These days George Benson is primarily remembered for his soft-soul hits from the ‘70s and ‘80s. Two of these songs — “Give Me the Night” and “Turn Your Love Around” — have ended up on Yacht Rock playlists in recent years. But there are multiple chapters to Benson’s career. The singer/songwriter and virtuoso guitarist’s debut album came out in early 1964, just a few months after the Beatles first appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show. In addition to his many solo records, he has played with the likes of Miles Davis, Aretha Franklin and Stevie Wonder.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
Artists are eligible for induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame 25 years after their first release. For the Doobie Brothers, who formed in 1970, it took nearly twice as long. Perhaps that’s because they have had twice as many members as most of the other inductees.
The band became hit makers in the early ‘70s: playing a hybrid of hard rock, country-rock, and blues, mixed with well-manicured harmonies. The Doobies’ sound took a 180-degree turn in 1975 when a young soul singer named Michael McDonald was tapped to fill in for the band’s ailing frontman Tom Johnston. Eventually, Johnston left, and McDonald pushed the band into blue-eyed soul territory.
In 1978, the collective recorded and released its eighth studio album Minute by Minute. With its synth-driven pop sounds, the album was a distinct departure from their earlier music. Before it hit the shelves, the band was certain they had a flop. As McDonald recalled in an episode of VH1’s Behind the Music: “I remember playing that album for a friend of mine and said, ‘Well, what do you think’? And he goes, ‘It’s a piece of shit. It sucks.’ And I remember thinking, ‘I think he’s right.’”
As with many bands, the COVID-19 pandemic has altered the Struts’ 2020 musical plans. They had originally intended to record an EP this year, but with all touring activities cancelled, the British rockers instead released a full album entitled Strange Days. On the album, the group included a cover of the Kiss deep cut “Do You Love Me.” At a time when the normal excesses of the rock n’ roll lifestyle have been curtailed, it comes across as a work of downright nostalgia for an era whose time has passed.
Tennis, the husband and wife duo of Patrick Riley and Alaina Moore, pay tribute to Karen Carpenter with a cover of the Carpenters’ ode to shacking up with itinerant musicians, “Superstar.” The pair reworked “Superstar” as a slow-moving synthesizer-driven track. Moore’s vocals are mixed with a heavy amount of echo, giving it the feel of a ‘70s disco ballad, like a lost deep cut from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.
2020 isn’t over yet, and we’re already longing for those bygone days of 2019 when “Old Town Road” mania swept the globe. Since its chart run last year, Lil Nas X and Billy Ray Cyrus’ smash country-rap hybrid has inspired multiple covers from across the musical universe. The latest to throw on a metaphorical pair of Wranglers and take his horse to the “Old Town Road” is jazz musician Sam Gendel. It might not be the best cover of the track, but it certainly is one of the oddest.