Dec 172018

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20. Al Green – Before the Next Teardrop Falls (Duane Dee cover)

Even before he starts singing, you can tell that this is Al Green you are about to hear, and you immediately realize you have missed him. The cover of “Before The Next Teardrop Falls,” best known from Freddy Fender’s 1975 hit, is the Reverend’s first release in 10 years. Recorded as part of the Amazon Music “Produced By” series that pairs artists with big-time producers to create music magic, the song was produced by Matt Ross-Sprang at Memphis’ Sam Phillips Recording Studio. Ross-Spang uses the Linda Martell more countrified cover version of the song as a template to bring out Green’s voice in all its glory. – Walt Falconer

19. Titus Andronicus – (I’m) Like a Rolling Stone (Bob Dylan cover)

I often get annoyed at artists changing pronouns in their covers. This happens a lot with love or lust song covers, as if to ensure the singer’s heterosexuality goes unquestioned (god forbid). In this case, though, the pronoun change makes all the difference. On his “Like a Rolling Stone,” Patrick Stickles changes every “you” into an “I.” This seemingly small swap turns a caustic put-down into a critical self-examination. Nailing the details, he even extends that change to quoting Dylan’s response to the famous “Judas!” jeer at the start. Pronouns aside, “Like a Rolling Stone” is the rare Dylan song that few bands cover well – perhaps because it’s the rare Dylan song whose original recording is pretty much unimpeachable. Titus Andronicus, though, bring enough punk rage to give it a new edge while keeping the original swing (and the organ too). – Ray Padgett

18. Miranda Lambert – My Father’s Gun (Elton John cover)

Buried five songs into the Elton John album Tumbleweed Connection is a song called “My Father’s Gun.” You won’t hear it on the radio, he almost never plays it in concert, and you certainly won’t be able to find it on any greatest-hits package. It is a terrific song that tells a poignant tale of a Southern soldier who, after burying his father, takes his father’s gun and joins the Civil War. It is not an easy song to sing, but Miranda Lambert absolutely owns it on Restoration: Reimagining The Songs of Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The arrangement plays things pretty close to the vest here, but it’s the emotion Lambert puts in every verse that takes this one over the top. – Walt Falconer

17. Aidan Moffat & RM Hubbert – Only You (Yazoo cover)

A delightfully simple acoustic take on the Yazoo electronica hit. American readers may be unfamiliar with the a cappella cover that besmirched the UK #1 single position for aeons over Christmas in 1983, but this acts as a thoroughly suitable palate cleanser. Almost surprisingly sentimental, when you recall Moffatt was a former mainstay of abrasive Falkirk electro-gutterpunks Arab Strap. I prefer the first chorus ahead of the slightly clunky drums and strings, the lugubrious vocal and guitar evoking the heartfelt glow of a cosy fireside chair, with or without a peaty malt. – Seuras Og

16. VÉRITÉ – John My Beloved (Sufjan Stevens cover)

I first encountered pop singer VÉRITÉ through a massive dance banger called “Weekend.” Hardly an obvious choice, then, to cover one of Sufjan Stevens’ quietest songs (which is saying something). But she beautifully finds the middle ground, bending “John My Beloved” to her sound with synths and dance beats, while keeping the core true to Stevens’ original mood. The end result sounds like something Robyn might come up with, a dance song full of heart and human emotion. – Ray Padgett

15. Blackberry Smoke ft. Amanda Shires – You Got Lucky (Tom Petty cover)

Released to commemorate what would have been Tom Petty’s 68th birthday, Charley Starr along with his band Blackberry Smoke enlisted the help of Amanda Shires to record this live-in-the-studio acoustic version of “You Got Lucky.” Shires adds a mournful almost funeral touch to the song as she plays the Benmont Tench parts on fiddle and supplies the backing vocals. – Walt Falconer

14. Radical Face – The Goonies “R” Good Enough (Cyndi Lauper cover)

The Goonies is one of those movies whose goodness is inversely proportional to the age you were when first introduced to it. Still, to this day it’s a well-remembered rest stop on the road through puberty, and its Cyndi Lauper-sung theme, much like the Goonies themselves, never says die. Radical Face’s cover tosses the plink-plink herky-jerky synths in favor of a quiet verse leading to a great wash of warm, fuzzy chorus. It’s a welcome alteration – and you can Truffle Shuffle to it. – Patrick Robbins

13. The Pains of Being Pure at Heart – Free Fallin’ (Tom Petty cover)

Anyone with a rudimentary skillset and an acoustic guitar can belt out Petty’s “Free Fallin’.” But Kip Berman of The Pains of Being Pure at Heart took those opening strums and started adding on. This atmospheric, slick version maintains some of the most memorable moments of the original – the ethereal backing vocals in the final verse, the emphasis on “Ventura Boulevard” – but adds swirls of guitars, a danceable drum track, and reverb-drenched handclaps. One thing it leaves out is any overt emotion in the vocals, which turns out to be a great blend with all the other elements. – Mike Misch

12. Angelique Kidjo – Born Under Punches (Talking Heads cover)

Whilst her entire album cover of Remain in Light must, fingers crossed, be in the running for covers album of the year [Editor’s Note: Oh, yeah], to my ears her uber-Afropop spin works more successfully on some cuts than others. This is the one that most does it for me, a joyful and exuberant celebration that knocks the Heads into contrived-artifact territory. Robotic computer funk becomes an explosion of a natural and fluid flight into dance. A lesson in how to make an album’s weakest track the strongest. – Seuras Og

11. The Kills – List of Demands (Reparations) (Saul Williams cover)

It’s easy to see why Alison Mosshart and Jamie Hince expressed admiration verging on reverence for Saul Williams’s original “List of Demands (Reparations).” Outside the song’s lyrical power, it’s a captivating musical puzzle: overtones of panic with cool-headed undertones, and such a mighty groove that even the recorded baby’s wails bend to the beat. It’s the sort of song you can see wowing Jack White, so it makes a six-degrees sort of sense that his Dead Weather bandmate Mosshart covers it in her day job The Kills. The cover is more melodic, choir-like in places, but it honors the directness of the original. And there’s hardly a more trustworthy endorsement than Williams himself complimenting their take. – Merry Mercurial


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  7 Responses to “The Best Cover Songs of 2018”

Comments (3) Pingbacks (4)
  1. Merry Christmas and HNY2019 Ray!
    Let always there will be the sound of music!

  2. Check out “Houses of the Holy” from H.C. McEntire

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