Hope Silverman

Hope Silverman of NYC grew up actually wishing she could work in a real live Record Store. The wish was manifested beginning with a long stint at CBGB's Record Canteen where Johnny Thunders called her "sweetheart", and then carried on through many colorful years at HMV and Virgin. Her retail journey culminated in running Rough Trade Shop in NYC. She currently works her music muscle by both kicking out the occasional record on her tiny label 80N7 and flexing hard at her nerdy music blog showcasing the under-appreciated, underrated and undiscovered in the glorious pop universe. https://pickinguprocks.com

May 172021
 

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

Ram

As album reviews go, Rolling Stone writer Jon Landau’s take on Paul & Linda McCartney’s Ram in 1971 was exceptionally brutal. Its opening barb, “Ram represents the nadir in the decomposition of Sixties rock thus far,” was a mere taster for what was to follow. Landau asserted that Ram was a “very bad album… unbearably inept… unpleasant.” He ended the review with a direct kick to Paul’s (apparent) hubris; “McCartney (the first solo album) and Ram both prove that Paul benefited immensely from collaboration and that he seems to be dying on the vine as a result of his own self-imposed musical isolation” (translation: you suck without the band that YOU broke up).

Landau was by no means alone in his disdain. Joining the pile on were NME’s Alan Smith, who declared Ram to be “the worst thing Paul McCartney has ever done,” and his own ex-bandmate John Lennon, who stated that it was “awful.” Speaking of the latter, even Ringo, our sweet beloved Ringo, weighed in with a “I don’t think there’s a tune on it.”

Oh boy. These assessments have not aged well, to put it mildly. The 21st century has seen Ram’s  homespun charm endlessly lauded everywhere from Pitchfork to, yes, Rolling Stone. The album’s seeming lack of concern for shiny sonic commerciality has led many folks to refer to it as the one of the first real “indie” albums (debatable, as its self-titled predecessor went even further in that direction, but you get the idea).

What led to the critical sea change? Well, the simplest answer is that enough time passed that people stopped looking at Ram through the fog of despair over The Beatles’ break-up. It’s no longer characterized as an album by the villainous Beatle destroyer, but is instead regarded as prescient masterpiece by one of the greatest artists of all time. For maybe the truest sign that humanity has come full circle in terms of recognizing the merits of Ram, look no further than arguably the world’s biggest pop star.

In 2019, Harry Styles was asked by writer Rob Sheffield to describe the recording process and inspiration for his soon to be platinum album Fine Line and offered up this little nugget:

We’d do mushrooms, lie down on the grass, and listen to Paul McCartney’s Ram in the sunshine.

There you have it. This muddy Wellington sporting, wet dog scented, Fair Isle sweater wearing album from 1971, the album that everyone hated, helped inspire a #1 retro pop album recorded in sunny southern California in 2021. “Monkberry Moon Delight” begat “Watermelon Sugar.” Yup.
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May 072021
 

Higher Than a MountainI know what you’re thinking right now. Upon hearing about Higher Than A Mountain: The Songs Of Andy Gibb, even I, who worshipped the late Andy Gibb as a child–straight-up poster-on-the-wall, scrapbook-keeping loved him–even I questioned the need for an entire tribute album. Not only did Andy release just three studio albums in his lifetime, he was unquestionably a singles artist, meaning those tracks were always the outright best songs on his full-lengths. I remember being actively disappointed by this fact after I’d spent several weeks of hard-earned allowance to buy his debut LP. So the question is unavoidable: are there enough great Gibb tracks to justify a cover compilation?

