 Chorus, and even those crappy group song nights on American Idol.  However, last year audiences were introduced to a different kind of choir in a haunting trailer for the movie, The Social Network. Sung by an all-female Belgian group, the Scala and Kolacny Brothers’ ethereal cover of Radiohead’s “Creep” played over the montage.  Their unique take on this oft-covered tune became an overnight sensation.

The United States may just be catching on, but the Scala choir has been creating chilling cover songs since 1996. With five studio albums under their belts in Europe, Scala is finally reaching across the pond. In addition to their North American tour that begins next month, the group finally released their album in the U.S. Boasting thirteen tracks from their previous overseas albums, Scala and Kolacny Brothers is a great introduction to some of their best material.  Continue reading »

Nov 092009

No one has ever accused musicians of being too well-adjusted. There’s a fine line that keeps a love song from crossing from romantic to creepy and it’s a line musicians frequently cross. Sometimes the sketchball factor is intention (The Police), other times it clearly is not (The Turtles). So get ready to write some restraining orders, cause it’s StalkerFest ’09.

Allred – Every Breath You Take (The Police)
We’ll kick it off with the stalker song to beat all stalker songs, the tune that goes beyond obsessed-rejected to psychotic-deranged. People using this for their wedding song might want to think twice. [Buy]

Plectrum – Across the Sea (Weezer)
Rivers Cuomo wrote this as a response to a girl sending him fan mail from Japan. “When I got the letter, I fell in love with her,” he said. “I was very lonely at the time, but at the same time I was very depressed that I would never meet her. Even if I did see her, she was probably some fourteen-year-old girl, who didn’t speak English.” This is the response from Japan, off the all-Japanese tribute comp of the same name. [Buy]

Spiers & Boden – Run For Your Life (The Beatles)
In 1973, John Lennon said this was his “least favorite Beatles song,” the one he most regretted writing. The catchy melody does hide the incredibly bitter, aggressive lyrics. The “I’d rather see you dead, little girl” line though came not from Lennon’s pen, but from Elvis Presley’s “Baby, Let’s Play House.” [Buy]

Rachelle Ann Go – Two Steps Behind (Def Leppard)
This Filipino-Chinese singer named her 2007 album Obsession, so her stalking creds are song. “You can run, but you can never hide / From the shadow that’ creeping up beside you.” Yikes. [Buy]

Lee Rocker – One Way or Another (Blondie)
It’s not just guys doing the stalking though. Debbie Harry plays predator here, driving past the guy’s house in the dead of night to see what’s going on. One way she’ll get him may be with charm, but you get the impression other involves tying him to a basement radiator. [Buy]

Leningrad Cowboys – Happy Together (The Turtles)
This song seems sweet until you read the actual lyrics. They take the romance one step too far, since there’s no indication the girl in question hasn’t gone into the Witness Protection Program to avoid being “happy together” with this creep. The Russian choir singing this version adds an extra notch of “Eeeee…” [Buy]

Kevin Doyle – Escape (Enrique Iglesias)
“You can run, you can hide, but you can’t escape my love”? Enrique, your love sounds like a sexual predator. [Buy]

Four Year Strong – Spiderwebs (No Doubt)
While song from the point of view of the stalker are everywhere, here’s one from the flip side of the coin. Poor Gwen Stefani has to screen her phone calls. This comes of Four Year’s recent cover album Explains It All. [Buy]

Scala and Kolansky Brothers – Walking After You (Foo Fighters)
Where “Run for Your Life” implies a brief and terrifying chase, Dave Grohl seems more like a slow prowler. This gal may be looking over her shoulder the rest of her life. [Buy]

WAZ – I Will Follow (U2)
Similar sentiment to the Foo Fighters. “If you walk away, I will follow.” Ladies, bear this in mind when entertaining your Bono fantasies. [Buy]

Nine Inch Nails

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Sep 222009

Strange but true: I liked Trent Reznor before I liked Nine Inch Nails. Every article you read situates him as the pinnacle of a new-media artist. An internet whore in the best way possible, he gave away his last album for free, tweeted actually interesting content until belligerent fans jealous of his new marriage made him quit and, gracious pioneer that he is, posted a lengthy how-to for new bands to become successful on his fan forum. It seems strange, but the embodiment of early ‘90s fury seems to be a genuinely good guy.

I didn’t think much of his music though until, on the recommendation of a friend, I went to a Nine Inch Nails concert on their audio-visual explosion known as the Lights in the Sky tour (review here). After seeing him surrounded by mesh screens shifting between transparent and opaque, commanding an army of ace players including old crony Robin Finck, conversion came easy. NIN just played their last live show a few weeks back, so to honor their legacy, let the covers begin.

Johnny Cash – Hurt
We’ll get the obvious out of the way first. This cover is arguably more widely known than the original (plus it’s referenced in our logo above). By way of comparison, the leading video of NIN performing this has 1.7 million views on YouTube. The Cash version? 22 mil. Reznor was right when he said about hearing the cover for the first time, “[I felt like] I just lost my girlfriend, because that song isn’t mine anymore.” [Buy]

Lady Dead Life Urban Sky – Piggy
A gothic NIN cover doesn’t seem like much of a stretch, but these dark crooners truly create something new, slowing the Downward Spiral classic down with cello and world-weary anger that fits the sound perfectly. Bonus points for the chick singer’s sultry croon seducing despite the rage. [Buy]

The Pluto Tapes – Reptile
From the first brushed drum stroke, this one will make you sit up and take stock. It seems so perfect in this subtle acoustic take that it’s hard to even remember how aggressive the original is. [Buy]

Nine Inch Richards – Closer
A barnyard country version of one of Reznor’s most sexually aggressive songs? It’s just as strange as it sounds – they actually call it “Closer to Hogs” – and is certainly meant as a joke from the horny-farmer asides and classic-rock quotes. It sort of works though, in a completely insincere way. “Did I tell you I knew Lassie personally?” [Buy]

Devo – Head Like a Hole
I can never quite decide whether Devo are some of the best cover artists around or some of the worst. They certainly take an interesting approach – remember their “Satisfaction”? They replace most of the angst with danceable synths, but keep a bit of the original flavor for the chorus. [Buy]

Scala & Kolacny Brothers – Underneath It All
We first heard from this Belgian choir a few weeks back in our Choral Covers feature. Well this female-fronted lament oozes sorrow with no need for crunchy guitars or spastic programming. [Buy]

Tiga – Down In It
This one seems like it’d be great fun to dance to if it was about three times as fast. As it stands, it’s a slow electro rattle, the pretty-boy voice offset by the cracking snare shots. [Buy]

Mae – March of the Pigs
Christian light-rockers Mae seem like a strange choice to cover NIN, but they unleash all their inner anger here on the Punk Goes 90s comp. [Buy]

Jennifer Hope – Terrible Lie
This one comes off the Gothic Tribute to Nine Inch Nails tribute disc, but is as much late-era Beatles as it is Marilyn Manson. Sitar and strings waver in and out, but Hope’s voice is really all you need. [Buy]

Ark Sano – The Day the World Went Away
Piano player extraordinaire Sano has a whole disc of NIN covers that you won’t believe. The dark anti-chords and angry phrasing translate beautifully into pounding bass or brooding tinkling. Seek out “The Downward Spiral” cover as well to hear him strum the inside of the piano and pound its wooden sides. [Buy]