Oct 072013
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

[A]nybody who hasn’t heard Judee Sill should really do themselves a favor and buy either Judee Sill or the follow-up, which I think is slightly preferable, Heart Food. And both those albums are… well, it’s been said many times before, but she is a female Brian Wilson or he is a male Judee Sill. They’re just stunningly beautiful. It’s J.S. Bach with a 12-string guitar and a ready tune on her lips. She’s really stunning, really stunning. Leagues away from all the other kind of corny bootheels-in-the-dust, denim-flares-California-West-Coast thing of the early ’70s. She just makes them eat cactus, as far as I’m concerned. She’s phenomenally good. – Andy Partridge, XTC

Judee Sill was jailed for robbing liquor stores, forging checks, prostitution, and possession of narcotics. The last would kill her in 1979, shortly after her 35th birthday. She recorded two albums for David Geffen before making a remark in a radio interview that ended her relationship with him, his label, and the music business. She had a prickly personality and the appearance of a severe librarian. And she claimed her biggest influences were “Pythagoras, Bach and Ray Charles.”

Admit it – you want to know more.
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Jul 262013
 

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!

When you think of Stevie Nicks, you think of her as an artist whose songs are frequently covered, not one who does the covering. After all, why would someone who can write Fleetwood Mac classics like “Dreams” or “Rhiannon” and solo classics like “Stand Back” and “Edge of Seventeen” feel the need to play other people’s songs?
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May 032013
 

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!

Warren is a profoundly mysterious man, and I have learned not to argue with him, about hockey or anything else. —Hunter S. Thompson

The fact that Hunter S. Thompson was a friend of Warren Zevon’s really shouldn’t surprise anybody: his crazy songs of headless mercenaries and KGB waitresses sound like Fear and Loathing on vinyl. Starting out as a songwriter for groups such as the Turtles in the ’60s (he said that the B-side he wrote for “Happy Together” paid his rent for years), Zevon struggled with his own songwriting identity until releasing his Jackson Browne-produced eponymous album in 1976, and its follow-up, 1978’s Excitable Boy. Although never really recapturing the fire that those two albums kindled for him, he went on to have sporadic success between long bouts of drug and alcohol addiction, and became known for his rambunctious live shows attended by equally rambunctious fans. Continue reading »

Nov 112011
 

Almost as common as ghost, witch and vampire costumes on Halloween is the covers concert. Many bands will forgo their latest release or greatest hits and instead pop on a costume and break out the cover songs. Over the years bands like Phish and The Flaming Lips have become known for their Halloween concert festivities and cover sets of full albums or songs from a decade; this year we take a look at some of the other artists getting their spooky fun on. Continue reading »

Sep 212011
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Music’s poet laureate, author and Zen Buddhist monk, Leonard Cohen, turns 77 years old today. A product of Montreal, Cohen began his writing career while attending McGill University in the ’50s, achieving some critical acclaim but little financial success. Frustrated, he moved to New York City in his thirties and became a musician, releasing his first album, Songs of Leonard Cohen, in 1967. Continue reading »

Jul 082011
 

Live Collection brings together every live cover version we can find from a prolific artist.

Warren Zevon had paid his dues for years before his self-titled 1976 release would finally get him a fair amount of critical attention and a modest amount of airplay. In his first pass through L.A. he was a session musician and jingle writer, penned a few songs for the Turtles and released a forgettable solo debut in 1970. Then he spent a couple years on the road with the Everly Brothers, both together with Phil and Don and then with each of them solo, like a child of a divorce custody battle, as the brothers were beginning their estrangement. A self-imposed exile in Spain would follow and when Zevon returned to L.A. in late 1975, his pal Jackson Browne was there to help him get a record deal. Zevon had some things in common with his laid-back Asylum label contemporaries, but what separated his music from Browne, Linda Ronstadt and the Eagles was his ability to write caustic and satirical songs about unconventional people often in awkward situations. Continue reading »