One Year!

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Oct 212008
 

It’s a big week here at Cover Me: our one-year birthday. Not only that, but today is yours truly’s birthday (though I’m older than one). So though it’s been a rough week for cover bloggers, with bowhowdy getting his files taken down and Fong getting a cease-and-desist letter, let’s celebrate these two birthdays with some tunes. I was going to do a theme on birthdays or celebrations, but thought, this is a special week that deserves special treatment. So for the first time ever, I’m saying to hell with a theme. I’m going to post what I want. Many of these are among my favorite covers ever; others are just some I’m into right now. Enjoy all of ‘em, and here’s to another good year of music!
-Ray

Billy Stewart – Summertime (Gershwin Brothers)
If you held a gun to my head (please don’t) and made me choose my favorite cover ever, I’d probably mutter something about this one. The song’s an old classic, a beautiful song, but one I often find rather dreary. As people drone on and on, you wonder if they enjoy the summertime so much, why do they sound so depressed? Not the case with Stewart, who bebops his way through shrieks, scat vocals, and false endings to blast the sound of summer right into your eardrums. And this version has Bob Dylan introing the song too – bonus! [Buy]

Jamelia – Numb (Linkin Park)
I originally discovered this tune on the sadly-defunct Copy, Right, the blog that pioneered the cover tune before any other. This song was huge for a while, and then quickly forgotten as a relic of our angsty middle school years. Jamelia breathes a second life in it, keeping the energy but bringing out a tune buried deep in the faux-anger of the original. [Buy]

We Are Scientists – Sie Hat Was Vermisst (Bela B.)
Love them though I do, in many way We Are Scientists is a predictable brand, jaunty rock with pop hooks in the vein of Franz Ferdinand. On their cover choices, however, they take elaborate risks, having improbably successes with everything from Boyz II Men to Sigur Rós. The most risky must be this, an obscure song by a solo album of the popular German punk group Die Ärzte. How these scientists even discovered this tune is a mystery itself, but you don’t need to understand the words to hear the dark tension. [Buy]

Jars of Clay – All My Tears (Julie Miller)
Now here’s something a little more uplifting, a gospel tune by these Christian rockers that, if you believe this stuff, might bring tears itself. [Buy]

R.E.M. – First We Take Manhattan (Leonard Cohen)
My favorite Leonard Cohen song, I posted Kid Harpoon’s riotous cover in this blog’s infancy (this post, though the link’s dead), but this one is a slow-builder, taking six minutes to pound away at your resistance. It sounds so much like an R.E.M. song I’m wondering if Cohen plagiarized. [Buy]

Patti Smith – Gloria (Van Morrison)
Smith adds enough of her own words that it’s practically an original, but her version’s true heart still lies in its punk take on Van the Man. Hers is a sneer for the ages, a sound of its time and above it that sound fresh and vibrant today. [Buy]

Elliott Murphy – Blind Willie McTell (Bob Dylan)
Live covers are a risky business. When an artist goes to the effort to record a cover on an album, it usually shows that they have something new to bring to it. In a live show, however, people can play whatever the hell they want. Of Montreal’s much-talked about take on “Smells Like Teen Spirit” must have been a blast for everyone there, but for those of us that missed it, it just sounds like another boring cover of “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” Exceptions like this make live covers worth seeking out yet. One of my favorite Dylan covers ever, this acoustic duet features fabulous fretwork that perfectly matches Murphy and his unnamed companion’s crescendoing voices. [Buy]

Sharif – Disturbia (Rihanna)
Sure, saying this is one of my favorite covers of all time may be a bit of a stretch, but like many I haven’t been able to get this tune out of my head for weeks. I posted a cover of it last week. Here’s another. [Buy]

Everything But The Girl – Downtown Train (Tom Waits)
Rod Stewart’s version makes you vomit. This one may make you weep. [Buy]

Bruce Springsteen – Detroit Medley (Mitch Ryder, et al.)
Let’s bring in the new year of blogging on a hard-rocking note. Springsteen is unmatched at 50’s covers, and this live favorite never fails to get me dancing. Good golly, miss Molly! [Buy]

Failing

 Posted by at 12:22 am  No Responses »
Apr 042008
 

For the first time in this blog’s short history, I missed a week. Then another. Now a third Monday has passed and readers are rightly wondering where I’ve disappeared to. Well I’m back, and will try to keep on top of my game from now on! However, as penance for having shirked my responsibility, I’ve made that’s the theme for this week: failure, and by association, depression. As you might expect, the song themes are generally a little more serious than missing a few blog posts, but don’t worry, we’ll get more positive with next week’s full album.

