Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
In early 1965, nineteen-year-old Graham Gouldman – then playing guitar and singing with his Manchester, England band mates in the Mockingbirds – fortuitously connected with another fowl-named rock band. The London-based Yardbirds, barely two years formed, decided to record three of Gouldman’s compositions. By year’s end, “For Your Love,” “Heart Full of Soul,” and “Evil Hearted You,” had all become smash hits and contributed immensely to the bands’ early success.
Our featured song, the second single released by the burgeoning supergroup, was the first with Jeff Beck on lead guitar. Beck, who replaced Eric Clapton over creative and other differences, was credited with introducing Indian/Eastern stylings to rock music with his sitar-inspired lead guitar work on the track. His fuzzbox sound on the signature melody line would become a Beck trademark and helped usher in the psychedelic rock sound of the ‘60s. These key ingredients, combined with Gouldman’s arrangement and lyrics, made “Heart Full of Soul” a top 10 hit for the Yardbirds on both sides of the Atlantic, reaching as high as number 2 in the UK.
The song has inspired over 50 verified covers, including a version the multi-talented Gouldman included on his second solo album, which we featured in our review of The Yardbirds’ Greatest Hits.
Here’s a look at five more varieties along with some additional notables…
Chris Isaak – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
This one’s by far the most popular cover created of the famous track. Isaak opens with loud drums, and then he adds his Orbisonian, spooky, heartbroken loner style to the song on his 1986 self-titled second album. The arrangement is excellent; he extends the running time by reworking the verses and adding a false ending after the second chorus.
Hector Ward & The Big Time – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
Austin’s “8-piece Latin Grooves Funk Orchestra” brings the brass and conga percussion. The proud Cuban-American Hector, playing good-Elvis on lead vocals, treats us to choruses in English and Spanish in between snappy sax, guitar, trombone, and trumpet breaks. The track was featured on 2014’s excellent All ATX British Invasion compilation. And the band was kind enough to provide their MP3 to Cover Me readers as a free download here.
Paul Mark – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
Radiation Records Inc. Used by permission. All distribution and publishing rights reserved.
Mr. Mark might remind you of Meat Loaf telling a story with an Ennio Morricone spaghetti western science fiction soundtrack behind him. To go with his “broken lover” vocals, there are nods in the arrangement to the Zombies and Vic Flick’s James Bond guitar. Released as a 2016 single, the indie multi-instrumentalist/songwriter/producer also has 10 studio albums to his credit. Think of an alternative Chris Isaak, and enjoy the recently released video. More about this compelling artist here.
Ghost Dance – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
Six months before Isaak’s 1986 version, these British goth rockers released this as their second UK single. Distortion guitars were provided by co-founder Gary Marx (ex-Sisters of Mercy) and guest Steve Smith (Red Lorry Yellow Lorry). But co-founder Anne-Marie Hurst’s “goth-pop” vocals are what separates the track from the pack, simply because so few female voices have tackled the song and hers fits this much-too-short cover very well.
Rush – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
The band’s 2004 covers album Feedback included an updated AOR studio version that stayed close to the original. The following year, they released R30: 30th Anniversary World Tour, a combo DVD/CD that included this straight acoustic homage with Geddy Lee shedding his bass guitar for a six-string.
Free Will – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
It’s a long opus, early prog-rock jam version that clocks in at just over six minutes. Joe Whiting’s vocals don’t start until the 1:44 mark but stick with it. Includes some nice tenor sax and more altering tempos than the original. Appeared on their hardly-noticed 1977 album Here’s Free Will.
Dave Smale – Heart Full of Soul (Graham Gouldman cover)
Smale hails from Barnstaple, England, and adds light Latin percussion to his chill, downtempo vocals on this self-produced version. Note the alternately tuned guitar. Smale was the touring bassist for a few years in a recent configuration of the Yardbirds.
- More prog: Enthusiasts would say we’re remiss if we missed… so here’s a gift-wrapped Box Of Frogs comprised of former Yardbirds Chris Dreja, Paul Samwell-Smith, and Jim McCarty. Great arrangement, but Roger Chapman’s gritty vocals, reminiscent of AC/DC’s Brian Johnson, are an acquired taste here.
- More Graham: Gouldman recorded a second version of his own song – this one acoustic with slide guitar – for a compilation album to aid Samaritans, a UK non-profit battling depression.
- Lounge lizard: Nutty with some Bond-theme snippets.
- Bluegrass: Byron Berline Band live video from the Music Hall in Guthrie, OK.
- Utterly preposterous: A “hot stuff” disco version.
- Cute kids: Children Medieval Band may make you cringe, and admire their parents at the same time.
- Around the world: Spain, Finland, Denmark, distortion pop from Greece, Basque at 31:10 mark, good fuzz rock from Turkey‘s Ringo Jets, harsh thrash metal from Holland, reggae from Italy. Several, but not all, are in English and – warning – quality varies widely!
- More Italy: Dome La Muerte and the Diggers feature Rudi Protrudi of the Fuzztones on this indie garage rock version from Pisa.
The original Yardbirds’ version of “Heart Full of Soul” can be found on iTunes and Amazon.
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