Long time friends Sam Beam (better known under his stage name Iron & Wine) and Ben Bridwell from Band Of Horses finally get around to fulfilling their longtime wish of collaborating on a covers album with the release of Sing Into My Mouth earlier this week.
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!
When you consider their longevity, the sheer number and variety of their live performances, and influences as diverse as bluegrass, country, soul, rock, psychedelia, blues, and jazz, it is likely that the Grateful Dead may have recorded and/or performed more covers than any other band that is best known for its original songs. (There’s probably a wedding band out there that has a bigger songbook, but that’s not really the point.) Grateful Dead fans have been trading and cataloging their favorite band’s performances since long before the idea of digital music and the Internet even existed, and now there are numerous databases available online — one of which shows 343 separate covers performed by the band (and solo projects and offshoots), including soundchecks and performances with guests.
Therefore, it is somewhat surprising that Cover Me has never turned its lovelight directly on the Grateful Dead. We have written numerous times about covers of Dead songs, but a quick review of the archives indicates that only three covers by the band have been featured—Bob Dylan’s “Desolation Row” and Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” and “Mama Tried.” So, that leaves us a mere 340 to choose from today. To make this project (inspired in part by Phil Lesh’s 75th birthday this Sunday and by the recent announcement of the band’s 50th anniversary shows in Chicago this summer) somewhat less insane, we will limit ourselves only to recordings or performances by the Grateful Dead, proper — no solo projects or anything from after the death of Jerry Garcia.
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.
The way Adrian Edmondson tells it, he bought a mandolin after an inebriation-inducing lunch near Denmark Street in Soho, “a very dangerous place to be with a group of friends, drunk, if you have either cash, or a credit card about your person.” The next day, he picked it up and began playing the songs of his youth – by bands like the Clash, the Sex Pistols, the Ramones, and other bands that certainly informed his portrayal of Vyvyan Basterd in the beloved Britcom The Young Ones. What came out was something very special indeed – so much so that Edmondson went out to find like-minded folk musicians to play this music with him, and when he found Uilleann pipe player Troy Donockley, the Bad Shepherds were born.
Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
“This Must Be the Place (Naïve Melody),” which first appeared on their 1983 album Speaking in Tongues (as well as on their incredible 1984 live album / soundtrack Stop Making Sense), is one of the few songs in the Talking Heads catalogue that could be considered a “love song.” In interviews, the band’s singer/lyricist David Byrne says that he made a conscious choice to make it a “real love” song, but sought to avoid making it too corny or simplistic (the “naïve melody” parenthetical shows the kind of self-awareness that made Byrne such a strong and strange creative force). The result is a song that, while lacking any kind of narrative, is brimming with poignant single lines that makes up for an emotional experience.
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
Weird Al Yankovic got a lot of attention this summer (and deservedly so) for releasing a new album that made it to number one on the charts, but he’s not the only novelty master from the ’80s to be doing well for himself lately. Big Daddy, the band that sprayed american graffiti all over the hits of the day back in the day, have a new album coming out next week – Smashin’ Songs of Stage & Screen, which Big-Daddifies songs from hit musicals ranging from Wizard of Oz to Saturday Night Fever. Earlier this year, they also put out a collection of their greatest hits of the ’80s and early ’90s, Cruisin’ Through the Rhino Years, that cherry-picks highlights from the four albums they released for the Rhino Records label. If you’ve already got The Best of Big Daddy, their 2000 compilation, you’ll have sixteen of these songs already – but you’ll want to spring for this to get five more.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
There are certain things that you always remember. Meeting the love of your life. Seeing your children for the first time. And, of course, the first time you heard Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. Maybe that isn’t a statement of general applicability, but it is true for me.
In October of 1980, I was a college junior and assistant program director of WPRB-FM. It was my responsibility to swing by the post office every day to pick up the station’s mail, including the packages of records. This meant that I got to see the new releases before anyone else. By that time, I had become a pretty big Talking Heads fan (and rued my error in having skipped their show on campus back in my freshman year). We fans knew that the band was moving in new directions after the previous year’s Fear of Music, which had begun integrating more complex rhythms, dance beats and world influences into their sound, and the music press was buzzing with anticipation about what they were going to do next. So, on that cool October morning, when I ripped open the box from WEA as I walked toward the station, I was thrilled to see Remain in Light. After scurrying down into our basement office, I quickly threw the record on the turntable, and was immediately blown away.