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

I heard the music as if for the first time. I listened all the way through in one sitting and was struck by how beautiful a lot of the music was. Petra’s approach is so tender and generous. I adore it. – Pete Townshend

It’s unlikely that the ringing in Pete Townshend’s ears was ever louder than the ringing endorsement he gave Petra Haden Sings: The Who Sell Out. An a cappella recreation of the entire 1967 album, it features Haden’s vocals and more of Haden’s vocals, not only singing the lyrics, not only the between-song jingles, but all the instrumental passages. What can’t be perfectly duplicated (people have enough trouble capturing Keith Moon’s sound with a full drum kit) is suggested; Haden gets the feel of the album and gets it across to the listener. The masterful result brought plaudits from Townshend (“I felt like I’d received something better than a Grammy”) and critics alike. Not bad for someone who’d never heard the album before she began recording it. Continue reading »

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

Dun. Duh-nuh. Dahn. Dah-nah. With that fanfare for the common mod, four lads from London announced their arrival on the music scene, asserting themselves as a powerful voice even as they admitted to not knowing how to say what they wanted to say.

When the Who released “I Can’t Explain,” Pete Townshend may not have achieved the levels of self-expression he would find, but his ability to connect with his audience was already fully formed – there were thousands of listeners who knew exactly what it meant to feel hot and cold down in their souls. And if that opening Kinks-ian riff didn’t drive the message home, the drumming of a still-teenaged Keith Moon did the trick, in a way that had never been heard on the radio before. “I Can’t Explain” would have been a tremendous explosion for any other group; for the Who, it was simply the lighting of the fuse. Continue reading »

This week, Cover Me celebrates Freddie Mercury 20 years after his passing. Read Part 1 here.

On April 20, 1992, one of the most impressive collections of musicians ever assembled for one show gathered together to pay tribute to Farrokh Bulsara, better known to the world as Queen frontman Freddie Mercury, who had passed away due to complications from AIDS some six months before. Today, as we approach the 20th anniversary of his passing, Cover Me looks back at this monumental concert event, a celebration of covers and of one of the most unique talents ever to grace the performing arts. Continue reading »

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!

Eclipsed by Elvis Costello in the late 1970s and relegated to the cut-out bins by the late 1980s, Graham Parker probably ranks as one of the most overlooked and unappreciated singer-songwriters of his era. It’s impossible to review Parker’s career without repeatedly stumbling over the same adjectives: passionate, bitter and sarcastic are common; or the same clichés: “angry young man”, “Mercury poisoning”, or even “own worst enemy.” Apparently radio only had room for one quirky, bespectacled, British pub rocker (Costello) and Parker probably was correct in his summation regarding his label, “their promotion’s so lame, they could never take it to the real ball game.” There were seemingly many factors conspiring to keep Graham Parker stuck in his cult status. Continue reading »

When we last spoke about the Gaslight Anthem’s mostly-covers iTunes Sessions EP, it was slated to drop in December. An early leak has since caused the label to push up the release to next week though. In advance of that, you can hear their cover of Tom Petty’s “Refugee.” Continue reading »

Throughout the ‘70s, the Sweet racked up glam-rockin’ hits like “Ballroom Blitz” and “Love Is Like Oxygen.” In the decades since, like many of their peers, they’ve sputtered. The band has broken up and reformed a few times, but nothing much came of it. In 1997 the frontman died and the drummer followed him five years later. It didn’t seem likely the band would return, but now they’re back with their first recording in years, a cover of the Who’s “Join Together.” Continue reading »

Way back in June 2010, the Gaslight Anthem performed their ripping cover of Pearl Jam’s “State of Love and Trust” on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. A year and a half later, they’re finally releasing a studio recording. It comes on their mostly-covers iTunes Sessions EP, which also includes takes on the Who, Tom Petty, and a traditional classic. Continue reading »

It’s always fun to see how well (or not) current up-and-coming artists handle covering classic tracks. In the case of Birds & Batteries, a San Francisco-based experimental indie-pop group, we give them props for their up-tempo synth-ridden version of The Who’s well-known 1975 single, “Squeeze Box.” Although this innuendo-heavy song has been covered by everyone from Sheryl Crow to Poison, we’d venture to say Birds & Batteries has come up with the most unique rendition so far. Continue reading »

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