Jun 252021

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Eurythmics Greatest Hits

Yes, we are back in Greatest Hits territory again, probably the only way to sufficiently scour out the coverland of this undeniably extremely successful band, largely better known for singles rather than albums. Some may question my choosing to take this challenge, given a prior opinion or two of mine around the fragrant Ms. Lennox. But let me stake my claim: the initial output of Eurythmics sounds just sublime to these ears and was seldom bettered amongst the bevy of synthesizer duos of the day. Sure, ubiquity can conspire against how well critical reception actually was at the time, but, for a while, wow, how ubiquitous were they? With 75 mill records seemingly sold, either you or someone you know must have at least something by them. I know I have.

I remember well my first sight of Eurythmics, on that venerable UK serious rock show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. It aired late at night on a minority channel for nascent music nerds, all pretending to be asleep for their parents downstairs. I was already familiar with the duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, from their earlier work in The Tourists. And I confess, I was as much taken that Whistle Test concentrated more on the dual facts that they were at Conny Plank’s German studio, the home of Can, and that Blondie sticksman, Clem Burke was thumping their tubs, as well as Can bassist, Holger Czukay, turning up on French horn. But they failed to set the cash tills ringing; a revision and revamp required and delivered, just in time for the peak of MTV, their videos ideal for the format. I was transfixed.

Eurythmics’ first (OK, second really) record was a masterpiece fit for its times, with a slew of singles all gaining attention and acclaim. Over the next (was it only) six years, they took over the charts, with a run of 21 singles, between two and five each year, most going top twenty if not top ten. After quitting at the top of their game, they made a brief return in 1999 and had a further brace of hits. The sound changed radically over those years, from synthesizer duo to stadium rock extravaganzas, but always with the searing knife through butter vocal of Lennox to the fore. Lennox then reverted to her solo career, Stewart to a lot of plans and promises, if little much of real merit to show for it. Bar a solitary appearance at a Beatles tribute show in 2014, that was it, they were done. (OK, seeing as that was a cover……)

A confession before kick-off: this piece was originally based about Ultimate Collection, the second and slightly larger of Eurythmics’ hit compilations, mainly as I liked so much the two singles that came from Peace, their 1999 reprise. Frustratingly, I had to ditch that idea, due to the shortage of cover versions. Which isn’t saying this set was necessarily easy. But it was a shame, there being more than a couple of covers I liked, songs that had been hits for the band, but had inexplicably failed the cut for that first collection. So, having done the work, may I sneak in an odd bonus track?

So, let’s see who was listening to Eurythmics…

Hayseed Dixie – Sweet Dreams (Eurythmics cover)

The big one, that broke the band, and the one with far and away the greatest choice, if most somewhat schlocky fare, culled largely from TV talent shows. OK, my DOI here is that I am a sucker for bluegrass covers, and this is a good one, the jaws harp as integral to the sound as the banjo and the hillbilly hick vocals. Amazingly still going, this band started life as jobbing session men, ahead of coming up with the idea of a lost and landlocked Appalachian valley community, with no musical history beyond a few rock records. A decade or so on and they have clearly found some new material, presenting it with a little more humor than the “Hooked On” guys ever muster. I confess that the video here swung it for me, the idea that sweet dreams being made of beer a not unsympathetic concept.

Anna Ternheim – When Tomorrow Comes (Eurythmics cover)

Moody and majestic Nordicana and a much more tasteful rendition than the increasingly bombastic thrust Stewart was applying to the band in the never more bombastic late 80s. Ternheim is a Swede and sings her own songs largely in English, and, since 2008, has lived and worked in Manhattan. Somehow she makes one of the largely stereotypically late period Eurythmics songs one of the gentlest songs here, and one of the best of the versions here. It comes from a 2005 EP, Shoreline, which features five covers in the same sympathetic style. If you like the cut of her jib, it is worth picking up.

Macy Gray – Here Comes the Rain Again (Eurythmics cover)

Having to push Sly & Robbie and Billy MacKenzie into the also-rans category is a tough call, but Ms. Gray steals this by the ever so slight sense of syncopation she offers here, her voice a croaky manifestation of humanity, within the otherwise full automaton of the arrangement. I particularly love the way it just ends without warning. From her terrific 2012 covers project, Covered, one of the few records that included Idris Elba as a performing contributor. Gray has a distinguished track record of performing classy covers, having also made a full album cover of Stevie Wonder’s Talking Book, a disc I consider essential in both formats.

Julia Fordham – Who’s That Girl (Eurythmics cover)

This side of the pond, this song has an unfortunate association, one that I find hard to shake off, of a Harry Enfield and Paul Whitehouse comedy sketch. So it takes a lot to shift that, which this bossa nova take by Julia Fordham actually manages with aplomb. Fordham was moderately successful in the late 80s into the noughties, known best for Porcelain, her 1989 album. This version comes from later album, an all-covers somewhat jazz-lite compilation entitled The Language of Love, which is a tad too smooth for me, if decent enough in small helpings.

