Jun 142024
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Take Me to the River

The Talking Heads cover of Al Green’s “Take Me to the River” has a very solid place in the world of cover songs. Also in the world of Cover Me: the site’s founder and editor-in-chief devoted a chapter of his book Cover Me to it, and on our first Q&A post, when the staffers were asked to name their favorite cover song, that was the response from two of them.
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Jun 072024
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Average White Band

The current iteration of the Average White Band, still featuring original musicians Onnie McIntyre and Alan Gorrie, recently completed their “Final” tour in the UK, although they have upcoming dates in the US. Nearly 60 years after they started jamming together and 50 years since the release of their breakthrough album, featuring their biggest single, the unit will move into Californian retirement.

The JB’s, Booker T. and the MG’s, The Memphis Horns, The Funk Brothers. Justly celebrated horn and rhythm sections. Driven by expert musicianship and camaraderie, they backed a thousand hit records. The Average White Band took an instrumental funk track to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100, recorded blockbuster records by soul legends including Ben E. King, and were sought after as session and touring musicians by the best in the business, among them Paul McCartney and Daryl Hall.  They were, of course, different from their heroes and predecessors, American-born legends all.
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May 242024
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Powderfinger

I just kind of stopped all over.
–The final sentence of
After Dark, My Sweet by Jim Thompson

Writing a first-person singular postmortem is the sort of project writers take on as a challenge. How to tell a tale when the teller is no longer with us? Where are they talking from? Do they know more than they did? It’s a gimmick, but like all gimmicks it has enough winners to keep people trying it.

Songwriters have taken up the challenge repeatedly, and the best of them – “Long Black Veil,” “El Paso,” “I Come and Stand at Every Door” – have met the challenge with style and grace. Neil Young’s “Powderfinger” is absolutely one of the best of them. The song’s death scene is as brief and vivid as the death itself – “Then I saw black, and my face splash in the sky” stays with you forever after you understand it.

One reason for that: it’s one of the few definite things about the song. Fans have long debated where and when it takes place, and what the song is “really” about. Neil himself rarely lets anyone peek behind the curtain, but did reveal in a 1995 Spin interview that “You may not see the anger, or the angst, or whatever in me lay behind a song like ‘Powderfinger.’ But I’ve seen things in my life that I’ll never forget—and I see them every day. And I see strength that I can’t understand, and weaknesses that I can’t deal with.”
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May 102024
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

You Are My Sunshine

“You Are My Sunshine” is an old warhorse of a song. It’s been around for so long and in so many forms as to, now, be quite beyond categorization. Until recently it has been unfairly parked under hokey old cornball music for old folk, even if the many cheesier versions out there have deserved and drawn such scorn. I know that I thought it dreadful old nonsense, until I was recently forced to accept and re-evaluate it as a song of some pathos and persuasion. You may still share my earlier view, so I put it to you: Can any of these covers shift that opinion?

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Mar 082024
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Cream

Duh duh de duh, dun dun dun da DEEEEE duh.
Duh duh de duh, dun dun dun da DEEEEE duh.

That “Sunshine of Your Love” riff has been rewiring my circuits all day, my ears thoroughly and efficiently wormed. Music writers Covach and Boone describe the riff as “blues-derived, using a minor blues pentatonic scale with an added flattened fifth note,” doncha know, and I can’t get rid of it. So I’m hoping it might help if I wrote about it. Otherwise that riff is going to stay with me ’til my seas are dried up.
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Feb 022024
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Johnny B. Goode

Really? As in, surely Cover Me must have talked about “Johnny B. Goode” before? Well, I’ve searched, and it seems “Memphis, Tennessee” is the only Chuck song to show itself on this platform. Of course, it may just feel like we’ve given Johnny the once-over twice on account of ol’ Charles Edward Anderson Berry wrote so many of the standard templates of rock (and roll). I mean, it isn’t as if nobody’s ever tried a cover, it difficult to imagine any guitar band ever not taking a crack at it. Is it not compulsory that every band of spotty youth, convening in a reluctant father’s garage, include it in their nascent set of tunes? Hell, I bet it casts a longer shadow than even “Louie, Louie,” always previously the lodestone at such gatherings. Secondhand Songs, still the wiki for cover lovers, suggests 328 versions, which, given the site’s understandable inability to know or find every single itty bitty rendition, suggests possibly a fair few more. (Indeed, as ever, we rely on you to let us know some more good(e) covers in the responses.)

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