Dec 012017
 

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

Today we conclude our series of posts about The Yardbirds.

But wait!” you exclaim. “The headline says ‘Led Zeppelin‘. Aren’t we talking about the folk-rock ballad that originally appeared in 1970 on the softer acoustic second side of Led Zeppelin III?”

Indeed we are, and “Tangerine” has been mentioned once or twice before on these pages. But a recent re-release, widely anticipated by fans of Rock & Roll Hall of Famers, The Yardbirds, has re-opened the discussion about the songs’ origins. Is “Tangerine” really a Led Zeppelin song?

When it comes to songwriting credits, things aren’t always cut and dried with Jimmy Page. As it were, this particular instance follows suit. Around the time of last year’s “Stairway to Heaven” plagiarism lawsuit – won by Led Zeppelin – Rolling Stone cited 10 other Zep tunes with cloudy origins. The article mentioned “Dazed And Confused” – a song with ties to Page’s stint in The Yardbirds – but made no mention of “Tangerine” a song sharing similar ties. Both songs were the only two non-instrumental Led Zeppelin tracks to carry a songwriting credit attributed solely to Jimmy Page. The writing credit on “Dazed” was later amended in 2012 (singer-songwriter Jake Holmes was added as Page’s inspiration), but a cloud continues to hang over “Tangerine.”

Why the fuss? Cover Me readers might be interested in some of the forensics. Two years prior to the release of Led Zeppelin III, The Yardbirds, with Page as a member, recorded a demo for a song titled “Knowing That I’m Losing You” which was never officially released. Thirty-two years later, “Knowing” was scheduled to be included on The Yardbirds’ 2000 album Cumular Limit with other live and unreleased material, but the track was pulled. Seventeen years after that, Page, as producer, included an authorized re-mastered instrumental version, with the modified title “Knowing That I’m Losing You (Tangerine)” on the new Yardbirds ’68 compilation. Continue reading »

Nov 062017
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

The Yardbirds’ write-up in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame begins with an immediate reminder that the group started off as a blues cover band. Little did Keith Relf, Jim McCarty, Paul Samwell-Smith, and (probably) Jeff Beck know when they wrote their first band-written, non-cover hit in 1966, “Shapes of Things” would eventually be included in the Hall’s permanent exhibit of “Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll.” Much has been written about its recording, composition, arrangement, and socially conscious lyrics. (A check of Wikipedia or SongFacts will suffice.) Cover Me readers might enjoy hearing the jazz bass line from Dave Brubeck’s “Pick Up Sticks” that influenced Samwell-Smith. Legions of rock guitarists have paid their respects to Jeff Beck’s groundbreaking, feedback-laden lead guitar work on the song. Like The Godfather film, the ingredients combined to become a commercially popular and artistically appealing hit; the song reached #11 in the US, #7 in Canada, and #3 in the UK.

When we looked at over 40 verified covers of the song, we could see they pretty much fell into three categories: versions by the original members of the band (“All In The Family”); versions by numerous guitar gods (“The Shredders”); and other rock versions that don’t fit in either of the two previous categories (“Rock of Ages”). So for this special edition of Good, Better, Best, we’ll take a look at the top three for each category…

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Sep 292017
 

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

for your love

“For Your Love” was where English teen Graham Gouldman’s songwriting trilogy for the Yardbirds began. The band’s pivot away from their R&B roots to a more “experimental-yet-accessible” sound kicked off in 1965 when they picked up three Gouldman-penned tunes. “For Your Love,” the first single to be released, became an immediate hit in the UK (#1 on NME) and reached #6 in the US and #1 in Canada. It’s become known as one of the great classics of the British Invasion and paved the way for the similar success achieved by Gouldman’s other contributions, “Heart Full of Soul” and “Evil Hearted You.”

The band made a concerted effort to create a unique arrangement for the song. Gouldman and rhythm guitarist Chris Dreja are both on the record citing the song’s “weirdness” due to elements like the (accidental) addition of the now-signature minor chord harpsichord introduction, bongos, and a bowed bass. The end product sounded like two songs fused together; one with an ancient or middle eastern feel, the other, an R&B standard. Legendary guitarist Eric Clapton can be heard playing on the bridge, his final recorded notes with the Yardbirds before leaving the group after the song’s release (to be replaced by Jeff Beck).

