Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.
You may know the Bay Area band Steve Miller Band for a variety of songs, from “Fly Like an Eagle” to “Take the Money and Run.” You may even call members “space cowboy” or “Maurice.” If you have dug into more trivia you may know that Paul McCartney even contributed to a song on their second album. But do you happen to have opinions about the title track from their twelfth album?
Not everyone is a big “Abracadabra” fan, but the song was a big hit for the Steve Miller Band, especially after the lull following the Book Of Dreams album (and yes, this is way past “The Joker”). When MTV was just getting started, this music video really shook things up too. Reportedly the woman featured prominently in it was the first “video vixen,” and this song was the first to use the “body pan” shot. So thanks for bringing objectification to MTV, I guess? Almost forty years later we see how others have interpreted the song.
The Eagles of Death Metal cover is good.
Sugar Ray’s cover is better.
Kristin Amparo’s cover is best.
Eagles Of Death Metal – Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band cover)
Don’t let the band name fool you–this cover does not feature death metal screaming. Instead, the name is a tongue-in-cheek reference to a thought experiment (what would The Eagles sound like if they crossed over into the death metal genre?). This version starts with some cheesy grunts in the beginning, but it continues with a more serious take on the song. The simple drum beat and electric guitar line steadily remain, but the chorus has a twist. “Abracadabra” is mysteriously spoken and then is followed by a sultry female response of “I wanna reach out and grab you.”
Sugar Ray – Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band cover)
This cover featured on Sugar Ray’s third album, which brought us the hit “Every Morning.” The 14:59 album was a follow up to the band hitting the mainstream with their song “Fly.” This cover also features on the soundtrack for the television show Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which is a little on the nose, sure, but I still admit to owning it as an actual CD. Sugar Ray’s version leans a little heavier on the rock than the original but is otherwise a faithful rendition. If this song puts you in a Sugar Ray mood, you are in luck: they released an album in 2019 called Little Yachty.
Kristin Amparo – Abracadabra (Steve Miller Band cover)
This cover has a folk opening that is more Mumford & Sons than Steve Miller Band, but then the song transitions into a more traditional opening in a ska style. Amongst many accompanying musicians, Amparao, a Swedish X-Factor contestant, is both the singing front woman and main drummer for this groove. This cover adds a little extra flair; there is an especially glorious trombone solo full of attitude in the middle. As the song winds down, the whole group joins in for the harmony on the closing “round and round”s.