Tim Edgeworth

Tim Edgeworth likes many different types of music, but has a special place in his heart for jazz, blues and all things Americana. His dream is to travel back in time to attend a B.B. King concert. Tim has written about the work of Bob Dylan on his blog, Talkin' Bob Dylan, and can currently be found writing about all kinds of things (including music) in his Substack newsletter Tell Us All About It

Mar 182024
Liam Gallagher Jumpin Jack Flash

Liam Gallagher and John Squire, respective cornerstones of Britpop royalty Oasis and The Stone Roses, embarked on tour this week in support of their new album, the accurately titled Liam Gallagher & John Squire. Although Liam had warned that the duo would not be dipping into their back catalogues on this run, he did tease that they might break out a surprise cover or two. He and John delivered on that proposition in Glasgow this past Wednesday, serving up a spirited take on The Rolling Stones’ “Jumpin’ Jack Flash.” Continue reading »

Jan 262024

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

Sun Ra Second Star to the Right

In 1988, tribute album pioneer Hal Willner released Stay Awake: Various Interpretations of Music from Vintage Disney Films. The likes of Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Sinead O’Connor, Los Lobos, and Ringo Starr all contributed to a record that mostly leaned toward the nightmarish feel of  films like Snow White (1937) and Sleeping Beauty (1959). This was not an album to play for the kids at bedtime.

One cover that stood out was Sun Ra and his Arkestra’s performance of “Pink Elephants On Parade” from Dumbo (1941). Those who knew Sun Ra as a pioneer of free jazz might have expected a drastic reinvention, but what he delivered was a faithful recreation of the original arrangement. This approach was not unusual for the Arkestra: while the group was (and is) famous for their improvised freakouts, they were (and are) equally adept at reverent renditions of standards by Duke Ellington, Fletcher Henderson and others. Sun Ra approached this Disney song as he would any tune from the Great American Songbook.

Stay Awake was released, and everyone involved soon moved on. Everyone, that is, except for Sun Ra, who plunged headlong into a full-on Disney obsession. By February 1989, Ra was ready to premiere a series of concerts billed as “A Salute to Walt Disney,” which lasted nearly three hours and were comprised almost entirely of Disney material. At the first such concert at NYC’s The Bottom Line, for example, the Arkestra mined the Disney songbook for classics like “Chim-Chim Cheree” from Mary Poppins (1964), “When You Wish Upon a Star” from Pinocchio (1940), and “Cruella DeVille” from 101 Dalmations (1961). Wikipedia reports that Sun Ra even performed a concert at Disney World, although details of this event are hard to come by.

These live performances allowed for more improvisation than the studio recording of “Pink Elephants,” but they were still played with respect for the original melodies, and in a spirit of fun that’s often missing from the covers on Stay Awake. While the arrangements themselves are usually very faithful, the fact that these songs are being played by Sun Ra at all gives the performances an extremely surreal vibe.

For years there was no document of Sun Ra’s 1989 “Disney Period” outside of bootlegs. That all changed in 1999 with the release on Leo Records of Second Star to the Right (Salute to Walt Disney), featuring tracks from a show in Ulrichsberg, Austria. This is an audience recording, and someone close to the taper can be heard throughout the show laughing aloud in disbelief at what’s unfolding onstage.
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Oct 062022

Being the child of a music legend is not without its challenges, especially if you’re trying to carve out a path in the same field as your famous parent.  There’s no right way to do it, but Vieux Farka Toure – son of the late guitarist and singer Ali Farka Toure, Mali’s “King of Desert Blues”– has handled it better than most. Rather than distancing himself from his father’s legacy, you could say that Vieux has expanded upon it, picking up where the elder Toure left off.

At first, Vieux’s dream of becoming a musician was opposed by Ali, who was acutely aware of the cutthroat nature of the music business. Vieux pressed on regardless, first learning the djembe before moving on to guitar, then enrolling at Mali’s prestigious National School of the Arts to receive professional tuition. Ali, perhaps impressed by his son’s tenacity, changed his stance, and in 2004 devoted himself to teaching his signature guitar style to Vieux. It wasn’t a moment too soon: within two years, Ali Farka Toure had passed away from cancer.

