Jan 072022
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

buffalo springfield covers

Retrospective saw Buffalo Springfield’s record company out to catch a final buck or two, their cash cow having imploded ahead of quite how much of a cash cow it could or should have been. The band had been on the decidedly no-frills ATCO label, an offshoot of Atlantic for acts that failed to fit their then template of blues, jazz, r’n’b and soul, along with other square pegs of the day, like Dr. John. I say no frills, as their cover art was always of the decidedly cheap and shoddy nature: Retrospective has a cover that cannot have taxed too many creative brains, the “rips” in the background paper, to allow inserts and a makeshift collage, are all clearly visible.

Retrospective, which is actually subtitled “The Best of Buffalo Springfield,” actually performed as well as their final album, Last Time Around, and surpassed the sales of both Buffalo Springfield and Buffalo Springfield Again. It’s an artistic success, too; it contains many songs which have a greater quality, with the hindsight of time, than perhaps was fully appreciated at the time. Stills’ “For What It’s Worth,” their biggest hit, has repaid itself time after time after time, becoming a soundtrack shorthand for setting a time and place during the US civil rights years. That has to appease him a little, surely, against his always apparent second pegging against his Canadian nemesis.

Judy Wexler – For What It’s Worth (Buffalo Springfield cover)

I rather like this, with the discordant chimes of piano, this, and the slightly off vocals adding to the sense of paranoia so apparent in Stills’ lyric. For a song with so many cover versions, this is one of very few that add much of anything new or different. The retro guitar and organ are also acutely apt, as Wexler’s vocal gradually take on more treatment. Judy Wexler is a jazz chantoozie with a back catalog that has usually strayed little from standards of that tradition, and that can become a bit supper club. This, however, comes from a 2021 LP entitled Back To the Garden (yes, that garden), celebrating the songs of the ’60s into ’70s. True, some are a bit anodyne, but by and large it pays a listen. Hell, she even makes “Big Yellow Taxi” bearable.

Nils Lofgren – Mr. Soul (Buffalo Springfield cover)

Wanting mainly to avoid the progressively corrupted facsimile copies of this proto-metal-punk songs that prevail, who better than Nils to offer this rather more nuanced acoustic take? Lofgren, of course, the teen prodigy who, years ahead of gracing Bruce’s E Street Band, was adding his piano to Young’s After the Gold Rush, and who is now, again, a member of the mighty Crazy Horse. Perhaps Young’s simplest song, it is a righteous snarl on the BS version, offering few clues as to the songwriting the author was capable of, but still remains as one of the more likeable songs within his canon. Lofgren, arguably more a player than a singer, has just the right gruffness required, that not always so successful on the rest of the album from whence it comes, The Loner: Nils Sings Neil. (Whither Nils Sings the Boss?)

Donny Osmond – Sit Down, I Think I Love You (Buffalo Springfield cover)

WTAF!! Donny pejorative Osmond? I know, I know, it’s hard to believe but don’t go. Popping away any of the punch in this second Stills song, it is actually OK. Sure, it is sappy and mindless, as is much of the power of pop music, and should be. Making the Mojo Men version seem positively hardcore by comparison, it has a beguiling and simple charm, allied to the litest of reggae lite backbeats. I am not sure I could listen to the whole album, if indeed it comes from one, but, if hearing this, unknown, I could appreciate quite what he, or his producers, have done with the source material. (Should you need to know, it comes from the Don’s 1971 record, To You With Love, Donny.)

Percy Sledge – Kind Woman (Buffalo Springfield cover)

Unexpected cover number two. I think Sledge absolutely nails this song, the sole Richie Furay song on the album. In the inimitable church organ style of the “When a Man Loves a Woman” hitmaker, with sympathetic brass and a choir in full collusion, it is as far removed from the tasseled buckskin jackets of Buffalo Springfield as I can imagine. Indeed, the idea of Neil, Stephen and Richie, all in tuxes and white silk scarves, sweating in the spotlight, becomes quite appealing, especially if all with appropriately short and brilliantined hair. Percy Sledge may have only ever done one song, but he did it so well that it warrants him doing it all over, even with different words and lyrics.

