Jul 122019
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Bad Shepherds

Confession time: it took a while for the Bad Shepherds’ Yan, Tan, Tethera, Methara to sink in. For one thing, there are rather too many novelty covers projects for comfort, from the initially inventive Hayseed Dixie to the downright bizarre Rockabye lullaby renditions. For another thing, bandleader Adrian “Ade” Edmondson is better known as a comic actor, from The Young Ones to Bottom, and is the husband of Jennifer “Absolutely Fabulous” Saunders. The whole affair smacked of novelty and nonsense, setting all my prejudices bristling. And so it remained, my ears deaf to compromise.

But I hadn’t realized a number of things. Firstly, Edmondson was both a genuine lover of both folk music and of the punk and new wave he interprets in that genre. Not such an odd combination as it sounds, broadly similar to my own tastes, we being of similar ages and backgrounds. But rather than combining with other hobby musicians, Edmondson hooked up with a giant in the tradition, Troy Donockley, an Englishman adept on the Irish uillean pipes, with a track record playing alongside prog-rockers The Enid, Celtic rockers Iona and with doyenne of the Northumbrian pipes, Kathryn Tickell. Since 2013 he has been a member of Finnish band Nightwish.

Whilst nominally a duo, they enlisted Andy Dinan on fiddle, a onetime all-Ireland fiddle champion, for this album and the subsequent 2009 tour, with the late Maartin Allcock, erstwhile of Fairport Convention and Jethro Tull (both at once!), appearing on guitars when available. Edmondson played mandolin and sang, claiming to be a novice on both instruments. Rather than any straight ahead thrash, the arrangements were both sensitive to the originals, and respectful to the tradition, the insertion of many a traditional air going neither unnoticed nor uncredited. And neither was this any folk-rock lumpen jig and reel fest; the arrangements captured the heart and soul of the listener, rather than merely their feet.

Two further records appeared in 2010 and 2013, based largely on the accolades given the project, with votes as best live act at the BBC Radio 2 Folk awards in 2010, and the same for Spiral Earth, a website devoted to music festivals of all genres, in 2012. But it is this first recording that hits hardest the spot as a cover classic, the choices of songs being exemplary and the performances uplifting.
Continue reading »

Jul 022018
 
cover songs june
Andrew Combs – Reptila (The Strokes cover)


The Strokes’ Is This It songs have been covered to death, so musicians are digging deeper. We heard a killer Angles cover in April from Billie Eilish (more on her in a minute), and now singer-songwriter Andrew Combs takes on this Room on Fire track. His own music leans Nashville Americana, but from the crazy horns here, sounds like he’s been spending time in New Orleans. Continue reading »

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.
Continue reading »

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 »