Frank Bennett – Would I Lie To You (Eurythmics cover)

Is this for real? Uncertain whether this a bona fide swing cover or a pastiche, do you know, I am still none the wiser. Frank Bennett is an Australian crooner who specializes in this sort of cover, and has a full back catalog thereof. However, unlike Richard Cheese or Mike Flowers Pops, this sounds his real name, and thus could all be genuine in intent, homage both to the songs and his preferred mode of delivery. Do I like it? Would I lie to you? (And it isn’t his real name.)

Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves – Yeardley Smith, feat. Ann & Nancy Wilson (Eurythmics and Aretha Franklin cover)

I fear some of you may be beginning not to take me seriously, but please, bear with me. This is really good. And yes, Yeardley Wilson is the voice of Lisa Simpson, and, yes, it does come from The Yellow Album, a Simpsons-related project of mainly original songs. Thankfully, courtesy the vocal prowess and guitar play of the Wilson sisters from Heart, it can stand upright as being more a genuine tribute, if more to the lyrical message, over being any corny parody. Hell, there are weirder singers featured in this piece, as you may have noticed. I accept not up to the scratch of Aretha, but I always felt her to be slumming it a bit in the original.

The Leningrad Cowboys – There Must Be an Angel (Eurythmics cover)

I have to say this starts really well, a classic of soulful melasma, that has itself endearing itself more than the original, ahead of total schizophrenia, a muddy heavy metal chorus and, later still, some massed band chanting, which also closes the song. That is is disturbing should be no surprise; the Cowboys have form here. From Finland, their modus operandi is best summed up by their wiki entry: “a Finnish rock band who perform rock and roll covers of other songs. They have exaggerated pompadour hairstyles and wear long, pointy shoes. They often work with Russian military band the Alexandrov Ensemble.” Sort of says all you need to know.

Bubble Scum – Missionary Man (Eurythmics cover)

Back north of the wall, again to Finland, for this kitschy take by Helsinki’s Bubble Scum (great name). It excises most of the rockist tendencies of the latter-day band, returning more to the synth style of the early offerings, with a hefty slab of tongue in cheek for good measure. Reminiscent of the late Pete Burns’ Dead or Alive, this comes from what seems to have been Bubble Scum’s only album, Body 2 Body, in 2010. Lead singer Suho Superstar exudes a sleazy schlock that is a refreshing antidote to the airbrushed original and was previously lead singer for the band Jimsonweed. (And, yes, that quality name is indeed the sole reason I give them credit for it.)

ginette piano woman – Don’t Ask Me Why (Eurythmics cover)

With so few covers available, here is a YouTube bedroom special, but one, I think, of some merit. One of the better late songs the duo made, the bittersweet nature of the lyric is embraced here and expanded upon, emotionally, with aplomb, the arrangement stripped back to piano and smoky vocal not without appeal.  A criticism of Lennox might always be the hint of impassionate ice maiden. Ginette is of much weaker stuff, and clearly is resorting to a diet rich in Gauloises and absinthe.  As (lower case) ginette piano woman, here is her YT signature page, full of similar fare, usually songs of rejection, from one or either side of the equation. Inspirations to her song choices often come from old movies, she then applying her moody angst and sad piano over clips of said films, making for somewhat maudlin fare. Which is catnip to me.

Ingrid – I Need a Man (Eurythmics cover)

Back to the bedroom, I’m afraid, but I actually quite like this. Or, at least, prefer it loads to the shiny plastic of the original. Ingrid, aka itritsch, is a huge fan of Annie and the band, having also her own YT page and presence where she covers loads of Eurythmics songs, along with many others. I think it is the slightly louche self-awareness of her rendition that wins me over, Lennox being way too brazen in the bands own version. Call it my own male bashfulness, but the original terrifies me, making me recall, unhealthily, the fact that my first wife went to school with Ms. Lennox, in Aberdeen, Annie being her somewhat scary Head Girl.

Sam Beam & Jesca Hoop – Love is a Stranger (Eurythmics cover)

Sam “Iron and Wine” Beam is an acknowledged lover of a decent cover, not least on his all covers album, with Ben Bridwell, 2015’s Sing Into My Mouth, along with more recent live work with Joe Boyd’s running concert series of Nick Drake tributes. Among his many collaborative works has been the record he made with Jesca Hoop, a likeminded acoustic explorer, whose career was launched following a spell as Tom Wait’s nanny, by which I mean for his children. This track was not on the album they made together, but nonetheless snuck out welcomely, as a different way to approach the song, yet leave the same sense of disorientated concern.

The Rubinoos – Thorn In My Side (Eurythmics cover)

I confess I never knew these power pop jangle merchants had ever made a covers record, this therefore coming as a muted surprise, this being one of the arguable delights included. If one forgives the yelp at the beginning, and the execrable spoken segment halfway in. They display how the song is essentially built, applying a retro patina that takes away much of the de rigueur production of the day. The Searchers would kill to have done it, which is the sort of default position for most of the rest of the record, however energetically they tackle “Shake Some Action” and, Lord help us, “Little Willy.” It’s called Crimes Against Music. Not always inappropriately.