Bonnie Raitt & Jackson Browne – Poor, Poor Pitiful Me (Warren Zevon)
Not hugely different from the original, but with more of a country-blues swagger than Zevon’s straight-forward rock.

Gov’t Mule – The Shape I’m In (The Band)
Providing a highlight of the Band covers comp Endless Highway, the Mule doubles the length of the original here in funk strut. A jazzy trumpet solos throughout, behind which is organ worth of Garth Hudson himself. And Warren Haynes is a beast on guitar, though that should come as no surprise.

Rex Hobart – It’s Not Easy Being Green (Sesame Street)
Slide guitar backs Mr. Hobart singing a song as lonesome as anything Hank Williams ever penned. Who knew Kermit could be so profound?

Jeremy Smoking Jacket – No One Knows I’m Gone (Tom Waits)
One of the strangest covers I’ve ever heard, the first few listens might creep you out, as the backing is just, well, coughing. But it grows on you, a truly unnerving track to lay behind the soaring weeping vocals. Most Tom covers make the strange songs a little more accessible; this one took it even farther down the road of weird.

Arctic Monkeys – You Know I’m No Good (Amy Winehouse)
It’s amazing how quickly some high-profile Winehouse covers showed up, with everyone from Hot Hot Heat to Pablo Nutini jumping on the bandwagon. The Monkeys find a common ground between their sound and hers, giving it a rock backing but keeping the jazzy and arrhythmic melody.

Assemblage 23 – (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (The Rolling Stones)
One of those songs that there are really too many covers to even wade through, but when you find one that doesn’t even have the main guitar riff in it, you know it’s something different. African choir voices and drums give a soul vibe to it, though apparently this is all actually done by some synthpop DJ.

The White Stripes – Mr. Cellophane (Chicago)
When the Stripes hit Chicago in ’03, they busted out this location-appropriate cover, with some a capella rap by Jack for the verses until the keyboard comes in for the chorus.

Paul Westerberg – Nowhere Man (The Beatles)
Plucked guitar and a nasally voice gives it a more imperfect reading than the original, yearning and pointed.

Swingin’ Utters – Eddie’s Teddy (The Rocky Horror Picture Show)
You’ve gotta know the Rocky Horror plot to understand why this one’s about failure, specifically the failure of his uncle to save him from gruesome demise. This comes off of the Rocky Horror Punk Rock Show comp, which sounds about as you’d expect.

Grateful Dead – Mama Tried (Merle Haggard)
A somewhat autobiographical tail of a son gone wrong, it’s a country classic about jail and why you gotta listen to your parents.

Carla Bozulich – On the Nickel (Tom Waits)
Until I typed this I didn’t realize I had two Tom Waits songs, but for a theme of sadness and failure, I suppose that’s justified. The violins, prominent enough in the original, are pushed even more to the fore here, with some steel guitar adding even more swoop and swirl. If you’re in LA, “on the nickel” is being down and out, not where you want to be.

We Are Scientists – Sie Hat Was Vermisst (Bela B.)
I tried to avoid standard heartbreak failure in this post, since that’s, well, a somewhat common topic theme for songs. This is anything but a common song. One of my favorite new bands takes on an obscure song by the side project of a member of German punks Die Ärzte. It’s haunting, about a broken man who’s not going to be cheering up anytime soon.

Girl Groups

 Posted by at 8:49 pm  No Responses »
Feb 192008
 

The original theme for this post was Motown, but I was more interested in the sound than who was officially on the Motown label, so to avoid controversy…girl groups, whatever label they were on. In great song lists, these often get overlooked as being to simple or syrupy, but these are high-quality (if not to lyrically stimulating) songs. The production on the originals, often courtesy of Phil Spector, was superb, but these covers stand on their own without all that orchestrated sound.

We Are Scientists – Be My Baby (The Ronettes)
Some fuzzy distortion that rocks out the original but, in the end, stays just faithful enough.

Grizzly Bear – He Hit Me (It Felt Like a Kiss) (The Crystals)
This one’s been making the blog rounds for the last year or so, but it lives up the the hype. One of the most disturbing girl group songs, Grizzly Bear’s slow and languid performance brings out the uncomfortable domestic abuse of the lyrics. Creepy.

The Afghan Whigs – Come See About Me (The Supremes)
Indie-rock freakout on this live recording from the Cincinnati quartet, starting slow and ending in frenetic drum facemelt.

Smith – Baby It’s You (The Shirelles)
A big hit in its own right, the Death Proof soundtrack revived this soul gem with organ trills and a singer who jumps from loud to soft and back smoothly and keeps the song lively.

