Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
I was a big fan of Roxy Music, in both their spiky earlier incarnation and their smoother second phase, then lost a little faith as Bryan Ferry seemed to endlessly noodle around and around the same somewhat bland and anodyne motifs, solo recordings palling – apart from, I have to say, and appropriately on this site, his all-Bob cover album Dylanesque, which carried a bit more verve and spark than his own stuff. However, back and currently on the road, Ferry seems to have hit upon a bit of a stride – largely, in truth, by an extensive revisiting of his Roxy catalog, rarely playing material from this century. Be that as it may, “More Than This,” from 1982’s Avalon, and actually their last UK top ten hit (it barely bothered the US charts, peaking at 102), has always struck me as a bit of a throwaway, with the by-then Ferry formula padded out in what was becoming a somewhat repetitive set of chord progressions, later repeated ad nauseum in his subsequent solo career. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that it’s bad, it’s just a bit meh. But, inexplicably, it has become a bit of a standard for covering, perhaps on account of one of the versions commented upon below.
Fab cover songs aggregator Second Hand Songs lists over 30 covers, with YouTube finding some more. My own collection, prior to this piece, contained 9, with my personal proviso being I won’t include those I don’t like at all, which I found included most of those off my radar. Initially I wondered if a Good, Better, Best feature might be more doable, as that only requires three cover versions, but I am pleased I can safely do this as Five Good Covers, with the title suiting the contents.
First, the dross: I won’t be including the myriad dance versions, they mostly being lazy cut’n’pastes of the tune with added generic beats. In a way that’s a shame, as I would like to hear, say, Todd Terje, already a Ferry collaborator, do a version. So who does cut the mustard and make “More Than This” more than that?
10,000 Maniacs – More Than This (Roxy Music cover)
This was actually a hit, reaching number 25 in the US charts of 1997 (it certainly never bothered us over here in England). I imagine it was better known than its predecessor of 15 years earlier. I was quite astonished to learn this, assuming the Maniacs had never been near a chart, being constant college-only favorites, albeit with also with a sizable cult UK following. And this song was after Natalie Merchant had left, most considering her time with the band to have been way more influential. It’s an agreeable canter through the song, giving it a wake-up call and blowing away most of the sleepy dust.
Norah Jones – More Than This (Roxy Music cover)
Actually Norah guesting on guitarist Charlie Hunter’s solo record Songs From the Analog Playground, this returns all the languor of the original, yet embellishes it with a sultry longing rather than any call to slumber. I know Norah is deemed sometimes a bit cocktail, unfairly in my view, but if this is a cocktail, hell, I’m drinking!
Missy Higgins – More Than This (Roxy Music cover)
This is glorious and was the gap in my knowledge. How was I to know she was an Australian singer-songwriter, her name giving the impression of a sassy rapper of questionable lyrics? Possibly my favorite.
Lucy Kaplansky – More Than This (Roxy Music cover)
I think it’s about time someone did an appraisal of this woman and her oeuvre. A staple in my collection, she has put out a wealth of recordings over the last two decades or so, mixing her own material with exemplarily chosen covers, often then introducing her fanbase to the works of other Brits like Nick Lowe and Richard Thompson.
Damhnait Doyle – More Than This (Roxy Music cover)
As in, who he? She, and I confess to having a bit of a love/hate on this. The backing displays the worst of white reggae, yet her voice, husky Lucinda-lite, adds sufficient gloss to make it a delightful curiosity.
So no room for either Robyn Hitchcock or Blondie, both of whose live versions add little and do little favor to themselves. However, I was sorely tempted to include the following as an MP3, deciding in the end to just show the clip instead. Here’s the marvelous karaoke performance of “More Than This” by Bill Murray, in the wonderful 2003 film Lost in Translation.
There’s more than this on Amazon.