Is it bad form to promote your own tribute? It almost makes you think about the crass sort of person who, say, slaps his last name on every building, golf course, airline, casino, steak, or bottle of wine or water that he has anything to do with. Now, what about if it is an employee who instigates a tribute to his employer? That seems pretty cool, especially since so many employees would probably be more likely to spit on something that glorifies their bosses than to work, unpaid, to create a monument to them.
So, let’s give kudos to Jeff “Jefe” Neely, the “website guy” for Old 97’s, who decided that it would be a good idea to get other musicians to cover Old 97’s songs and to use the project as a fundraiser for charity: water, whose mission is to “bring clean and safe drinking water to every person in the world.” The charity was founded in 2006 by Scott Harrison, a former nightclub and fashion promoter after a life changing trip to Liberia.
The band got behind the project, which became known as Desperate Times, and helped to get artists to contribute covers to the project, which was funded through a Pledge Music campaign. In fact, many of the artists had toured with Old 97’s at some point in the band’s two-decade-plus career, and a significant number are from Texas, where Old 97’s formed. Not surprisingly, therefore, most of them inhabit a similar Americana/country/rock space as the band they are covering. The contributors, all well-respected artists if not chart-toppers, seem to have embraced the challenge. For the most part, although the covers don’t generally stray too far from the originals, each is distinctive and all are of exceptional quality. Continue reading »
After weeks of buildup, today we finally hit the big day: the 20th anniversary of Nirvana’s Nevermind. The only fitting culmination of all the related stories we’ve been seeing recently is a regular Full Album feature. Only problem? We did one already. In fact, it was one of the very first posts we did, over three years ago. The MP3s have been gone for two-plus years though, so we thought, what better way to celebrate the anniversary than by bringing that post back from the dead? For a limited time, we’ve re-posted the covers of every song on Nevermind. Happy 20th, Nevermind. See you in 2021.
Sorry this post is a couple of days late. The good news, though, is that I’m starting a new series. On the first Monday of every month, I’ll be posting covers of every song from an album. I’ve already done Bob Dylan’s John Wesley Harding and Leonard Cohen’s I’m Your Man, and today we go to a very different genre than the singer-songwriter, Nirvana, the creators of grunge. Hearing how people reinterpret his work, though, it’s clear Kurt Cobain has more in common with the previous generation of songwriters than the noise in his work might originally suggest. So here it is, Nevermind from beginning to end.
-Update 1/14/07: That great cover to the right is courtesy of reader Garrison, who found us through a nice shout-out over at Berkeley Place.
-Update 3/10/07: New download link at bottom.
-Update 9/23/11: And we’re back, for the 20th anniversary of Nevermind!
Patti Smith – Smells Like Teen Spirit
One of the best new covers of ’07, she infused banjo, brushed drums, and an unprecedented attention to lyrical clarity in her singing that makes it seem like a singer-songwriter number instead of a grunge rave-up.
Gringo Floyd – In Bloom
Off one of those lame “The [Insert Random Musical Genre] Tribute to [Insert Band of a Very Different Genre]” albums, this cocktail instrumental mixes horns with some weird synthesizer riffs and the occasional breathy sigh to get your head bobbing.
Caetano Veloso – Come As You Are
Keeping the sassy swing going, Brazil’s Veloso infuses a smooth latin feel into this one, slowing it down a bit and bringing out a new guitar line only implied in the original.
Steve Earle – Breed
Recorded for the B-Sides album Side Tracks, he keeps the same general feel using his own gruff snarl.
The Polyphonic Spree – Lithium
A bouncy, pretty version that keeps the levity going even through the loud chorus, aided by the girl’s backing vocals halfway through each verse. The happiest song ever with lyrics like “I’m so lonely” and “Maybe I’m to blame for all I’ve heard”.
Animal Collective – Polly
Fast strumming behind molasses-slow vocals, this is a radio version of a vinyl-only cover that’s been making the blog circuit. Good by itself, better on acid.
Ill Nino – Territorial Pissings
Similar to the original, but even harder, with a metal voice yelling the “Gotta run away” but keeping the tune for the rest. Nothing revelatory, but decent. If anyone has a better cover of this one, let me know.
Coco – Drain You
Thought I’d never find an interesting cover of this, until a discovered this Asian electro-pop version on their myspace page. It’s a love-it-or-hate-it genre, but I enjoy it in small doses.
The Retroliners – Lounge Act
A surf instrumental of this one, these vocal-free takes show just how good Cobain was at crafting a tune…which he could then all-but bury under waves of distortion.
UK Subs – Stay Away
If the Sex Pistols had covered Nirvana.
Rogue Wave – On a Plain
A strummed indie version, it sounds both wistful and hopeful at the same time.
Tricky – Something In the Way
Taking samples from here and there, underground DJ Tricky does a funky hip-hop sort of cover using Hawkman on vocals. Very interesting, very cool, and almost unrecognizable from the original.