Sugarcane Jane – Bluebird (Buffalo Springfield cover)

You could say it takes forever for this live version of Stills’ second-finest BS song to get going. And that, don’t you feel, is part of the appeal. It certainly looks a lot of fun. The band are based around husband and wife Anthony Crawford and Savana Lee, who it is here, pregnant and playing the snare drum. Crawford has actually appeared as a sideman on many of Neil Young’s various recordings, as well as for Dwight Yoakam, Eddie Rabbitt, and Steve Winwood. They have a plethora of their own recordings as well, being a top draw in the Gulf Coast circuit.  I guess it is maybe unfair to judge them on a live barroom show alone, but even if you did, I bet you’d stay to the end. And, as support for Dwight’s forthcoming tour, I’d get in early to catch them.

Rainy Day – On the Way Home (Buffalo Springfield cover)

It takes quite a bit to de-escalate one of Neil Youngs’s more wistful downbeat whimsies, but, by Jove, this lot manages it, turning this gentle and somber song into altogether a bit of an anticlimactic snooze fest. All the more so, as you realize who was, or may have been, on board. Rainy Day seems mainly to have been an all-star Paisley Underground collaborative, put together, perhaps, to fill such a rainy day in L.A., making it feel more like a week. However, Discogs tells me that this “On the Way Home” was largely a David Roback solo slot, the late Mazzy Star man, which goes some way to explain the narcoleptic presentation. Makes it better, in fact, but I would like to see how would have fared, had he enrolled other rainy Day alumni, such as Susannah Hoffs and Steve Wynn. Rainy Day’s sole product, self-titled, came out in 1984, and included one other Neil Young song, as well as covers by Dylan, the Who, and the Beach Boys.

Scott the Hoople – Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing (Buffalo Springfield cover)

I guess the album art is a give-away, this appearing on an all Shakey tribute album, that could actually manage the loss of the ‘e’ and still be accurate. Indeed, we covered the parent album here. Put together by Scott McCaughey, sometime multi-instrumental sideman for R.E.M. until a devastating stroke in 2017. This album was part his therapy, the deliberate Youngian shambles is a perfect fit for the songs, rather than, I hope, all his condition allows. Maxing the inherent psychedelia from the melody and infusing the meter with a lope-legged wobble, it perfectly captures how Neil might have tackled it himself, away from the rest of the band, not least the ham-fisted rhythmic cadences in the original. The organ and the phased guitars exude the atmosphere of a perma-stoned Haight to degree that way transcends the New Christy Minstrelisms in its first iteration. One question: who the hell was Clancy?

Kate Rogers – Broken Arrow (Buffalo Springfield cover)

Perhaps Neil Young’s most ambitious song ever, this meandering epic of a song is never going to be open much to covering. Possibly not unwisely, Rogers here is covering more the song in its demo version, “Down Down Down,” as revealed in the (Young curated) BS boxset of 2001. However, she brings in some slight flavors from the wide ranging original that is enough to remind the eccentricity of the song, her delivery sufficient to recall the inherent beauty. Rogers is a Canadian singer who has paddled in only the shallower waters of fame, rather than gaining any full immersion, perhaps coming up against unfair comparisons with the likes of Dido. In covers land we know her best for her 3rd record, Seconds, which is where this song comes from, along with creditable versions of songs by as varied a cast as the Pixies and the Smiths, throwing in Blink-182 and Radiohead for good measure. Worth a listen.

The Beach Boys – Rock and Roll Woman (Buffalo Springfield cover)

The other, I guess, 2nd best known Stills BS song, I was as excited as you to think Burbank’s finest may have done a full-blown vocal cover version of this, wondering quite how it would sound. Sadly that wonder remains untapped, as not a vocal cord is strained in this rendition. Indeed, beyond the guitar motif that introduces the song, lifted verbatim from Stills, that is all you get. Buoyed by the anticipation that Carl and the boys might chime in at any moment, I listened to the end, getting the feel that Carl too had been hoping that, perhaps setting it up as a click track for that very purpose. (I keep saying Carl, as this comes from 2018’s Friends sessions boxset, a time when Brian was, although nominally in control, beginning to retreat a little into the sandbox.) I’d still love to hear the harmonies as or if the Boys joined in.

