History has been kind to the legacies of perceived second-bananas John Oates and Bob Weir. In a recent comedy special, Chris Rock noted how Oates deserves just as much credit as Daryl Hall for their long running partnership. “I don’t know what Oates does,” Rock quipped. “But Hall never had a hit record without him.” Similarly, Weir was always perceived to be second to Jerry Garcia during the lifespan of the the Grateful Dead. But in the two decades since Jerry’s death he has played an essential role in keeping the spirit of the band alive.
Oates and Weir recently teamed up during an Oates solo performance at the Sweetwater Music Hall in Mill Valley, California. It was an encore of their previous pairing at the venue in 2015. Weir blends in so well with Oates’ band that one hopes they make a habit out of this.
Welcome to the third installment in our Best Cover Songs of Yesteryear countdown, where we act like we were compiling our usual year-end list from a year before we – or the internet – existed. Compared to the first two, this one has significantly less grunge than 1996 and less post-punk than 1987. It’s hard to have post-punk, after all, before you have punk, a new genre starting to hit its peak in 1978. And don’t forget the other big late-’70s sound: disco. Both genres were relatively new, and super divisive among music fans. Lucky for us, both genres were also big on covers.
Disco, in particular, generated some hilariously ill-advised cover songs. We won’t list them all here – this is the Best 1978 covers, not the Most 1978 covers. If you want a taste (and think carefully about whether you really do), this bonkers take on a Yardbirds classic serves as a perfect example of what a good portion of the year’s cover songs looked and sounded like:Continue reading »
With the exception of a small-minded baker in Colorado with a penchant for litigation, the wedding-service industry has mostly welcomed the legalization of gay marriage in the U.S. because of the new business it brings. Same-sex couples strutting down the aisle in greater numbers presents another hot-button cultural issue: how to find the perfect song for that first dance? Despite the fact that pop music has been loosening its collar since Elvis first shook his pelvis, when it comes to gender roles, mainstream songs tend to be as heteronormative as a ‘50s sitcom, no matter how suggestive the lyrics may be.
To address this issue, and no doubt tap into a lucrative commercial market, MGM Resorts sponsored a six-track EP called Universal Love. The collection features reworked versions of popular love songs with altered pronouns to celebrate same-sex love. The company must be betting big as they tapped serious star power, namely Bob Dylan, St. Vincent, Kele Okereke (lead singer of Bloc Party), Valerie June, Benjamin Gibbard (lead vocalist of Death Cab for Cutie) and Kesha. Continue reading »
As the only surviving member of the Temptations’ original lineup, Otis Williams has done his part to keep the group alive long past its expiration date. The latest incarnation of the famed vocal group recently released a cover of Sam Smith’s “Stay With Me” as the first single from their forthcoming album All The Time.
Just to be clear, this ain’t the Temptations of “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” or “My Girl” fame, since the group is going for a more contemporary vibe. Listening to Smith’s original alongside the Temptations’ cover is a bit like hearing Hall & Oates “She’s Gone” next to the Tavares’ version. Or comparing Mott the Hoople’s cut of “All the Young Dudes” to David Bowie’s own take. At first listen, it’s difficult to tell the two tracks apart. Yet, once you start breaking the songs down, there are enough subtle differences that make the cover stand on its own.
The vocals in the opening verses of each track are the most similar. The Temptations give it a slightly different feel by adding in syncopated percussion, unlike the straight time from the original. As they sing the chorus, the group interjects a bit of call and response, which one expects from the Temptations. With each subsequent verse/chorus, they include heavier drums, different voices alternating between lead and backing vocals and a fiery blues-guitar accompaniment. Like Smith’s original, the cover is also infused with gospel, but the quintet adds more bass to the vocals throughout.
The track is not destined to land on any greatest-hits compilations. However, if the Temptations add it to their setlist, kids whose grandparents drag them to the shows will appreciate the effort.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
A belated happy birthday to the Reverend Al Green, who turned 71 years old yesterday. The soul giant teamed with producer Willie Mitchell on the Hi Records label to create some of the most memorable singles and albums of the early ’70s, then moved away from secular music into gospel and preaching – his Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis recently celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding. His original songs have been covered by people up to and including the president of the United States, but today we’ll look at the holy spirit that he brought to the songs of others. Continue reading »
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, in honor of the month of June: What cover song would you like to have played at your wedding? Continue reading »