May 182020
 

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.

Alex Skolnick routinely straddles the line between two different musical universes. He is known to legions of metalheads as the lead guitarist for the thrash band Testament. Yet, for nearly two decades, he has had a side hustle as a jazz guitarist for the Alex Skolnick Trio, playing an eclectic blend of fusion jazz.

He credits this genre-fluid existence to a moment in the late ‘80s when he was in Ithaca, NY recording Testament’s sophomore album The New Order. According to his memoir, he and a bandmate were flipping through the channels in a hotel when he came across a PBS concert film featuring Miles Davis performing with one of his electric fusion bands. (Given the date and Skolnick’s description it was likely Miles Davis – That’s What Happened: Live in Germany 1987.) “I had to find out more about this music. It had spoken to me, in an almost mysterious way, as though it were reaching out and calling for me to come closer. … I’d soon own more Miles Davis albums than any other artist (even Kiss),” he wrote.

Already an accomplished guitarist, having studied under the legendary instructor Joe Satriani (whose former students include Kirk Hammett and Steve Vai), Skolnick wanted to expand his horizons beyond metal. So, when the recording sessions ended, he tapped several music instructors at his hometown college, the University of California, Berkeley, to help him expand his skills.

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Jul 262018
 

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

rolling stones covers

Mick Jagger turns 75 today, three decades past his famous 1975 benchmark: “I’d rather be dead than sing ‘Satisfaction’ when I’m 45.” Mick’s still singing “Satisfaction” today – and so are a lot of other people. So what better way to celebrate his birthday than with a countdown of the best covers of Rolling Stones songs of all time?

It’s not that we haven’t posted plenty before. They’re actually our fifth most-posted band, after Bob Dylan, The Beatles, Bruce Springsteen, and Neil Young (a little surprised about that one, but as of this post, Neil’s only ahead by one). We’ve shared our favorite covers of “Ruby Tuesday,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Wild Horses,” “Paint It Black,” and “Back Street Girl.” We’ve posted covers of every track on Sticky Fingers, Beggars Banquet, and – in case those weren’t long enough – Exile on Main St. And it’s not just covers of the band we adore either; the Stones’ recent album of blues covers ascended to the very short list of albums we’ve awarded five stars.

But we’ve never pulled it all in one place until today. Just as we did for Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Beyoncé, and Talking Heads, we’re counting down the best covers of Rolling Stones songs ever. The length beats Floyd’s forty-song record; we’ve got fifty Stones covers, from A (Albert King) to Z (Zydeco, Buckwheat). The Stones have been covered in all eras, all genres, and by all sorts of people. By the time you read this, the next all-time-great Stones cover might well have landed.

You can’t always get what you want, as the man once said – but if you click on, you just might get what you need.

Aug 162013
 

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

1967 found the Rolling Stones still struggling to find their true voice. Sure, they’d had their across-the-board number-one hit a couple of years earlier with “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction,” but both their singles and albums found them following the trends of the day, not truly leading the way. It wouldn’t be until 1968’s “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” that they would really break free of the pack and enter their glorious Golden Age.
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Mar 232012
 

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

Dun. Duh-nuh. Dahn. Dah-nah. With that fanfare for the common mod, four lads from London announced their arrival on the music scene, asserting themselves as a powerful voice even as they admitted to not knowing how to say what they wanted to say.

When the Who released “I Can’t Explain,” Pete Townshend may not have achieved the levels of self-expression he would find, but his ability to connect with his audience was already fully formed – there were thousands of listeners who knew exactly what it meant to feel hot and cold down in their souls. And if that opening Kinks-ian riff didn’t drive the message home, the drumming of a still-teenaged Keith Moon did the trick, in a way that had never been heard on the radio before. “I Can’t Explain” would have been a tremendous explosion for any other group; for the Who, it was simply the lighting of the fuse. Continue reading »

Jun 162011
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!


Of all the heavy metal bands that came to prominence in the 1980s, none had more significant covers than Judas Priest. That’s especially impressive when you consider that Priest only did four of them in their entire existence (that statistic includes live shows). Clearly, they’re not a band to toss off random covers on a whim. Yet all but one of their tributes ended up providing defining moments for their career. Continue reading »