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 202020
 

Some covers are more equal than others. Good, Better, Best looks at three covers and decides who takes home the gold, the silver, and the bronze.

It’s the longest day of the year, so we have time to explore one of the longest songs we’ve ever celebrated in the long history of this website. Pink Floyd’s “Echoes” clocks in at 23:31. It occupies all of side two of their 1971 album Meddle, and it occupies the minds of the many Floyd fans who consider it the band’s peak achievement.

Thanks to several decades of live recordings, a kind of connoisseurship has developed around the song in its different iterations. Devotees weigh the pros and cons of the early-to-mid-70s concert recordings that feature “Echoes,” and compare/contrast those with the shows from the band’s post-Roger Waters period, and how they all stack up against the original studio version.
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Jun 192020
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

While The Isley Brothers are commonly filed under Soul or R&B, that categorization only partially reflects what they have delivered soundwise since the release of their first album way back in 1959. We all know how this works: basically, whatever genre your biggest hits fall into will then by default define who you are to the world forevermore. And because their most popular songs are of the soul shouter-disco/funk-quiet storm variety, they have been conveniently stuffed into the singular genre of Soul/R&B. But in the case of the Isleys, this cut-and-dried categorization is exceptionally misleading. Which is to say, while their ’60s hits “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak For You) and “Shout Pts. & 2” remain their highest ranking tracks in terms of Spotify plays, they are hardly reflective of the true, signature Isley sound, a perfect melding of topical Rock & Soul that remains unmatched to this day. Make no mistake (and with all due respect to their former Motown label mates, The Temptations and The Four Tops), The Isley Brothers were a proper band. Like The Beatles or The Stones. A classic old school, turn the amp up to 11, self-contained, smokin’, genre-defying band.

This is just a roundabout way of saying  if you want to know what the Isleys are really about sonically and philosophically, it’s best to avoid the greatest hits playlists and head straight for the string of positively seminal studio albums the band released from 1971-1976. There were 6 in total over that time, beginning with Givin’ It Back and running on through to 1976’s Harvest For The World. It is there you will meet O’Kelly, Rudolph, Ronald, Ernie, Marvin and Chris Jasper, the real Isley Brothers.
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Jun 172020
 

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

Who Let The Dogs Out

Every once in a while, something happens in pop culture that seems to capture everybody’s attention. Whether it’s Harlem Shake videos, the ice bucket challenge, or Psy’s “Gangam Style,” these cultural phenomena are usually meteoric: they get popular quickly, show up everywhere, and, mercifully, burn out as quickly as they started. In early 2000, the ubiquitous bit of cultural ephemera clamoring for our attention was the Baha Men’s “Who Let the Dogs Out?” You remember it, right?

The song is catchy, bright, and driven by a simple repetitive hook—all the things that make for a hit, the kind that gets played over and over and over and… And that, of course, happened. That translated into worldwide success, with the song reaching the Top 10 in most of Europe. Interestingly, the song didn’t do that well in the US, charting no higher than #40 on the standard Billboard Chart. (It did hit #6 on the US Dance chart, though.)

Its real US success came a year of so later, when “Who Let the Dogs Out?” was picked up as the de facto anthem for sports teams of all types and at all levels, as well as appearing on the soundtrack of a couple of movies. Shortly thereafter, the market was saturated with Baha Men clothing, toys, and lots more. (To this day, you can still buy Who Let the Dogs Out merch on both the primary and secondary markets.)

You might think that this bit of lightning in a bottle was a Baha Men original, but its history actually goes back decades, includes a couple of lawsuits, and is nearly as colorful as the Baha Men’s stage outfits.
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