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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Jun 032020
 

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

Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2

Jack Antonoff gives us serious writer/producer/performer triple threat vibes (a la Timbaland and Pharrell). He’s been in a variety of musical acts himself, including Steel Train, fun., and Bleachers, and been involved behind the scenes in the creation of others’ award winning albums. Just to give you a sense for all of the pies he has his fingers in, Antonoff:

  • co-wrote and co-produced some songs on Taylor Swift’s 1989, Reputation, and Lover,
  • co-wrote and co-produced Lorde’s Melodrama album,
  • co-produced Lana del Rey’s Norman Fucking Rockwell! album,
  • co-wrote and co-produced the soundtrack for Love, Simon,
  • co-wrote Sara Bareilles’s song “Brave,”
  • co-produced Saint Vincent’s Masseduction,
  • co-wrote and co-produced songs on The Dixie Chicks’ upcoming album, and
  • co-wrote and co-produced tracks on Carly Rae Jepsen’s Dedicated (including the B-Side version).

We see some of these collaborations either forming out of or being foreshadowed by ties within this cover album.

The “Terrible Thrills” tradition started with Terrible Thrills, Vol. 1an all female cover album of Steel Train’s eponymous album. Terrible Thrills, Vol. 2 was a follow-up project that again featured all female covers, this time of Bleachers’ first album, Strange Desire. Afterwards, although it does not include covers of the entire album, Terrible Thrills, Vol. 3 followed, containing female covers of four songs from Bleachers’ second album, Gone Now, as well as demos and new versions of songs from the album. (I was bummed to not have a female cover of “Don’t Take the Money.”) This cover album was only sold on vinyl, but you can listen to it here.

Every single one of these covers is great, so I had a hard time choosing just a handful to write about. But here goes…

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May 122020
 

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

Good As I Been To You

Similar to Superman’s periodic retreats to his Fortress of Solitude, Bob Dylan occasionally turns to the music of the past to gather strength for challenges ahead. Most of the great comebacks of Bob’s career – including the one we’re seeing right now – have been proceeded by intense periods of covering old songs. In 1992, after a decade of butting heads with producers and wrestling with 1980s recording technology, Dylan decided to strip things back – all the way back. No producer, no band; just Bob Dylan, his guitar, and a bucketload of folk and blues songs.

The idea had probably been taking shape in Dylan’s mind since the summer of 1988, when he began what would soon become known as the Never Ending Tour (or NET to its friends). While the earliest NET shows were largely devoted to Bob and his band tearing through his back catalogue punk rock-style, the highlight for many fans were the mid-show acoustic sets, where Bob often unearthed traditional songs from the western world’s distant past. “Trail of the Buffalo,” “The Lakes of Pontchartrain,” “Barbara Allen,” “The Wagoner’s Lad,” and many others made regular appearances. Bob didn’t just perform these songs: he inhabited them.
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