Jul 162018
 
kamasi washington covers

Despite reports to the contrary, jazz is still not dead. Leading the genre well into the 21st century is saxophonist Kamasi Washington, whose experimental, freeform playing style has earned him comparisons to jazz legends from John Coltrane to Pharoah Sanders. Washington recently released a double-album Heaven and Earth and an EP The Choice that included covers of the Fist of Fury movie theme, “Will You Love Me Tomorrow” and “O-o-h Child.”

The theme to the 1972 Bruce Lee film Fist of Fury is like a snapshot of Hollywood themes of old, somewhere between the majestic sounds that defined old Westerns and the soundtracks to early James Bond films. Washington transforms the cover, which he renamed “Fists of Fury,” into a nine-minute experimental protest anthem. With the song, he merges the orchestral soul that defined the spirit of ‘70s blaxploitation flicks with fusion jazz.

Washington opens the track with a blast of strings and percussion and a series of choral style “Ahs” and “Ohs” followed by the opening words: “I use hands to help my fellow man.” The first verse is followed by extended piano and saxophone solos. For the finale, vocalists Patrice Quinn and Dwight Trible call out the lyrics: “Our time as victims is over/We will no longer ask for justice/Instead we will take our retribution.”

More than just a cover, it’s a full-on call to action. “‘Fists of Fury’ is about being assertive and taking the power that you have,” Washington told The FADER in a recent interview. “African-American people are asking for justice from a country that has never given it to us, and at a certain point you realize there’s no intention to give you that justice, and no desire for you to have it from those people you are asking for it from — so why ask? If you’re asking someone for justice that means you feel like justice is outside of your control, and I don’t feel like it is.”

Within the packaging of the Heaven and Earth album, Washington also included a five-track EP called The Choice. The second song is a cover of “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which was written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin and first made famous by the Shirelles. Over the years it has been covered by numerous artists – and King herself recorded a version on her classic 1971 album Tapestry. The track begins with a slow fade-in of percussion, piano and saxophone. Patrice Quinn delivers a bluesy take on the lyrics, and Washington delivers a thunderous solo.

To close out The Choice, Washington performed a reworking of the Five Stairsteps’ 1970 soul classic “O-o-h Child.” A message song through and through with its uplifting lyrics “Ooh child, things are gonna get easier.” Washington stretches the track out to nearly nine minutes and gives it a retro-futurist vibe, combining ‘70s style funk with Star Trek-style sound effects. The lyrics themselves are almost given a back seat as Washington stretches out his solos. Taken by themselves, the three tracks almost make for an album in and of themselves, and show that Washington is a force to be reckoned with in contemporary jazz.

Click here to listen to more Carole King covers.

Jun 242016
 

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

Laura_Nyro_-_Gonna_Take_a_Miracle

Following the cultural tumult that was the end of the 1960s, many musicians opted for a more introspective, seemingly autobiographical approach to their songwriting. Artists like James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, and scores of others suddenly made it okay to turn down the volume and once again focus on the lyrical content that tended to get swept aside during the height of psychedelia. Yet not all introspection resulted in the creation of original material. With the nation seemingly falling apart, many artists began looking back to the late-1950s and early-1960s, essentially their formative years, to help better understand how they arrived and, in the process, finding themselves temporarily transported to better times.

For a musician like Laura Nyro, herself always open and contemplative within her own songs, the approach transcended the internal here and now in favor of a more accurately autobiographical look at how she ended up where she did by the time of 1971’s Gonna Take A Miracle. Rather than digging deeper into herself in an attempt to find a wealth spring of inspiration, she returned to her original inspirations as though they were a palate cleanser designed to erase the memories of the preceding years’ social unrest. By returning to her roots and the music that inspired her in the first place – her “favorite teenage heartbeat music,” she called it – Nyro sought to find her center, looking backwards for answers contained within what was beginning to be (incorrectly) perceived as a simpler time.
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Oct 232013
 

Another year, another long weekend of sweaty clubs and frantic cab sprints across the east river for CMJ. A few of our past picks have broken out a little bit since we wrote about them – Lord Huron, Widowspeak, Houndmouth – so once again, we’d like to give some small boost to our five favorite bands from CMJ, along with a cover from each.

Well, our five favorite bands who had a cover that is. To the rest of our knockout discoveries (like EULA, Reuben and the Dark, GEMS, Pete Bauer) – hurry up and cover something so we can write about you too!
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Oct 072011
 

Metaphorest is the recording and performing moniker of Irish singer, songwriter and guitarist Sarah Daly. Daly has been self-releasing her music since as Metaphorest since 2009 on hitRECord, the company run by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. The likes of Joanna Newsom, Jeff Buckley, and Björk inspire her music, along with someone closer to home: her second cousin Kate Bush. With Daly being so close to Bush both musically and genetically, it is no surprise her barebones guitar cover of “Babooshka” is spot-on delightful. Continue reading »

Aug 262011
 

Anna Calvi has developed a lovely pattern on the single releases from her self-titled debut album. The main song becomes the A-side, while a classic oldies cover gets the B-side. So far this year, she’s tackled Elvis Presley’s “Surrender” and Leonard Cohen’s “Joan of Arc” on the disc’s first singles (listen to both below). Her latest, for “Suzanne and I,” offers her third cover: the Shirelles’ “Baby It’s You.” Continue reading »

Jul 252011
 

Amy Winehouse, the British singer who almost single-handedly revived a mass appreciation of soul and R&B, was found dead in her Camden home in London on July 23. Media in every form – blogs, magazines, newspapers – often scrutinized her abuse of drugs and alcohol instead of focusing on her unmistakable talent as a singer and songwriter. While the idea of a young person rising all too quickly to fame and crashing is alarmingly expected, the loss of Winehouse is still incredibly tragic. Fans and fellow musicians have posted their tributes, and here at Cover Me, we look back at a few of her stand-out covers in memoriam. Continue reading »