Nov 142018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

erin mckeown cover songs

After almost two decades of critically acclaimed albums, singer-songwriter-guitarist Erin McKeown just added another hyphenate to her resumé: “theatrical composer.” She wrote music and lyrics for the new Public Theater musical Miss You Like Hell in New York. Variety wrote after seeing the show, “Erin McKeown makes an impressive stage debut with music that is eclectic and appealing.” Here’s a taste, two-time Tony nominee Daphne Rubin-Vega singing McKeown’s new song “Mothers”: Continue reading »

Nov 012018
 

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

best nirvana covers

Nirvana released its first single 30 years ago today. Well, today-ish. That single was the first installment in the now-legendary Sub Pop Singles Club, so I imagine its “release date” was whatever day it landed in the mailbox for the 1,000 lucky people who got it (you can get it too, but you’ll have to drop $3,300 on Discogs).

And what was that very first Nirvana single? Whaddya know, it was a cover! The band launched their recording careers with “Love Buzz,” originally by Dutch psychedelic-rockers Shocking Blue. Not the most obvious start for the most iconic band of the ’90s (apparently it was Krist’s idea). Already a staple of their raucous live show, “Love Buzz” did represent, according to Sub Pop founder Bruce Pavitt, “an indicator of some of their direction in songwriting.”

Three decades on, that songwriting has generated a few covers of its own. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” has of course been covered thousands of times, but some other Nirvana songs aren’t as far behind as you might think. “Lithium,” “Come As You Are,” and “In Bloom” remain perennial cover selections, and “Territorial Pissings” seems surprisingly popular. (“Rape Me,” not so much.) Heck, half the artists we hear covering David Bowie’s “The Man Who Sold the World” or Leadbelly’s “In the Pines” seem to really be covering Nirvana’s MTV Unplugged versions.

So today, we continue our Best Covers Ever series by whittling down the moshing masses of Nirvana covers to the best thirty. Here we are now. Entertain us!

Honorable Mention: Nirvana – Lithium

No, not that Nirvana. The 1960s British band of the same name covered “Lithium” when they reunited in the 1990s. A cute nod, made less cute when you realize this older group had sued over the grunge band’s use of the name only a few years prior (Sub Pop reportedly had to pay them $100,000). At any rate, this Nirvana’s cover is not that good, but this psych-pop spin on “Lithium” perhaps paved the way for a much better version in the same vein a few years later. But we’ll get there… Continue reading »

May 302018
 

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

pink floyd covers

Coming in at 40 tracks, our third ‘Best Ever’ countdown is our longest yet. This feels appropriate; Pink Floyd’s songs tend to be a whole lot longer than Talking Heads’ or Fleetwood Mac’s. A band whose default length was set at “epic” deserves a list just as winding.

Luckily, the covers community has obliged, allowing us a list as discursive as Pink Floyd itself. A band that, for better or worse, can get pigeonholed into a specific sound and era, gets transformed into a whole host of other genres and moods. Psychedelic rock is represented here, of course, but so is bluegrass, soul, and disco. One cover even includes a “featuring Tupac Shakur” credit, which is probably not what Gilmour or Waters envisioned. Though the latter would certainly appreciate the walls being torn down.

Twenty-minute tracks that might seem intimidating to some don’t phase these artists. Some turn them into tight four-minute pop songs. Others, if you can believe it, extend the songs further. So strap in, and set the controls for the heart of the cover… Continue reading »

Aug 252011
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Happy birthday to Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy – born 44 years ago today in Belleville, Illinois. Through his work with Uncle Tupelo and Wilco, Tweedy has laid claim to being this generation’s Woody Guthrie or Neil Young. Wait a minute… Jeff Tweedy is perhaps this generation’s Alex Chilton or John Lennon or even Hank Williams, Sr. You can see the problem in trying to describe a chameleon like Tweedy. It’s why Wilco Nation anxiously awaits each new release; never knowing where Tweedy and the band will take them, but always thoroughly enjoying the journey. That journey continues in a month when Wilco releases The Whole Love, their eighth studio album. Continue reading »

Dec 222010
 

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

“Karma Police” serves as the centerpiece of Radiohead’s 1997 classic, OK Computer. The beginning tracks of OK Computer find Radiohead at their most experimental to that point. From the shape-shifting “Paranoid Android” to the slow burn of “Exit Music (For A Film),” these otherworldly melodies embody the theme of disillusionment that runs through the album.

The opening notes of “Karma Police,” however, hit with a directness and simplicity that immediately leaps out. Thom Yorke’s voice weaves effortlessly through the chord changes, hardly rising above a whisper when he sings, “This is what you’ll get / when you mess with us.” It’s a remarkable moment when the song’s quiet intensity finally bursts in the second half, Yorke’s disdain turning into something that sounds an awful lot like optimism and warmth. Continue reading »

May 172010
 

Dio has rocked for a long long time…

As you’ve probably heard, legendary metal singer Ronnie James Dio died of stomach cancer yesterday.  The man fronted a an impressive list of heavy metal bands, popularized the devil’s horns and inspired the Tenacious D song from which the above line comes (which he apparently took in good humor).  He rose to superstardom as Ozzy Osbourne’s replacement in Black Sabbath, so today we take a look at the Godfathers of Metal.  Technically Dio only sang one of the songs covered here, but is it our fault that “T.V. Crimes” didn’t have quite the impact of “Paranoid”?
Continue reading »