The Meat Puppets – I Am a Child (Buffalo Springfield cover)

Well, that was a bit different, wasn’t it?! And, whilst other opinions may be available, or even reflex, it has, um, something. Whether it is sufficient that the something is to totally deconstruct and destroy perhaps the most delightful and childlike of Neil Young’s songs is uncertain, but that they certainly achieve. Compared, actually, to the wishy-washy would be copycat performances out there, I prefer it, as I can never see anyone but Neil getting away with the lyrics or the general ambience. Or at least to make it as believable as only he can do. Whether I like it, per se, is another story, which is a shame, as I want to like both the version and the idea of the Meat Puppets. With a name so gross, surely some goodness must arise? The brainchild of the brothers, Curt and Cris Kirkwood, and the initial drummer Derek Bostrom, he now back in the band after a 24 year hiatus, they have had an astonishing 41 year career, nominally still going, and with fans touting for a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame induction (unsuccessful) last year. This comes from the expanded version of their 1980 eponymous debut. I especially like that Meat Puppets II contains a song called “I Am a Mindless Idiot.”

Buddy Woodward – Go and Say Goodbye (Buffalo Springfield cover)

Am I surprised or disappointed it has taken so long to get to a bluegrass cover, this and so many of the Springfield songs so open to such interpretation? Be that as it may, this has just the right mix of hokum and sawdust to have feets a’tapping. A Stills song, this, even in his band’s own rendition, forewarns of the country leanings he later explored deeper, if better, in Manassas. Buddy Woodward seems to have been operating a largely off-grid career in bluegrass and Americana, operating out of New York City, and has performed with many a performer of higher repute, Emmylou Harris and Steve Earle for two. He has also been a voice artist for the Pokémon series and appeared in the long running TV series of Nashville.

Jakob Dylan feat. Regina Spektor – Expecting To Fly (Buffalo Springfield cover)

Along with “Broken Arrow,” this is the other song that has Young demonstrating his inability to fully engage in any concept of being a team player. Whilst the former has some backing vocals from Furay, this is Young and Young alone, the others possibly even unaware of the stuff he was cutting whilst they were away. I think it ideal that is should be Bob’s boy, Jakob, offering this tribute, as this operates at a level above that of a mere cover, and Jakob’s daddy is perhaps the only artist with a catalog that surpasses even Young’s. Regina Spektor adds a glorious second verse vocal, ahead of the pair coming together for the swooping chorus, or parts of it. It comes from a documentary soundtrack curated by Dylan, the documentary, Echo In the Valley, made by Andrew Slater, and being about the Laurel Canyon neighborhood of the 60s, that proved so elemental in the development of folk into rock of that moment in time. Dylan was instructed to produce the accompanying music, reprising and recalibrating the music made there at that time. Featuring a panoply of other guests, Cat Power, Beck, Fiona Apple, the author of this song also pops up, on a cover of the Byrds’ David Crosby song “What’s Happening.”

Nov 262021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Harvest covers

Harvest is the one Neil Young album that everybody knows of. The reason? Almost undoubtedly “Heart of Gold,” that era-defining song of the early ’70s, all acoustic whimsy, swaying on a stool. Of course it is a terrific song, if a little diminished by ubiquity, but not hugely typical of, at least, Young’s latter-day work, especially when he saddles up with Crazy Horse.

But, by golly, that sweet acoustic ditty has done ol’ Shakey well. At last count there were over a hundred “Heart of Gold” covers, some of them good enough to warrant a yearly check of no small size passing through his mail slot. It did pretty well in its author’s iteration too, mind, hitting the coveted number one spot in the US singles chart (Young’s only sojourn there) and top ten in many other territories. Considering Young had only started dabbling with acoustic songs in response to a back injury, necessitating his sitting to play, how serendipitous must that fall have been? Mind you, his own comments as to where it took him were less than generous: “This song put me in the middle of the road. Traveling there soon became a bore so I headed for the ditch.”

