40. Afghan Whigs – My World Is Empty Without You (The Supremes cover)
Our list of the Best Girl Group Covers earlier this year featured The Afghan Whigs’ “Come See About Me” at number 11. But that track came out in 1992. Phooey! So here we shine a spotlight on their almost-as-good other Supremes cover from the year before, “My World Is Empty Without You.” Driven by a thudding rhythm section, it grooves along rhythmically until an explosion of distorted guitar lands it firmly in the grunge era.
39. La Ley – Angie (The Rolling Stones cover)
I picked this cover before Charlie Watts died, but now, of course, I’m focused on the drumming. Performed by this Chilean rock group’s co-founder Mauricio Claveria, it feels true to Charlie: Tight, minimal, just enough to get the point across with fills that never feel gratuitous. The other sounds give the cover a Cure edge, but the drummer holds it down.
38. Bananarama – Long Train Running (The Doobie Brothers cover)
Bananarama turning a Doobie Brothers tune into a rave-ready dance track might seem like a stretch, but the Doobie song they chose, “Long Train Running,” is almost disco already. Bananarama discovered the song while scouring the record collection of their producer Youth and decided to add it last-minute to their album Pop Life. This is the first cover on this list to draw from the giant dance-music craze of the early ’90s. It will not be the last.
37. The Young Gods – Seeräuber Jenny (Kurt Weill cover)
The Young Gods Play Kurt Weill is another album worth hearing in it entirety. At one point, more tracks than not were in consideration for this list. But “Seeräuber Jenny” (that’s “Pirate Jenny” to those of us who don’t speak German) won out for its brilliant blending of Weill’s twisted cabaret with The Young Gods’ sampled industrial heaviness. Plus singer Franz Treichler’s doomed growl is perfect for this song, even if you can’t understand the lyrics.
36. Xymox – Dancing Barefoot (Patti Smith cover)
I’ve long complained there aren’t more good Patti Smith covers. But that was before I discovered this one while researching this list. Drawing from the dance music of the time (remember what I was just saying in #39?), Xymox, formerly known as Clan of Xymox, pulled the popular acid house styles into their ’80s-goths veneer.
35. Aretha Franklin – Everyday People (Sly and the Family Stone cover)
1991 is not exactly prime-Aretha era. And the sound is as dated as the music video, Aretha trying to hang with the New Jack Swing kids. Hell, the first words she speaks are “Yo gang. Let’s kick the ballistics” – an immediately-dated quote from current Wesley Snipes and Ice-T action film New Jack City. Flavor Flav is in the music video too, because of course he is. It doesn’t bode well. But I’m a sucker for aging artists trying to keep up with the kids (I love ’80s Dylan, after all). So for me, Aretha’s energy and enthusiasm overcomes all the ridiculousness.
34. Mark Heard – I’m Looking Through You (The Beatles cover)
“I’m Looking Through You” goes light bluegrass, with a fiddle, acoustic guitar, and some delicious female harmonies on the chorus. Songwriter Mark Heard, who would pass away only a year later, took one of the Beatles’ less-covered songs (relatively speaking) and gives it an injection of heartfelt passion.
33. Cherrelle – Baby It’s You (The Shirelles cover)
In the ’90s, contemporary R&B that could trace its roots back to the soul of thirty years earlier was coming to the fore, making it only fitting that ‘90s stars like Cherrelle chose to draw from the Girl Group songbook. This cover of The Shirelles’ 1961 hit “Baby It’s You” (music by Burt Bacharach) trades the sha-la-las of the original for a more modern sound, but still manages to look fondly into the past. (Tim Edgeworth, via our Best ’60s Girl Groups Covers Ever list)
32. The Walkabouts – Big Black Car (Big Star cover)
When The Walkabouts did a cover, they made it count. They’ve appeared on our Best Bob Dylan Covers (“Maggie’s Farm”) and Best Neil Young Covers (“Like a Hurricane”) lists. When I did a Best 1996 Covers rundown a five years ago, there they were again (“House of the Rising Sun”). And when one day we do Best Big Star Covers Ever list, no doubt this will rank high there too.
31. This Mortal Coil – Carolyn’s Song (Rain Parade cover)
This Mortal Coil’s 1991 double album Blood is another that offered a number of contenders for this list. Speaking of Big Star, Chris Bell’s “I Am the Cosmos” sounds great in their hands. So do Emmylou Harris’s “‘Til I Gain Control Again,” Syd Barrett’s “Late Night,” and Mary Margaret O’Hara’s “Help Me Lift You Up.” But edging them out by just a hair was their ethereal, Twin Peaks-ian (there’s that show again) take on Rain Parade’s 1983 tune “Carolyn’s Song.” The song’s writer David Roback would go on to found Mazzy Star, and you can hear a lot of that dreampop NA here.
The list continues on Page 4.