Jul 122010
 

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

Releasing your record with no identifying information whatsoever seems like a truly dumb idea. In the days before the Internet, how would anyone know who was behind it? When Led Zeppelin released their untitled/self-titled/titled-with-symbols fourth record, Atlantic Records called it “professional suicide.” Apparently 37 million people disagreed. It spawned enduring classics “Black Dog,” “Rock and Roll,” and of course the Wayne’s World-despised “Stairway to Heaven.”

Zeppelin covers can be tricky, since many artists try to mimic Jimmy Page’s every note (and, naturally, fail). For that reason only one of the covers below would even count as rock. Otherwise, there’s gothic cello, Cuban salsa, and – why not – another dose of Tuvan throat singing.
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Jul 092010
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song. Catch up on past installments here.

Joy Division released “Love Will Tear Us Apart” as a single in April 1980. One spring evening a month later, singer Ian Curtis phoned his wife, listened to some Iggy Pop, then hung himself in his kitchen. Needless to say, this lent a song with lines like “Do you cry out in your sleep / All my failings exposed / There’s a taste in my mouth / As desperation takes hold” a certain gravitas.

As such, it avoids the novelty mutli-genre crossovers that so many ‘80s hits accumulate. That’s not to say it can’t be sung with a wink though. When conjoined twins Evelyn Evelyn cover it, the phrase “tear us apart” takes on a very literal meaning. Tuvan throat singers Yat-Kha offer an even weirder version. The singing initially strikes you as the most godawful thing ever, but once you get used to it, you’ll notice the flowing guitar work and surprisingly tender delivery.
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Hocus Pocus

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Oct 272009
 

These days, even Transylvanians are sick of vampires, particularly those of the brooding, sexy variety. So we’re gonna throw it back to the days of Sabrina the Teenage Witch with a post on all things black cat and pointed hat.


Omnia – Wytches’ Brew (William Shakespeare)
“Double, double, toil and trouble.” The three witches who open Macbeth enjoy one of the most famous speeches in history, brewing their mischief both figuratively and literally. Putting those lyrics to music seems natural – they may well have had a tune in Shakespeare’s time. We can be sure it didn’t come from the “pagan folk” genre though. [Buy]

Lou Rawls – Season of the Witch (Donovan)
In all honesty, it’s a little silly to think that Donovan was once thought of as serious competition to Bob Dylan in the lyrics department. “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is”? Thankfully, this one holds up better than some of his others. [Buy]

Aimee Allen – Santeria (Sublime)
Santería merges the African Yoruba religion with Roman Catholicism and Native American traditions. In the 2000 Census it claimed 22,000 adherents in the United States. As Brad Nowell makes clear, the Sublime trio are not in that number. [Buy]

Devo – Witch Doctor (David Seville)
This song first hit the charts in 1958 as sung by “David Seville,” a pseudonym of its author Ross Bagdasarian, Sr., who two years later had another hit with it using his group Alvin and the Chipmunks. Devo turned the lyrics Jungle Book-esq for the primate-friendly cover from the Rugrats Movie soundtrack. [Buy]

Yat-Kha – Black Magic Woman (Fleetwood Mac)
If you think Tom Waits is the voice of Halloween, wait ‘til you hear Tuvan throat-singing. These Siberians can sing two notes at once (hear it on this one starting at 2:22). With their low-pitched growl, creating a heavy metal band must have seemed only natural. [Buy]

Marilyn Manson – I Put a Spell On You (Screamin’ Jay Hawkins)
The mad musician of Halloween, ol’ Mari “Giggles” Manson is the perfect shock-rockers to take on this creepy Hawkins classic. For similarly Halloween-themed Manson, check out his take on the Nightmare Before Christmas favorite “This Is Halloween.” [Buy]

Steeleye Span – Allison Gross (Trad.)
This traditional Scottish tune comes from the 305-song “Child Ballad” collection. It tells tells the tale of “the ugliest witch in the north country” trying to enslave the narrator. The Steeleye version grew out of a production they did of Robert Louis Stephenson’ Kidnapped. [Buy]

The Gresham Flyers – Magic (Bruce Springsteen)
The title track off of Springsteen’s 2007 hit album, this “Magic” comes not from the cauldron but from the government. Somehow, that’s even more spooky. [Buy]

Lost Sounds – You Must Be a Witch (The Lollipop Shoppe)
This one originally appeared on the Lenny Kaye-curated Nuggets compilation, later turning up in Lollipop Shoppe member Fred Cole’s new band Dead Moon. The Sounds updated this in the late ‘90s without losing that early punk feel. [Buy]

Juliana Hatfield – Witches’ Song (Marianne Faithfull)
Marianne Faithfull is quite the cover girl herself (for most recent evidence of this, see last year’s Easy Come, Easy Go), so it’s nice to see her own tunes getting some love. The original comes off Faithfull’s ’79 LP Broken English, which itself contains a phenomenal version of Shel Silverstein’s “The Ballad of Lucy Jordan.” [Buy]

Jun 242008
 

One of the most idiosyncratic artists around, Beefheart’s two most obvious associations – Frank Zappa (friend and collaborator) and Tom Waits (follower) – have never actually covered his songs themselves. But plenty of others have, taking the strange originals and reworking them in every way imaginable.

The Black Keys – I’m Glad
A special mp3 release a few months back, the usually hard-rocking Black Keys bring the soul on this loungey cover that sounds like Sam Cooke singing through a distortion microphone.

Chris Spedding – Click Clack
The harmonica train whistles get old eventually, but otherwise it’s a cool slow-blues take on a pretty obscure Beefheart song. Though I guess they all are.

Yat-Kha – Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles
Tuvan throat-singing combined with Western metal in this Siberian group. They released an album of…different…covers a few years ago, singing such songs as In a Gadda-Da-Vida and Ramblin’ Man in classic throat-singing style. And you thought Beefheart’s voice was unusual.

The White Stripes – Party of Special Things to Do
Released as a vinyl single with other Beefheart covers “Ashtray Heart” and “China Pig,” getting a hold of this is the holy grail for Stripes collectors. Luckily, the mp3’s are widely circulating of a song so well transformed it sounds like a Stripes original.

Sonic Youth – Electricity
Sonic Youth seem to be a go-to group for tribute albums, and they come through with one of the best tracks on the Beefheart tribute (yes, one exists) Fast ‘n’ Bulbous. Funky and off-beat like the Captain, but alternative and twisting like the Youth.

Eugene Chadbourne & Jimmy Carl Black- The Dust Blows Forward, The Dust Blows Back
Originally a free-jazz spoken word piece that doesn’t hit the two minute mark, these bluegrass gents give it a bouncy tune and stretch it out past 6:00. The most drastic reinvention of the bunch, it’s downright sing-along-able.

The Kills – Dropout Boogie
A live staple of the group, they actually released a little-known studio version years ago on the Black Rooster EP. Chunky and spastic, it builds to an explosion that never comes.

Last Fair Deal – Harry Irene
Channeling Frank Sinatra on this slow jazz take, these guys make a Captain Beefheart song sound far prettier than it has any right to be.

The Primevils – Crazy Little Thing
When the original is quirky and offbeat, a classic approach for a cover is simply, make it more accessible. In this track, also off Fast ‘n’ Bulbous, this country-rock group does this that in a fun and lively version a lot more pleasing on the ears.

Stack Waddy – Sure Nuff ‘n’ Yes I Do
A little 50’s rock’n’roll influence here, though the raspy vocals tie it in to the original.