Nov 102017
 
best covers 1987

Last year I did a roundup of the Best Cover Songs of 1996. It was a fun project to retroactively compile one of our year-end lists for a year before Cover Me was born. I wanted to do it again this year, but continuing the twentieth-anniversary theme with 1997 seemed a little boring. Turns out 1997 also featured a bunch of Afghan Whigs covers.

So to mix it up, I decided to go a decade further back and look at 1987. Needless to say, the landscape looked very different for covers. For one, far more of that year’s biggest hits were covers than we saw for 1996. The year had #1 cover hits in Heart’s “Alone,” the Bangles’ “Hazy Shade of Winter,” Los Lobos’ “La Bamba,” Tiffany’s “I Think We’re Alone Now,” Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me,” and Kim Wilde’s “You Keep Me Hangin’ On.” Plus ubiquitous hits that didn’t quite top the charts, but remain staples of the songs-you-didn’t-know-were-covers lists, Buster Poindexter’s “Hot Hot Hot” and George Harrison’s “Got My Mind Set On You.” Continue reading »

Nov 092017
 
jim james beach boys cover

My Morning Jacket has turned cover songs and tribute-album appearances into a cottage industry, playing tunes by everyone from Buddy Holly to the Frogtown Hollow Jubilee Jug Band. So it comes as no surprise that frontman Jim James will drop an album of covers on December 8 called Tribute to 2.   

James recently released the lead track from the album, a cover of the Beach Boys’ majestic “I Just Wasn’t Made for These Times” from their 1966 magnum opus Pet Sounds. The tune was co-written by Brian Wilson and Tony Asher and sung by Wilson. The moody song, with its dark, introspective lyrics, signalled a stark change for the band from its happy blend of Chuck Berry and doo-wop inspired surf-pop. James channels Wilson’s falsetto in such a way that he almost sounds like a lost Wilson brother. Continue reading »

Oct 132017
 

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.

Who does the best version of “God Only Knows”?

Accepting that the true answer is probably “Beach Boys, Beach Boys, Beach Boys,” this is a song oft covered and rarely, if ever, bettered, such is its beauty and ubiquity, as reliant on the arrangement as the melody, the lyrics as the singer. Most who have met the cover-me challenge have failed, duplicating and copying, facsimiles falling and failing at the shrine of St. Brian. And at the feet of St. Carl, for it is his sublime vocal that nails it. Some of these are pleasant enough – come in, Elvis Costello and Michael Stipe – but leave a memory that just longs for the original. A distinctive or different voice isn’t enough, as both Joss Stone and P.P.Arnold have discovered.
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Feb 072017
 
Hula Hi-Fi

Many listeners’ knowledge of Hawaiian music begins and ends with Israel Kamakawiwo’ole’s “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” (which, to be fair, deserves every play it gets). But on a new album, a new trio aims to change that by adapting a dozen familiar songs across decades into a new genre they call “Hawaiian noir.” Like David Lynch in Maui, they reinvent songs by Nirvana (“In Bloom”), The Cars (“Drive”), Radiohead (“Bulletproof…I Wish I Was”), Chris Isaak (“Wicked Game”), and more with ukuleles, lap steel, and harmonies.

Known as Hula Hi-Fi, the band is new but the players – Josh Kaler, Annie Clements and Sarah Bandy – are seasoned, having worked with the likes of Sugarland, Amos Lee, Butch Walker, and more in their respective careers. Their abilities show; these are carefully constructed productions, not tossed-off ukulele strum-alongs. Continue reading »

Jan 172017
 
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Toronto quartet BADBADNOTGOOD have been making waves in the jazz scene for quite some time now, but six years into their music career, they still like to blow their listeners away with new material and slick covers.

For their latest session on Triple J’s Like a Version, the band tackles The Beach Boys 1966 classic  – first giving it a beautiful prelude led by Leland Whitty on soprano sax, before the all-too-familiar “God Only Knows” bass line kicks in, with the rest of the band expertly weaving their way through the tune, giving a fantastic performance that leaves you craving for more. Continue reading »

Jun 232016
 

Tribute_to_Pet_Sounds_ReverberationFifty years on, Pet Sounds still stands as one of the definitive statements 20th century pop music has to offer. Its production, song craft and performances remain so powerful and influential they continue to resonate with generations of musicians and listeners. It is the former who have gathered here to pay their respects to an album that regularly tops “Greatest Albums of All Time” lists. That the majority of the artists collected on The Reverberation Appreciation Society Presents: A Tribute to Pet Sounds take their stylistic cues from pre- and post-Pet Sounds styles seems to have little bearing on the consideration for those included.

In fact, the majority of the artists assembled here owe more of a debt of gratitude to the earlier Beach Boys recordings – many, including Shannon and the Clams, the Black Angels, and the She’s sound as though they could have been contemporaries of the pre-LSD Beach Boys. That they would attempt to reimagine – there are no recreations here – such revered material in their own image is a fairly brazen move. Yet instead of relying on the studio expertise of Brian Wilson, the focus is placed on the songs themselves.
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