We’ve identified over 60 verified covers of the song. Gouldman fans can find the first recording of his own song in our covers review of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. For this global hit, we’ve selected five additional favorites and a bushel of bonus tracks for you to enjoy…
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Sep 222017
 

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

In early 1965, nineteen-year-old Graham Gouldman – then playing guitar and singing with his Manchester, England band mates in the Mockingbirds – fortuitously connected with another fowl-named rock band. The London-based Yardbirds, barely two years formed, decided to record three of Gouldman’s compositions. By year’s end, “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Evil Hearted You,” had all become smash hits and contributed immensely to the bands’ early success.

Our featured song, the second single released by the burgeoning supergroup, was the first with Jeff Beck on lead guitar. Beck, who replaced Eric Clapton over creative and other differences, was credited with introducing Indian/Eastern stylings to rock music with his sitar-inspired lead guitar work on the track. His fuzzbox sound on the signature melody line would become a Beck trademark and helped usher in the psychedelic rock sound of the ‘60s. These key ingredients, combined with Gouldman’s arrangement and lyrics, made “Heart Full of Soul” a top 10 hit for the Yardbirds on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching as high as number 2 in the UK.

The song has inspired over 50 verified covers, including a version the multi-talented Gouldman included on his second solo album, which we featured in our review of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits.

Here’s a look at five more varieties along with some additional notables…

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Sep 082017
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

yardbirds

The Yardbirds are back! Sort of. The quintessential R&B-influenced British Invasion band has made a few recent headlines, and any headline from a group that can boast Rock & Roll Hall of Famers Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Jimmy Page as alums is probably worth checking out.

Last month, the music press was buzzing when Page announced a November 5th release for Yardbirds ’68. The legendary Led Zeppelin guitarist is producing the newly unearthed compilation of live and studio recordings along with outtakes. Rolling Stone has more about it here. Additionally, in early August still-active founding member Jim McCarty and the bands’ current line-up announced a new Yardbirds studio album to be underwritten by a PledgeMusic campaign. The album promises to be “a totally new recording of original songs with a couple of carefully selected covers.” Fans can find out more and get involved here.

We’ll celebrate all this good news with several Yardbirds-related features leading up to the release of Page’s ’68 in November. Today, we’ll pay our respects with a recap of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits. The first of countless compilations, this one passed a significant 50th anniversary milestone in March. Arguments abound among aficionados as to which Greatest Hits / Best Of / Retrospective is their “best,” but only one can claim to be their highest charting US album; Greatest Hits peaked at #28 on the Billboard chart in 1967 and arguably gave the band a second wind at the time. The album is no longer commercially available in its original LP configuration and packaging, but nowadays it can be put together with just a few taps on the screen/keys.

Included on Greatest Hits are all six of their singles up to 1967, plus three B-sides and a live track. Five tracks were written by at least one member of the band. Bo Diddley, Howlin’ Wolf, and Mose Allison are credited with one R&B cover each. Finally, two were written by Graham Gouldman, about whom we’ll have more to say in the near future.

So… let’s get ready, steady, go!

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Mar 302012
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Millions of words, if not tens of millions, have been written about Bob Dylan‘s Blonde on Blonde since its 1966 release – how “the quintessential New York hipster” (as Al Kooper called him) met the cream of the Nashville session musician crop and the alchemy that resulted; how the album, Dylan’s third in fourteen months, saw him at the pinnacle of his songwriting powers, marrying surreal imagery to wrenching emotion with lyrics that can truly be called poetry; how critics from that day to this recognize it as less an album than a great artistic achievement of the 20th century; how it inspired so many who heard it (to name just one, Robyn Hitchcock called “Visions of Johanna” “the reason I started writing songs” on his all-Dylan cover album Robyn Sings). So, rather than dwell on all the stories surrounding the songs, let’s move right on to hearing those songs again for the first time, thanks to the (re)creative abilities of the following fourteen performers. (Thanks as well to reader JoeLer for suggesting that Blonde on Blonde receive the Cover Me Full Album treatment.) Continue reading »