Aug 072020
 

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

Satisfied Mind

I never understood why the Walkabouts were never huge. A consummate Americana noir sound, two terrific vocalists in Chris Eckman and Carla Torgerson, an arthouse European ambiance… how did it not happen? Their history and geography ought really have defined a career in grunge, and their Seattle base and the Sub Pop label often had them sometimes lumped in with that movement. But they were always, even at the start, a step apart and a dust bowl away. Continue reading »

Jul 162020
 

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

Box of Birds

Is the Church’s A Box of Birds the stock contractual filler for a band bereft of ideas, or a vivid introduction to those influences that begat the inspiration to form in the first place? In truth, it’s a bit of both. At a first listen it even begs whether it deserves status as a Covers Classic. Bear with me, it does, if only saved by the bell of the closing track.

A Box of Birds is a curious mix of songs, from hit singles familiar to all to deeper cuts known but to the few. Gone, by and large, is the space and counterplay that had made the Church’s name, with very little demonstration of how dual guitars can sparkle off each other. Sure, it sounds fun, with an image of the band playing these songs on the hoof, in a garage, that picture added to by the slightly muddy mix and the contrived run of one track into the next. If they hadn’t fully decided what to play until they began, well, that too seems not unlikely. But it all becomes a little wearing, particularly in the build-up to the finale. If ever an album cries out for a grand finish, this is it. And, praise be, the Church deliver.

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Jun 252020
 

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

Noel Redding, mostly remembered for his thunderous work as bass guitar player for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, never achieved the same level of fame post-Experience, but it wasn’t for a lack of projects. Jimi chose Redding – then a guitar player – to play bass (Hendrix connected with Redding’s musical taste and hairstyle), then selected Mitch Mitchell for drums to form the early “power trio” in London during the fall of 1966. The line-up only lasted until the pre-Woodstock summer of 1969, but it was enough time to pump out three landmark albums: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland. Looking back on their disbanding, in 2002 Redding would tell Billboard magazine: “I think Jimi needed to have a rest at that point. He should have actually taken some time off and done nothing, ‘cos we all worked our arses off for three years.”

After the Experience split there were other psychedelic hard rock bands for Redding like Road and the Noel Redding Band, but a decade of legal battles attempting to recover lost Hendrix earnings (documented in his 1990 autobiography Are You Experienced?) eventually took a financial and personal toll.

The Noel Redding and Friends line-up consisted of Redding on bass, Frankie LaRocka (ex-Scandal, John Waite, Bryan Adams) on drums, Anthony Krizan (ex-Spin Doctors) on lead guitar, and Ivan Kral (ex-Patti Smith Group, Iggy Pop) on rhythm guitar. Krizan, LaRocka, and Redding handled vocals. The group played several US tour dates before and after these shows, but Live From Bunkr would be their only album release together. It would be Noel Redding’s last recorded work prior to his untimely death at age 57 in 2003.

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Jun 242020
 

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

Nina Revisited

Nina Simone, the “High Priestess of Soul,” had a storied career, producing over 40 albums throughout her life. She gained popularity with her original music as well as through reinventions of standards (including a Hall and Oates tune later in her career). She was formally trained on the piano from a young age, and although she never reached her dream of being the first African-American classical pianist, she did become the first African-American woman to play piano at Carnegie Hall (even if she wasn’t playing classical tunes). Simone went to Julliard, but she was denied entrance to the Curtis Institute of Music, which she suspected was due to her race. She had the last laugh, though; a couple of days before she died, she was awarded an honorary degree by this institute.

Simone was active in the civil rights movement (she even performed at the Selma march), and she wasn’t afraid to speak (or sing) her mind despite how this affected her career. She was more in the Malcolm X school of thought (and was his literal neighbor) than in Martin Luther King Jr.’s, but King’s death still affected her and led to a tribute song.

Simone’s accolades are many. She has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the Grammy Hall of Fame, and her legacy lives on. Her songs remain in the public ear, including being sampled in modern hip-hop and rap songs by Kanye West, Jay-Z, Timbaland, and Lil’ Wayne, among others.

To coincide with the release of the original Netflix documentary about her life, What Happened, Miss Simone?, in 2015 this tribute album was released with liner notes by Angela Davis. Let’s listen to some reinterpretations of some of her most iconic songs.

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Jun 222020
 

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

Acid Eaters

People frequently think of the Ramones as being goofball one-trick ponies, fit more for T-shirts than turntables. This grossly misrepresents their point and their purpose, never mind the debt they pay to whole swathes of earlier, largely ’60s music. Like no other punk band, the Ramones brought back the energy and the intuition up into a future (now the past) that both honors and updates those motifs. And this never became clearer than on 1993’s Acid Eaters, where many of the songs sound like they were originals that “da brudderz” wrote. Even if you know the originals forwards and backwards.

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Jun 102020
 

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

Albert King is one of the undisputed Kings of the Blues, but he didn’t get to that point overnight. It took ten years, hundreds of nightclub gigs, numerous day jobs, and one name change (an attempt to present himself as a relative of  B.B. King) before King was able to record his first album, The Big Blues, in 1962, for the appropriately named King Records. After that, it was another five years of hard graft on the road before King finally settled into his home-for-life, Stax Records. At Stax, King formed a formidable partnership with Booker T. & The MGs, with whom he finally recorded his second album, Born Under A Bad Sign, in 1967.

It’s not entirely clear whose idea it was for Albert to record an album of Elvis covers for this, his sixth album on Stax, but the decision was an inspired one. Since Elvis’s brand of rock ‘n’ roll in part derived from the blues, Albert would simply be “bringing it all back home.”
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