On his new 7″ single “Would You Fight For My Love?”, Jack White covers an obscure artist called Hello=Fire. In the ‘Seven Degrees of Jack White’ game though, they’re only a few steps away. Hello=Fire is a project from White’s bandmate in the Raconteurs and the Dead Weather, Dean Fertita. They released one album in 2009, and the closing song “Parallel” was co-written with another Raconteurs bandmate: Brendan Benson.
When people look back in 2011 in music a decade from now, one name will come to mind: Adele. In our little world of cover songs, she dominated. Everyone covered Adele this year. It’s not just that we saw more covers of “Rolling in the Deep” than any other song; they beat out second place (probably “Pumped Up Kicks”) by like a factor of five! We generally try to look for larger cover trends in these annual wrap-ups, but it’s hard to remember anything else from this year except the year-long onslaught of Adele covers hitting our mailbox.
There’s only one “Rolling in the Deep” cover in this year’s list though. The rest are all over the place. Some of the artists listed built their covers with lush soundscapes, thick beats, and intricate string work. Others just took guitars or pianos and bowled us over with the emotion in their voices. There may not be much of an overarching “Year in Covers” narrative, but that means there’s a cover or two for everyone. From feel-good takes on rap songs to kill-yourself versions of pop songs, this year’s list features flips, flops, and genre switcheroos of all sorts. A good cover should be informed by the source material but stand on its own, and we’ll be unrolling the 50 finest examples of songs doing just that all week. Start with #50-41 on the next page and check back daily as we count down to the best cover of 2011.
We first heard Fitz and the Tantrums’ live cover of “Steady, As She Goes” at Lollapalooza last month. Some low-quality videos of their take on the Raconteurs track have been circulating for a while, but this week Rolling Stone posted a version that improves on all the cell-phone recordings we’ve had to live with.
Festivals often entice artists to perform covers. What better way to convert the uninitiated than by drawing them in with a song they know and then (ideally) hooking them by transforming it into your sound? This past weekend’s Lollapalooza, though, seemed to offer even more cover performances than usual. Greg Kot of the Chicago Tribune even christened Saturday “#80snight” to keep track of all the ‘80s covers performed.
Third Man Records, Jack White’s record label, has picked up some unexpected talent in its short existence. There was that choir of public transit employees. There was Carl Sagan. Now there’s Wanda Jackson. The “Queen of Rockabilly” first began recording in the ‘50s, but, as her upcoming album proclaims, The Party Ain’t Over. Jack White produced the album, and now we have our first taste. Surprise: It features crazy guitar from you-know-who!
Download This! scours the web’s dark corners for cool cover freebies. View past installments.
Formed in 1991 at the University of Vermont, Strangefolk has released five studio albums, a few live ones, and hosted their own annual music festival. Their music falls in the realm of rock, blues, folk, and bluegrass…okay, fine, they’re a jam band. They have a strong and loyal following that has spawned the charitable organization Strangers Helping Strangers, which collects non-perishable food items at their concerts and donates them to local food banks. For over 10 years, the volunteer-run organization has been aiding communities and their work has extended beyond Strangefolk gigs, partnering with dozens of other bands to achieve their goals. Busy guys.
At their own Garden of Eden festival in 2006, Strangefolk first performed a full set of Led Zeppelin covers under the moniker The Tells. The Tells have popped up a few times since to perform all-cover sets of Zeppelin (again), The Raconteurs (with a couple bonus covers of The White Stripes), and the Grateful Dead. Even under their own name, Strangefolk have no qualms about pulling out a cover or two during their live sets.
If you’ve ever attended a music festival, you need to know Consequence of Sound. If you ever plan on attending a music festival, you need to know Consequence of Sound. If you have no interest in music festivals whatsoever, you need to wise up…and then you need to know Consequence of Sound. In addition to the site’s regular music news and features, their Festival Outlook has established itself as the premiere source for festival info. From lineup info (which they always seem to know before anyone else) to reviews, their coverage spans ‘em all, from the big boys (Bonnaroo, Coachella) to the underdogs (Ghoulsfest?).
