Jul 092021
 

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

Hollywood Vampire's self-titled album

We’ve seen a few different motivations for forming supergroups, but another one is to gather together to pay homage to others. One recent example: the Sylvain Sylvain tribute by Halloween Jack, made up of Gilby Clarke (formally of Guns N’ Roses), Eric Dover (of Jellyfish), Stephen Perkins (of Jane’s Addiction), Dan Shulman (formerly of Garbage), and Steve Stevens (guitarist for Billy Idol)).

Hollywood Vampires is made up of Alice Cooper, Johnny Depp (super in a different way, but showing off his musical skills here), and Joe Perry (of Aerosmith). Although they have since worked on originals, their self-titled first album is (mostly) a cover album where the songs are chosen to pay tribute to rockers who “died from excess” in the 1970s. The irony of this is that the band is named after the drinking club for celebrities formed by Cooper in the ’70s.

Throughout their time playing together, the band has had guest features from other big stars, actors and musicians alike. They have postponed their European Tour twice now due to the pandemic, but hopefully fans will get a chance to rock out when the world settles down a bit more. Continue reading »

May 212021
 

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

Bob Dylan

As a companion piece to our best Bob Dylan single song covers post, coming this Monday, it’s worth considering the myriad tribute albums to the bard of Duluth. To narrow that down at least marginally, we’ll focus on those by an individual band or artist (several Dylan sets appeared on our recent best tribute compilations countdown). There are a lot of them, many more even than you might imagine, encompassing all styles and stages of his ever-changing moods. So let’s start setting some real guidelines here…

We’ll rule out those put together retrospectively as a compilation, so no The Byrds Play Dylan or Postcards of the Hanging by The Grateful Dead. This piece only addresses those made for and released at one sitting. Space begets also a ruthlessness that further excludes participants put together solely and especially for one specific recording, so farewell the excellent Dylan’s Gospel and the intriguing Dylan Jazz. Finally, this is a Top Twenty list, squeezing out many further worthy gems like Joan Osborne’s Songs of Bob Dylan and Robbie Fulks’ 16, a track-by-track take on Street Legal that has some of the best individual songs, frustratingly alongside some decidedly not, perhaps due to the songs and not the singer. Finally, I felt it would be interesting/indulgent to add two essential bits of information about each record:

1. What is the deepest cut contained?
2: Does it feature “Like a Rolling Stone,” the benchmark Dylan song?

Will you disagree with my selections? Sure, and that’s fine, it’s what the comments area is for. Let me know what you think shouldn’t have missed the cut, and what shouldn’t have made it.
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May 052021
 

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

Patti Smith Twelve

Up until her release of Twelve in 2007, Patti Smith had not been much of one for studio covers, give or take her fabled extended riff on “Gloria,” which remains a live staple. Sure, she had the Byrds’ “So You Want to Be a Rock’n’Roll Star” on her third album, and Dylan’s John Wesley Harding deep cut “Wicked Messenger” on her sixth, but she otherwise largely wrote her own, with her friends and band members. Twelve surprised fans and critics alike, not only by being all other people’s songs, but also by the twelve songs Smith had chosen. Continue reading »

Mar 122021
 

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

Camper Van Beethoven Tusk

Rumours was a tough act for Fleetwood Mac to follow, so they didn’t follow it. Instead of giving an audience more of the same, they took a big leap with their next album, Tusk in 1979. It was the most expensive album to be recorded at the time, and although it did not reach the same level of commercial success as Rumours, there were pockets of critics and fans alike that appreciated the post-punk experiment. (Did I know Lindsey Buckingham was a big Talking Heads fan before writing this piece? No!)

Camper Van Beethoven is a band somewhere between alternative and indie rock who decided to take on Tusk in all its double-album glory.  Not to be outdone in terms of drama, their version has a conspiracy theory-esque origin story. The band claimed to have unearthed it years after recording it on a whim in the late ’80, but they actually recorded it in 2001 and then released it in 2002 as a test run to see whether they could work together as a band after an earlier breakup. Oh, the intrigue! It is good to see a little of the Fleetwood Mac drama carry on in this work, although it is a little ironic that an original album that represented a band being divided by romance gone wrong actually brought another one back together in cover form.

Tusk is no ordinary Fleetwood Mac album, and in the spirit of that fact, this is no ordinary Fleetwood Mac cover album. Let’s hear some of the contrast in sound and approach.

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Mar 052021
 

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

Siouxsie Through the Looking Glass

By 1987 the angular sounds of Siouxsie and the Banshees had mellowed enough for them to be regulars in the British charts and on the accompanying TV shows. The striking appearance of icy she-wolf Siouxsie had always contributed much to their success, her atonal approach to melody both idiosyncratic and chillingly effective, the only remnant from their first appearances, wherein the grasp of rudimentary technique was echoed by the lack of any instrumental prowess. Which only goes to prove the worth of their perseverance with the punk ethos: in any other time the band wouldn’t have stood a chance.

Fresh from touring Tinderbox, an album that had cemented their reputation, the band spent the downtime back in the studio, producing the covers album they had always wanted to do. No stopgap contractual filler, this; Through the Looking Glass was squeezed in ahead of any expectation. Of course, the band had already shown their cover capabilities, with the delightfully uber-psychedelic version of the Beatles’ “Dear Prudence,” a brave move in a time when admitting a Beatles affinity (in public, at least) might be considered poor form.

The initial choice of songs came largely from the early ’70s, a time when the old order was beginning to look pregnable, with new styles beginning to emerge, biting at the ankles of the towering giants of an increasingly bloated music industry. Bands such as Kraftwerk were showing how much (and how little) could be done with cheap electronic keyboards; Roxy Music were blurring and blending styles and genres into a sci-fi retrodelia; Television were proving outriders for the earlier and more cerebral NY take on punk. Add in the bizarre world of Sparks, quirky oddballs in their homeland, who were beginning to find acceptance in the UK. Then mix well with some of the more favored sons of the sixties: the Doors, Iggy from the Stooges, and the Velvet Underground’s John Cale. Here were where Siouxsie and company went panning for gold. With a song from The Jungle Book thrown in for good measure. And perhaps the oddest version yet of Billie Holiday’s “Strange Fruit” for dessert.
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Feb 102021
 

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

When is a cover not a cover? If a song is written but never committed to any released format, what counts as the original version? Both questions that might raise askance of this set, a set that I believe can, and indeed should, pass muster for these august pages. After all, if it’s good enough for Woody Guthrie

Jeffrey Lee Pierce is a name known more by association, I guess, than in his own right, popping up in the alongside others plowing the same vein. Literally. Whilst his lifetime recorded output, predominantly under the Gun Club soubriquet, may have been prodigious, he left enough unfinished and discarded songs to provide the bulk of the material in these three (so far) recordings.
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