Jul 012019
 

‘The Best Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best elton john covers

The first big film to to emerge in the post-Bohemian Rhapsody biopic boom is Rocketman. Compared to the Queen movie, critics like Rocketman better (somewhat), fact-checkers call it more accurate (somewhat), and LGBT advocates praise it for more honestly addressing the star’s sexuality (somewhat). Also – and hopefully this is unrelated – it has fared worse at the box office. Again, somewhat worse; it’s done fine, but does not seem to be the smash Bohemian Rhapsody was.

Unlike Queen, though, Elton John didn’t really need a mega-blockbuster to return to the public eye. He never left (after all, it’s hard to look away from clothes that sparkly). The farewell tour he launched last year will take him through 2020, and 2018 also saw two tribute albums featuring megawatt performers: from Lady Gaga to Ed Sheeran on the pop one, Miranda Lambert to Willie Nelson on the country one. For Elton, the Rocketman biopic is just the latest tribute in a career full of them.

And nowhere has tribute been paid more often than in the world of cover songs. From his second, self-titled album onward (no one covers songs off his 1969 debut), Elton’s songs have been covered constantly. Hell, Three Dog Night released their cover of that second album’s “Your Song” a month before John’s original even came out. Though artists inevitably gravitate towards the huge hits, John’s songbook boasts a long tail, with even some relative deep cuts generating classic covers. So this month we count down the thirty best Elton John covers ever.

Best so far, at least. At the rate he earns tributes, it won’t be long before the next batch lands.

Mar 232018
 

In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.

field report covers

Field Report frontman Christopher Porterfield got his musical start collaborating with fellow Wisconsinite Justin Vernon (of Bon Iver) in the band DeYarmond Edison. Wikipedia claims they broke up in 2006, but if that band name sounds familiar more recently, it’s because they contributed one of the absolute best covers of 2016’s 59-track Day of the Dead Grateful Dead tribute, backing Bruce Hornsby on “Black Muddy River.” Hornsby’s vocals are amazing, of course, but listen to how Porterfield, Vernon, and co. give him such a lush bed to sing over for an eight-minute cover that feels as relaxed and winding as its name sake.

Suffice to say, Porterfield knows his way around a good cover song. And he knows his way around songwriting too. We first came across the band in 2014 with “Home (Leave the Lights On),” one of the absolute best songs of the entire year. And today Field Report releases their third album, Summertime Songs. The tone is darker than Beach Boys-esq title might imply, exploring Porterfield’s anxiety before the birth of his first child. That said, like the best of Bruce Springsteen (whom the album sometimes channels), these are anxious songs that would still sound great driving down the highway with the top down. Watch the band play single “Never Look Back” on CBS This Morning last month: Continue reading »

Oct 142011
 

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

Richard Thompson’s solo debut, Henry the Human Fly, began with a song that contained the line, “Don’t expect the words to ring too sweetly on the ear.” This would become his songwriting credo, as he penned lyrics that were incisive, emotive, and not the least bit sentimental, bringing them home with an equally biting guitar. His wife Linda sang with a powerful clarity, her voice full of aching, mischief, mourning, celebration, or whatever else the song might call for. She’s fully entitled to her equal billing. On their debut release as a couple, 1974’s I Want To See the Bright Lights Tonight, Richard and Linda Thompson report what they’ve encountered on a very British Desolation Row, in a musical language that could have been written half a millennium ago or the day after tomorrow. Continue reading »

Jul 012010
 

The impossible has happened: Beck is getting weirder. Yes, it seemed impossible after he buddied up with Danger Mouse or performed marionette dinner-percussion concerts, but the trend is clear. Exhibit A: his Record Club.

For those unfamiliar, Beck began a Record Club in 2009 where he and a bunch of friends got together and covered a classic album beginning to end. The first choice was obvious: the Velvet Underground & Nico. The next album branched a little farther out: Songs of Leonard Cohen. Then came INXS’s Kick, which seemed significantly more left-field than the classic songwriter groove. But the new choice takes the cake. It’s Yanni. Yes, that Yanni.
Continue reading »