The King and Queen of America : Dubb remix (Eurythmics remix)

Hopefully the boss won’t be peeping this far down [Editor’s note: I’ll never tell], but given I am finding yet another Eurythmics song to be beyond anyone much seeking to cover it. I’m hoping it will suffice/won’t be noticed, there being so little actual Lennox presence in it. Actually officially sanctioned by the band, this came out on the 12” version of the single, with an additional dance mix, of a rather greater resemblance to the original. Of the three, purely as a song, irrespective of as to by whom, this is probably my favorite.

Toni Lee – Angel (Eurythmics cover)

Angels are a recurring presence in the Lennox/Stewart songbook, there being at least three, what with “I’ve Got an Angel” on the Sweet Dreams album, and the one six songs above, which is the one everybody and their dog have covered, at least by comparison. I have searched everywhere: Soundcloud, Spotify, and Bandcamp all failed to deliver, and no cheeky remixes to sneak in either. This rendition, of, I have to say, a thoroughly OK song, one that is begging for a jazz cover, a punk deconstruction, or a folktronic exploration, comes from a professional singer of 29 years experience who offers “a Lennox experience.” And I bet it is, minding my mothers advice that if you can’t say anything nice, say nothing at all.

Finally, as hinted, a special bonus: here are a few from Ultimate Collection.

Tingsek – Miracle of Love (Eurythmics cover)

What is it about Scandi covers and Eurythmics? Actually, possibly my favorite of their songs, Tingsek literally takes it apart, ahead of putting all the notes back together and in a different order, the lush beauty of the original replaced by a spiky fragility, coming to the fore in the fractured signature of the chorus. He is a Swedish producer and player, with seven albums of his own, and innumerable collaborations, including with Ane Brun. This song was released a single in 2019.

Ane Brun – It’s Alright (Baby’s Coming Back) (Eurythmics cover)

Talking of whom, here is Brun herself, a Norwegian of Sami origin, who is established both in her home and abroad, notably reprising the Kate Bush parts, live and in the studio, for Peter Gabriel’s “Don’t Give Up,” as part of his New Blood orchestral project. Resident now in Stockholm, Sweden, she has several albums of her own material, as well as an all-covers selection, 2017’s Leave Me Breathless, an eclectic mix encompassing Dylan with Radiohead. This song comes from an earlier retrospective compilation, Rarities, which is a mix of her own songs and those of others. Eurythmics were by now becoming a little strident, so it is refreshing to have the gentle affirmation of Brun’s subtler approach to the subject matter.

Julie Mahendran – You Have Placed a Chill in My Heart/Waiting in Vain (Eurythmics cover/Bob Marley cover)

This is clever, combining two seemingly very different songs from different styles, putting them each into her blender and coming out with a confident jazz-pop segue, matching the lyrical connections as realization swiftly bypasses regret and comes up with resolution, all this over the course of the two songs, seamlessly. I dare say Ms. Mahendran, who is a Toronto club singer of some repute and with a couple of CDs to her name, came up with the idea on hearing Ms Lennox’s solo version of the Bob Marley song, spotting a possible linkage to the Eurythmics song. In equal parts smooth and sophisticated, both words often used to denigrate, but here apt and appropriate.

Danny McEvoy – Right By Your Side (Eurythmics cover)

Here is a bedroom gurner I am happy to return to, he by now having featured a few times for Cover Me. A Scouser (Liverpudlian), he has a wealth of videos on YouTube, upward of 5000, and is a huge fan of the Beatles (maybe unsurprisingly, given his heritage). As a seasoned busker, he can immediately pick out the salient hooks within a song, adapting and rephrasing to fit his enthusiastic thrash. Here it is particularly informative, as he breaks down and explains his technique within the mechanics of the songs structure; keep listening to the end. It’s a joy.

Jackie Moore – I Saved the World Today (Eurythmics cover)

As I stated at the start, Peace, the comeback LP, I found utterly beguiling, at least the two singles therefrom, and here the electro-pop of the first of those is maxed up to the limit, from the wonky AutoTune, as it starts, to the definite nod toward a skank in the backing, and cannot fail to bring a smile. Europop at its finest, Jackie Moore is a chantoosie from Italy, who has a body of work over a number of aliases, her real name being the slightly less charismatic Dora Carafiglio. This page gives some idea of her profligacy with both names and music. I guess it doesn’t really matter, if the aim and the outcome no more than a banging club night out in Sorrento. Whether my bag or not, I love it. Back to Peace, nobody has covered “17 Again.” And back to Ultimate Eurythmics, there are only remixes of “I’ve Got a Life,” and nobody can even remember “Was It Just Another Love Affair.”

Memo to any reading producer or musician reading, how about a tribute album to/for this band? It would have made my life so much easier…..

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