The answer is, surprisingly, mostly, yes.
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Apr 062021
 
bo and the locomotive

From the iconic opening shout of “boy!” to its sputtering, minimalist toy keyboard sound, Eddy Grant’s “Electric Avenue” is an absolute barnacle of a pop song. No line of defense can prevent its insidiously hypnotic blips, whooshes and Krazy Glue chorus from lodging itself into the ever vulnerable human brain. Despite its wide appeal “Electric Avenue” is no lightweight single; it’s an actual, dyed in the wool protest song, written in response to a tumultuous historic event, the 1981 Brixton riot. The song rose as high as the number two spot in both the UK Singles Chart and Billboard Hot 100 charts in 1983. Continue reading »

Mar 292021
 

That’s A Cover? explores cover songs that you may have thought were originals.

Captain Tennille

If asked to pick a song that best encapsulates the swinging ’70s in all its shag-carpeted, Pet Rock’d, earth-shoed glory, you’d be hard pressed to find a better specimen than the Captain & Tennille’s 1975 #1 hit “Love Will Keep Us Together.” Infectious, bouncy, and supremely sticky, sounding like both a commercial jingle and the kind of thing a Disney World in-house performing arts ensemble would include in the love-themed portion of their act (see the legendarily tacky incredible-ness of “Up With People,” or even better, The Simpsons‘ reimagined take “Hooray For Everything“), it was POP with a capitol P and Proud of it. “Love Will Keep Us Together” was the musical embodiment of everything the Captain & Tennille seemed to be about, a mission statement if you will, a song so aligned with their whole persona, so custom fit to their sugary weirdness, that even 45+ years later it’s still hard to believe it was a freakin’ cover.
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Mar 102021
 

Off the Beaten Path looks at covers of songs from a less popular era in an artist’s career.

Rickie Lee Jones

In the early days of her now 40-plus year career, people compared Rickie Lee Jones to Joni Mitchell a lot. People would often characterize her appearance, her emotive voice, her esoteric songwriting, and her jazz influences as being “Joni-esque.”  While in some respects it wasn’t a reach, it was an undeniably lazy and easy comparison to make. Even the most cursory listen of Rickie’s work, especially the first three albums, will confirm that she was never a lady of the canyon. No, she was coming from a wilder, more eccentric and unpredictable place.

Rickie was a proud and unabashed resident of the wrong side of the tracks. Her songs were inhabited by losers and deluded romantic souls endlessly in search of sure things and drugs (not necessarily in that order) as well as her relationships to both. They were populated by an endless stream of enigmatic wanderers whose plans and schemes never seemed to work out, but who still kept on trying, kept on dreaming. If anything, Rickie’s cast of characters presented a darker, street-ier spin on Bruce Springsteen’s own gang of misguided mortals, the kind of wishful thinkers he depicted in his “Backstreets,” “Meeting Across the River,” and “Racing in the Streets.”

There are basically two ways to cover a Rickie Lee Jones song. The first and most common option is to go slick and sophisticated, paying homage to their perfect melodic construction, jazzy bones and detailed lyrical content. The second is to forget the rules and let your freak flag fly. Fact is, Rickie covers sound just as great off the leash as they do on the regulation playing field. This latter approach often feels truer to the original songs’ magical inborn spirit, which is why some of the best Rickie covers are the ones that veer the farthest outside the lines, that shape-shift to a particular performer’s emotions and style.

With that, we now offer you a bit of both, the lush and the loose; a tale of two Rickies, if you will. Character-driven last calls. Vivid childhood remembrances. Poignant prayers for love. And every one of them is straight-up Coolsville.
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Feb 172021
 
the casual sexists fall in love

What is there to say at this point about the Buzzcocks’ anxious, evergreen anthem of unrequited love, heartbreak and jagged guitars? Composed by the legendary Pete Shelley, the edgy, beautiful, sad and pragmatic (and ever so slightly petulant) “Ever Fallen In Love” is just a perfect pop song. It’s no surprise then that the song’s infectious tune and painfully universal sentiment have turned it into cover catnip. There have been dozens upon dozens of covers of “Ever Fallen…”  over the years, the most successful of which was the slick-as-ice 1987 version by Fine Young Cannibals which landed in UK pop top 10, several spots higher than the original managed back in 1978 (sad but true). Continue reading »