Jun 032016
 

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

rotary_connection-songs

With the rise and, more importantly for the record companies, financial success of the pop music market in the mid-to-late-’60s, it should come as little surprise that this era served as one of the most prolific for cover songs. Some artists merely issued them as singles, while others saw fit to fill entire albums with pop hits of the day. And while the majority were given something of an easy listening makeover or subtle rewrite, there were a handful who saw fit to take this well-known, well-loved material and turn it on its ear. One of the best one-off examples of this is Smith’s smoldering reworking of Burt Bacharach’s song “Baby It’s You,” in which co-lead vocalist Gayle McCormick gives one of the best vocal performances of the era.

Taking a similar tack, psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection set their sights on the psych and pop hits of the day to create something wholly new and different with their 1969 album Songs. Where others who chose to take songs like the Band’s “The Weight,” “Respect” (either Otis Redding’s original or Aretha Franklin’s iconic version) and Cream’s riff-tastic “Sunshine of Your Love” stuck largely to the recognizable for understandable commercial reasons, Rotary Connection opted to take each song in an entirely new, often wildly experimental direction. By stripping the songs of their melodic and rhythmic familiarity, even the most played-out of these covers feels entirely new and different.
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Mar 092016
 

Welcome to Cover Me Q&A, where we take your questions about cover songs and answer them to the best of our ability.

Here at Cover Me Q&A, we’ll be taking questions about cover songs and giving as many different answers as we can. This will give us a chance to hold forth on covers we might not otherwise get to talk about, to give Cover Me readers a chance to learn more about individual staffers’ tastes and writing styles, and to provide an opportunity for some back-and-forth, as we’ll be taking requests (learn how to do so at feature’s end).

Today’s question: What’s a favorite live cover song?
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Mar 132015
 

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.
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Jan 232015
 

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!

The sun must have been approximately eight inches from my forehead as I wound my way through a crush of warm bodies – all of them panting and glistening in the fierce Texas heat. Perspiration beaded and trickled down the damp necks of an expectant crowd; condensation beaded and trickled down their cans of Lagunitas.

With the first loud and clear ring of an electric guitar, a roar arose from the crowd, and Paolo Nutini strutted onto stage at Austin City Limits – shirt unbuttoned like a golden god of 70s rock, tight pants that might have been painted onto his lithe frame, and a tousled mane that exemplified the definition of “sex hair.”

And then, the man proceeded to take us to church.
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Jul 112014
 

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.

 
“Baby Don’t You Do It” was written by the premier Motown songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland. As with other Motown songs, it got passed around the stable a bit; originally meant for the Supremes, it wound up going to Marvin Gaye, who had a minor hit with it, and Stevie Wonder and the Isley Brothers recorded it as well. It also got a toehold across the pond, showing up in setlists of the Small Faces and the Who, among others. And let’s not forget other forgotten versions, like those by the Wailers and Barbara Randolph (well worth an exploratory visit to YouTube). In other words, for a song that’s not often mentioned as one of Motown’s greatest hits, it’s made a deep, deep impression.
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Sep 132013
 

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!

Gillian Welch is a yankee. There, it’s said. One would have a hard time discerning it from her mix of folk and bluegrass arrangements, but there’s a Big Apple right there on her birth certificate. So let it be noted that, when compared to some “legitimate” country music popularized and sung by those born and bred in the South, with their auto-tuned cartoonish absence of substance, an overabundance of shiny objects and pyrotechnics, and some ghastly redneck rap thrown in, it’s obvious that birthplace alone has little influence on how traditional or great country music is.
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