Apr 162021
 

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!

Jamie Cullum

Jamie Cullum is a jazz artist with fluency in the crossover to pop. He has won and been nominated for jazz-specific and more general awards alike, collecting a Rising Star British Jazz Award and most recently a Radio Academy Award for his BBC Radio show. He also scored a nomination for a Best Original Song Golden Globe, for “Gran Torino.” Admittedly, 2005 was a bit of an awkward year when he won both the BBC Jazz Award for Artist of the Year and the Worst British Male award from the parody Naomi Awards. Showing perseverance, Cullum won the Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Award for Best British Male two years later.

Many of Cullum’s covers come from two “Song Society” albums, where he challenges himself to create a new take on a song in an hour, allowing for a lot of creative improvisation to shape the end product. The songs chosen include new hits on the pop charts as well as some throwbacks and standards. Other covers are sprinkled throughout his original albums as well. Here we take a sonic journey through a handful of his covers that both show his range as an artist and span original genres and decades. This doesn’t even cover (ha) his whole jazz cover album Interlude, so if you are a jazz cat, check it out.

P.S. Fun fact: Cullum is married to Roald Dahl’s granddaughter. If you are a Matilda, BFG, Willy Wonka, or Witches fan, there is even more of a reason to read on.
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Apr 152021
 
Dev Marvelous La La La

Dev Marvelous and The Bird and the Bee’s Inara George are a well-matched creative pair. Though they’re divided by a generation and by geography — Louisville and Los Angeles, respectively — both create similar strains of inviting pointillist pop. Even the pair’s crate-digging influences appear to be uncannily aligned. In a trio of charming at-home performances shared recently on Instagram, Dev Marvelous plays an acid jazz Herb Alpert remix, an off-the-cuff midnight solo Rhodes improvisation, and even a wild Eumir Deodato fusion synth solo. Continue reading »

Apr 152021
 
memoryhouse beatles

It’s been a long time since we heard from dreampop duo Memoryhouse. In fact, the last time they appeared on these pages, their cover of the Zombies’ “This Will Be Our Year” appeared on our Best Covers of 2012 list. Yes, 2012.

One reason for the long absence is they both got real-life jobs. They weren’t sure the band was broken up, but they weren’t sure it wasn’t broken up either. But the pandemic led them to a source of renewed inspiration: The Beatles. It turned into the five-track EP Mania (as in, Beatle-), out now. Continue reading »

Apr 142021
 
Leftover Salmon Black Hole Sun

Soundgarden’s 1994 classic “Black Hole Sun” is one of rock’s titanic singles. The anthem carries an inextinguishable torch for grunge — its generational malaise, its plodding melancholia. Yet the song’s singular beauty arises from the ways it lifts the genre’s massive, earth-bound sounds to new and transcendent heights. In the song’s airy verses, Chris Cornell’s words swirl like gathering storm clouds, brewing power pop melodies and Sgt. Pepper psychedelia into a festering, ominous mass. By the time its final iconic chorus drops, “Black Hole Sun” has soared amid some pretty expansive sonic vistas — heaven, earth and back again. Continue reading »

Apr 132021
 
jim o'rourke fast car

Just hearing the opening riff to Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car” has an instant calming effect. The lyrics kick in, and you’re on a joyful soft rock journey for the next five minutes. Or, in Jim O’Rourke‘s case, 33 minutes.

This cover by the experimental musician, recorded live in Japan in 2002, uploaded to YouTube in 2016, and brought into wider view by a in a Washington Post article last week, lulls you into a false sense of security. The classic riff starts us off, and it seems like it’s going to be a straightforward cover, but after a minute or so, the riff starts to be looped, just out of sync of the main melody. By six minutes, the loop has started to turn into a swelling drone, filling your ears and blocking out the rest of the world. By the half-way point of this 33-minute (!) track, the riff has disappeared, with a new droning tone and guitar melodies swirling around the space. Continue reading »

Apr 122021
 

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!

Terry Reid covers

There are very few articles about Terry Reid that fail to mention his falling at the first hurdle of being asked to join Led Zeppelin, and, I am afraid, this isn’t one of them. It seems the one fact anyone knows about this still-performing singer, and one that, understandably, always irks him. Not so much that he regrets it, more he just regrets it being the only part of his life and career anyone asks him about. Or seems interested about. Which is a shame, as there has always been a good deal more to Terry Reid than that.
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