Ruby Rats – Heatwave (Martha and the Vandellas)
Organ-drenched cover from the 60’s by the ultra-obscure Ruby Rats. Couldn’t find much information on them online, except nothing they’ve done has ever been issued on CD, so excuse the fuzziness of this vinyl transfer.

Bob Dylan and George Harrison – Da Doo Ron Ron (The Crystals)
From a jam session in ’69, neither one really knows the words, or realizes that this recording will ever leak into the bootleg world. So it’s loose and fun, enjoyable to listen to if not stunning.

Paris Bennett – My Boyfriend’s Back (The Angels)
I can’t believe I’m putting a song by an American Idol contestant up here, but it’s a nice reworking that replaces the handclaps with computerized beats. What the song would sound like if it were a new release today…which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Also funny “street” lyric changes about how “it’s me that he’s reppin’ / So you better be steppin’.”

Jane Olivor – He’s So Fine (The Chifons)
A slowed-down operatic version, with some Spanish guitar and smooth sax. The novelty feel quickly disappears as you forget the bounce of the original and the song works just as well this way too.

Twisted Sister – Leader of the Pack (The Shangri-Las)
Amazing how the transsexual hair-metal crew can use their sound to give pretty much the same feel as the original. Dee Snyder hits basically the same notes as the original singer, but the backing vocals are what keep it interesting in a Summer Loving vein.

Broadzilla – Love Child (The Supremes)
All-female punk rock like a more aggressive Blondie, the angry nasal whine over the distortion gives a very different feel over the original. Certainly suits the lyrics, which are very less warm and fuzzy than Diana Ross and co. would have you believe.

Dec 032007
 

Covers of songs just released are hard to come by, for obvious reasons. There has been forty years for people to cover the latest Beatles song, about three months for the latest Kanye. So for today’s post I’ve collected together a few covers of songs from the last year or two, which these artists jumped on immediately to reinterpret.

-side note: check out my guest post at the fabulous blog of Disney covers Covering the Mouse!-

Editors – Feel Good Inc (Gorillaz)
An English indie rock band, the break-beat synth-rap of the original is transformed into a folkey acoustic jam, tunes given to the rap version in lead singer Tom Smith’s soulful baritone.

We Are Scientists – Bang Bang Rock and Roll (Art Brut)

The two groups represented here went on tour with each other a year ago, and released a promo 7” of them covering each others songs. Haven’t been able to get my hands on Art Brut’s versions of The Great Escape (help anyone?), but WAS released this one on their B-Sides album Crap Attack. Take the structure of the original, and bends it a bit to make it more…normal.

30 Seconds to Mars – Stronger (Kanye West)
I couldn’t believe there was already such a good cover of this one out. The guys sure didn’t waste much time. The band seems to be mostly a My Chemical Romance knock-off, but here they strip the theatrics back for a spacey meandering take on the hit single, where the only hint of the original is a synth version of the Daft Punk sample fading in and out.

Porter Block – Breaking Free (High School Musical)
I try not to post covers just for the humor value, but I couldn’t imagine there would be anything else redeeming about this. I think the movie may be the worst thing to happen to music since James Blunt, but Porter almost makes this song sound legitimate.

Manchester Orchestra – Brother (Annuals)
Where the original starts with two minutes of Radiohead-esq ambient whining, MO skips directly to the melody part, extracting a beautiful and catchy melody that I never would have known was in there.

The White Stripes – Shelter of Your Arms (The Greenhornes)
Take a step away from their normal Delta blues covers, Jack and Meg throw tourmates The Greenhornes a bone here in a wild cover of the 2005 track, paving the way for a couple of the Greenhornes to join Jack in the Raconteurs. Only released as a B-side to The Denial Twist single, this song is arguably better than anything they’ve released recently on their actual albums.

Goat – Sugar We’re Going Down (Fall Out Boy)
Off of the great Guilt By Association comp (where Breaking Free came from too), Goat mixes Houston hip-hop with Appalachian bluegrass in a very inventive cover. The original is by one of my least favorite bands ever, so I’m still not sure that this redeems the song, but it gets close.

Weird Al – Polkarama! (Various)
Everyone knows Al’s penchant for the parody (a cousin of the cover), but you may not realize he does covers on almost every Al-bum, taking loads of recent hits and shoving them, lyrically intact but musically destroyed, into a polka medley. This one, off Straight Outta Lynwood, features takes on Let’s Get It Started, Float On, Don’t Cha, Gold Digger, and many more.

Pascal Fricke- You Can Never Hold Back Spring (Tom Waits)
The master of the instrumental Waits cover, for this one Fricke finger-picks out a ukulele version of the song only weeks after it was first released on last year’s Orphans.