Mar 042016

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


“Pure Imagination” is a song that entire generations have grown up knowing. Written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, the dreamy ode to the powers of creativity has fascinated viewers of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory for decades. Gene Wilder’s film performance is full of both whimsy and a strange intensity, while the music backing him alternates between almost Christmas-like strings and runs of notes that are almost unsettling in their similarity to a horror movie soundtrack. It’s as if the song is meant to celebrate the best of what the human mind can come up with while still hinting at darker corners.

It’s that original dichotomy that makes “Pure Imagination” such a perfect song for interpretation. It’s Willy Wonka’s invitation to come join him in a world that’s different from the humdrum reality that Charlie Bucket has grown up with. It’s also a brief look into the mind of character whose mind works differently than that of the rest of us. There are so many layers in the original that almost any direction can be taken with a cover version. Dozens of artists have taken a stab at it. Here are five great takes on this film classic.

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Jan 062016

The Electric Mayhem has been The Muppets house band since the early years of The Muppet Show.  The band has always been led by vocalist/keyboardist Dr. Teeth (“golden teeth and golden tones”) supported by Janice on lead guitar, Floyd Pepper on bass, saxophonist Zoot, and, of course, Animal on drums. In the past, The Electric Mayhem has covered quite a few songs (their version of “Little Saint Nick” rivals the Beach Boys).  Most recently they covered Kool & The Gang’s funk classic “Jungle Boogie” and now they take on Paul Simon’s 1973 hit, “Kodachrome” for their new ABC show. Continue reading »

Jun 102015

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, from Cover Me staffer Raphael Camara: What’s a song that’s been covered too many times?
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Oct 042013

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.

Tara Jane O’Neil’s artistic work crosses multiple boundaries – she’s a singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, and a drawer and painter whose creations have been exhibited worldwide. She calls Portland, Oregon home, with additional residencies in the hearts of thousands. Her website states that “her work innately crosses genres and boundaries,” a point brought home by her collaborating on an album with Nikaido Kazumi, despite their not sharing a spoken language. Perhaps most important, her skills at karaoke are unparalleled – people are still talking about her performance of “Xanadu” at the Experimental Filmmaker Karaoke Throwdown in 2008.
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Aug 062012

The song “Wonderful(The Way I Feel)” was originally written by My Morning Jacket’s Jim James for Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem to perform in the last released Muppets film and tour, but was left unused. James said: “So now, twice, Muppet glory has been within my grasp…it’s pretty heartbreaking, but it did propel us just to kick into high gear and finish our own record.”  The record Circuital was released last May as MMJ’s sixth album. Continue reading »

Nov 212011

The King is dead, long live the Queen. This Thursday marks the 20th anniversary of the death of Freddie Mercury, Queen frontman and rock mega-idol. It would be ridiculous to even try to quantify Mercury’s impact on pop culture. The whimsical force behind Queen’s unique style and aesthetic, many point to him as one of the best performers in the history of popular music. And don’t forget, his sometimes enigmatic voice brought alternative sexuality into the public conversation. Continue reading »