Vieux’s debut album arrived in 2007. Since then, he has walked a tightrope of staying true to his heritage while also pursuing innovative collaborations, such as the 2015 album Touristes with American singer Julia Easterlin, or his partnership with Israeli keyboardist and singer Idan Raichel in The Toure-Raichel Collective. 2022, however, has seen Vieux return to his roots. His album Les Racines, released earlier this year, specifically addresses the ongoing turmoil in his homeland of Mali. Taking things even closer to home, this new album, Ali, is an unabashed tribute to the music of his father.
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Apr 222022

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Last year, a study by Fender and YouGov of Americans between 16-34 revealed that 16 million people had taken up the guitar since the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Speaking to Insider about the study, Fender CEO Andy Mooney estimated that “as many as 72 million people are playing the guitar right now.” These are impressive statistics, and something to be celebrated. However, it’s hard not to wonder if the prominence of instruments like the guitar might be pushing other, less-well known instruments to the sidelines.

One person doing a lot to change this is London-based percussionist Rosie Bergonzi. Rosie has a YouTube channel dedicated to the handpan, a unique flying-saucer shaped instrument that can trace its roots back to the Trinidadian steel drum. The channel is a goldmine of information, featuring lessons, interactive livestreams, and an eclectic selection of covers arranged especially for the handpan.

“I first started playing the handpan in 2015,” Rosie tells Cover Me. “A few years before, I heard a busker playing in the street, and I thought it was the most amazing thing I’d ever heard–I was determined to have one! So after a lot for searching I found my own handpan and have kept up with it from there.”

The handpan itself was created in Switzerland in 2001 by steel drum makers Sabrina Scharer and Felix Rohner of Pan Art, based on a suggestion by hand percussionist Reto Weber. For its first twelve years of existence the instrument – originally known as the Hang drum – was extremely hard to come by, available only by sending a special request directly to Pan Art. However, once Pan Art ceased production of Hang drums in 2013, the instrument became widely available from other makers, soon becoming known as the handpan.

How does Rosie go about choosing songs to cover?

“I’ve found that the tunes have to be very melodic for an instrumental cover, so rap, for example, is really hard to make effective as it’s all about the words. It’s always surprising ones that work well, so I ask around a lot for song suggestions – any genre!”

And what about arranging the songs for the handpan?

“I get the chords down, normally while singing the tune. Then I work out the melody. The harder job is working out how to play the two at the same time. My handpans have limited amounts of notes (9-17) so getting the melody to sing clearly is an interesting challenge. My favorite part is working out the arrangement, sometimes playing with the speeds to make it feel really different to the original.”

To demonstrate this process, Rosie started a series called Covers Done Quick, where she selects a song a random and adapts it for the handpan in just one hour.

Let’s look at some of Rosie’s other handpan covers…
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Dec 062021
Sanford some kinda hate

“Some Kinda Hate”, by hardcore punk pioneers Misfits, is a song that’s ripe for reinvention. Recorded for the band’s shelved Static Age album in 1978, an overdubbed version of the track was released on the outtakes collection Legacy of Brutality in 1985. The unedited version stayed in the vaults until the entire Static Age album was finally released in 1996. Since then, “Some Kinda Hate” has been covered numerous times, but rarely in a way that deviates far from the original. Continue reading »

Nov 172021

Cult Classics Vol. 1: I Don’t Even Think of You That Often arrives 30 years after the original multi-artist Cohen tribute album, I’m Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen. There have been other tributes since then – Tower of Song: The Songs of Leonard Cohen in 1995, Leonard Cohen: I’m Your Man in 2006, and The Songs of Leonard Cohen Covered in 2012 – but Cult Classics Vol. 1 is notable for being the first to be recorded since Cohen’s death five years ago this month.

Drawing comparisons between this new album and the hugely influential I’m Your Fan is probably unfair: after all, the earlier record saved ‘Hallelujah’ from remaining an undiscovered gem in Leonard’s catalogue, and rescued his career by introducing his music to a new audience of young rock fans. Cult Classics arrives in a very different context (Cohen is now revered to the point of having a 10,000-foot mural in his honour on the side of a Montreal high-rise), and is more of an acknowledgement of the influence Leonard continues to have on the young singer-songwriters of today.
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