May 152015
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Maybe it is too facile to say that Van Morrison’s second solo album, Astral Weeks, is respected, while its follow up, Moondance, is loved. We looked at Astral Weeks about a year ago, so there’s no reason to repeat that here, but it’s clear that Morrison took a very different approach with the two albums, both of which have entered the rock pantheon as classics (for example, both albums were inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame and Astral Weeks is 19 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time; Moondance was ranked 66.) But while the older album is revered as a work of art, you actually heard (and still hear) songs from Moondance on the radio. Astral Weeks failed to chart, and no singles from the album were released, but Moondance reached 29 on the Billboard Pop Album chart, and had three singles released.

Astral Weeks is considered to be a unified song cycle or a concept album, filled with stream of consciousness lyrics. The musicians that were recruited mostly had jazz backgrounds, and Morrison encouraged them to improvise after hearing Morrison play the songs on an acoustic guitar. Despite critical acclaim, it received little commercial airplay and limited support from the label, Warner Bros.

After recording Astral Weeks, Morrison and his wife moved into a mountaintop house near Woodstock, in upstate New York. He began to write the songs for Moondance and recruited local musicians for the recording sessions. Although, like with his previous album, there were no formal written charts, Morrison focused this time on shorter, more upbeat and optimistic songs with accessible song structures, in part influenced by another group of Woodstock area residents, The Band. It also was greeted with great reviews, but garnered significantly more radio airplay and immediate sales than its predecessor. And, I would argue, few albums have a stronger first side (when that mattered) than Moondance (“And It Stoned Me”/”Moondance”/”Crazy Love”/”Caravan”/”Into The Mystic”), and side 2 isn’t shabby, either.
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Apr 192011
 

Live Collection brings together every live cover we can find from an artist. And we find a lot.

Over the past decade, Portland quintet the Decemberists have gone from indie darlings to indie darlings with a number-one album. This year’s The King is Dead took the band to new levels of commercial success, shining some national attention on a band whose name was once known only to the chamber pop-obsessed and English majors. It may not be too unfounded to compare this band’s story to that of R.E.M.’s in the ‘80s; in fact, given the unabashed fandom they display on The King is Dead, that’s a comparison they’d probably happily invite.

The collection of covers crooned by the Decemberists mostly betrays their too-cool-for-school nature. They seem to have hit all the requisites that prove you listened to hip music in the ’80s – the Velvet Underground, the Smiths, Echo & the Bunnymen, etc. However, there’s a few genuine surprises here. Embarrassing reading of the Outfield‘s “Your Love” notwithstanding, there’s some real pleasure to be had in the band’s delight at ripping into Heart‘s “Crazy on You,” or in their surprisingly earnest rendition of Bad Company‘s “Feel Like Making Love.” Band leader Colin Meloy also turns in an intimate, slowed-down version of Cheap Trick‘s “Summer Girls” to great effect. Even the band’s usual bombast makes itself known in the 16-minute epic of Pink Floyd‘s “Echoes.” Continue reading »

Feb 102011
 

Like free stuff? Just kidding. You’re reading a music blog; of course you like free stuff. Well, if the daily MP3 trickle leaves you wanting, how about this: 27 new covers, free to download, in this one post. They come from two new online mixtapes.

Verb/Re/Verb is an indie blog run by a 15-year old from Los Angeles. Normally, her age would be irrelevant – that’s the beauty of the Internet, after all – except that it inspired her to curate a cover mixtape. YOUTH collects nine new covers by artists under 18. The set mixes songs by INXS and ‘N Sync, Sufjan Stevens and Loverboy. “Purple Rain” proves instantly recognizable, but “Get Down” is so whacked-out you could spend weeks listening and never guess the original artist (it’s the Backstreet Boys apparently). The set leans towards dubstep, with folkier breaks here and there. Continue reading »

Jun 212010
 

We last checked in with the Levi’s Pioneer Sessions a few weeks ago, but it’s kept on rolling along since. We’ve heard She & Him go ‘30s, the Swell Season go disco, Nas go rap royalty, and the Dirty Projectors go Dylan. Well it’s about time to update that list. Four new artists, four new covers. Video and audio for each below.

Jason Mraz offers the most recent submission. He brings a full gospel choir to “Spirit in the Sky,” chosen apparently for its ability to make a friend dance. As good a reason as any I suppose. Before then Columbian electro-pop band brought some south-of-the-border rhythms in a bilingual cover of “Pump Up the Jam,” which fans of a certain will remember from Space Jam. The Shins go all moody-pop on Squeeze’s “Goodbye Girl” while Colbie Caillat belts out Blondie’s “Maria.”
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