Suffice to say: These guys know their festivals. So as fest season winds down, we checked in with some CoS writers (of whom – full disclosure – I am one) to hear the best festival covers they’ve ever witnessed. Here’s what they offered. Each has a review and a video so you can vicariously experience the insanity.
After you finish here, hop over to CoS’ Friday Mixtape! The covers were chosen by yours truly.
The first post of the month always features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
The thing most surprising about the music on The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars is its accessibility. Just imagine someone hearing the concept behind this album for the first time. “So it’s about a transsexual alien who tells the world it only has five years to survive. This news makes the transsexual alien sad, so he writes some songs and forms a hit band. Then he becomes Jesus for awhile, until other aliens come along and rip him into little bits to absorb his essence.” Good God, the person would think, what could music about that possibly sound like? Well, it turns out it sounds like good old-fashioned rock and roll with a sprinkle of glam. No one (including Bowie) really understands the plotline, but everyone can get on board with the incredible music.
The Arcade Fire – Five Years
In 2005 Wynn Butler and the Arcade Fire crew performed this with Bowie himself at a iTunes-released Fashion Rocks concert (great video here). This comes from around that time, a Bowie-less concert performance that features all the bombast we’ve come to expect from the Fire. [Buy]
Tim Reynolds – Soul Love
Longtime Dave Matthews sideman Tim Reynolds may be one of the best acoustic guitar players around today. He’s got dozens of concerts available for free download at archive.org, most featuring a wide selection of instrumental covers like this one. [Buy]
L.A. Guns – Moonage Daydream
One of the best opening couplets in rock: “I’m an alligator / I’m a mama-papa coming for you!” The Whites Stripes do a raw version of this live (video), but stay tuned for some more polished Jack White. [Buy]
Nena – Starman
You probably know Nena from her hit “99 Luftballoons,” unless you live in Germany where she’s a legitimate artist with an actual career and everything. Wherever you’re from, her album Cover Me (dumb name, huh) is worth snagging, if only for the phenomenal two-sentence Wikipedia description: “Cover Me is a cover album by German pop star Nena, released in 2007. It contains songs that she likes.” Apparently one song she likes is a German-language version of “Heroes.” [Buy]
The Raconteurs – It Ain’t Easy (Ron Davies)
I used to exclude albums with non-original songs from Full Albums consideration until the irony of excluding artists who did covers from a cover songs blog became too great. Plus, we know Jack White’s a fan of the album (see above), so his shrieking guitar work is surely tribute to original Ziggy player Mick Ronson. [Buy]
Seu Jorge – Lady Stardust
Wes Anderson is a weird director. There’s no other explanation to explain why he scored his The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou with singer/actor Jorge’s Portugese-language versions of Bowie classics. Anderson even put videos of Jorge performing the songs in the movie! Here’s the clip for “Lady Stardust.” [Buy]
Techno Cowboy – Star
One fine day singer-songwriter Brad Stubbs decided to strap in some weird 80s instruments under pseudonym Techno Cowboy and record The Ziggy Stardust Omnichord Album. The world was never the same. [Buy]
derpferdheissthorst – Ziggy Stardust
This one was recorded for one of our earliest Cover Commissions series, narrowly beating “The Safety Dance” and “You Spin Me Around.” If you like what you hear (and you will), these German gents have a few more covers available at their spiffy new website. [Buy]
Golden Delicious – Suffragette City
David Bowie loved Mott the Hoople so much he offered them this song if they agreed not to break up. They declined, so Bowie came back with a second offer: “All the Young Dudes.” They recorded it, had a massive hit…then broke up anyway. [Buy]
Black Box Recorder – Rock ‘n’ Roll Suicide
The original plays while “the infinites” tear a washed-up old Ziggy to bits onstage. This cover would be better suited to soundtrack the last dance at prom. Until the unexpected ending. [Buy]