On the back of the single, so too did Harvest flourish, likewise becoming a chart topper with Young’s biggest LP sales to date. Characteristically, given the sheer cussedness of the man, it contains a number of styles, some harking back to previous album After the Gold Rush, some more akin to future more country-inflected excursions. This reflected the musicians recruited, largely country session men making their first outing as the Stray Gators. Pedal steel player Ben Keith, bassist Tim Drummond, and drummer Kenny Buttrey helped shape Harvest‘s sound. So did Jack Nitzsche, the producer and pianist who also played a part with Crazy Horse. Nitzsche decided to orchestrate a couple of the songs as well, an odd move at the time for an artist in other than easy-listening territory. And then there was the stark and bleak beauty of “The Needle and the Damage Done,” gaunt in its unadorned voice and guitar, a song as chilling as Bert Jansch’s clearly influential “Needle of Death.”

A year shy of its half century, how, then, has Harvest fared? How well have the songs lasted? How do they fit into the differing tastes of this century? These more recent interpretations help reveal the answer: better than expected. The original Harvest is an album I listen to for a wallow in nostalgia; these ten covers stand on wholly different ground.
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Oct 292021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

The Go Go's "Beauty and the Beat"

The Go-Go’s are the first LA punk group to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. You might be saying “Huh? Aren’t the Go-Go’s pretty mainstream pop?” Sure, but they weren’t always. The recent documentary about the Go-Go’s uncovers the band’s punk roots. The band members themselves have talked about their early days, finding their groove in the LA punk rock scene, and emphasizing the role women played in that scene. To experience a little bit of that early sound, there is a collection of early recordings and demos here.

The Go-Go’s eventual transition towards pop came with some bumps, including initial resistance to the production on Beauty and the Beat as well as a change in the bass lineup from Margot Olavarria to Kathy Valentine, at least in part due to pressure to leave some of the most hardcore punkiness behind. The bass spot turned over often in the history of the Go-Go’s (for any Harry Potter/Go-Go’s cross over fans, the bass spot in the band is like the Hogwarts Defense Against the Dark Arts teacher position).

During the band’s first break-up, Valentine took Jane Wiedlin’s spot as rhythm guitarist and Paula Jean Brown became the band’s bassist. When the band reunited, Valentine went back to bass, but then later during tours in the 2010s, Abby Travis had to tap in when Valentine was injured. In 2013, Valentine left the group and sued the band. Despite this tension, Valentine returned in 2016. Otherwise the band make-up has stayed pretty stable aside from the change of drummer from Ellisa Bello to Gina Schock, who also happened to sue the group at one point, early on in the band’s career. Some of the lore about Bello and Olavarria can be found here.

The Go-Go’s have inspired many women musicians to be fearless and unapologetic about their sound. They have been cited as influences for riot grrrls and Spice Girls alike; they were girl-power even before the term “girl-power” was coined and popularized. Their debut album, Beauty and the Beat, was the first album written, sung, and played entirely by women to hit #1 on the Billboard 200 albums chart. Actually, that hasn’t happened ever again. Girl power indeed! 

To celebrate their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Beauty and the Beat‘s undefeated status, we aim to find punk-esque covers of this full album.

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Aug 262021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

The Velvet Underground

The Velvet Underground are making one of their regular visits to current-events music magazines, what with the Todd Haynes documentary that wowed Cannes and the impending Hal Willner tribute album. Of course, they’ve never left the annals of influence – not since all those few who bought their first album went out and formed bands.

But it’s their third album we’re going to look at today. A complete one-eighty from White Light / White Heat, the album that preceded it, The Velvet Underground saw Lou Reed embracing his inner balladeer, writing and playing slower and so much sweeter. With Doug Yule replacing the singular John Cale, and with Sterling Morrison and Maureen Tucker both as simpatico with bucolic Lou as brusque Lou, the band was more united than ever, and just as powerful in a whole new way. (Quick aside: Happy birthday to Maureen Tucker, who turns 77 today, and a moment of silence for Sterling Morrison, who was born one August 29 and died one August 30.)
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Aug 062021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Wish You Were Here covers

Few bands have lost their star and their leader, the writer and singer of their songs, and only then rocketed to stratospheric levels of success. But that’s the main thrust of the Pink Floyd saga. Those two themes—of tragic loss and outsized stardom, absence and success—are at the heart of their 1975 Wish You Were Here album. The “You” in the title refers to Syd Barrett, who led the band until his disintegration in the late ’60s. At the same time, “You” refers to anyone you ever loved and lost, which is part of why the album and its title track are so enduring.

Wish You Were Here had the thankless task of following The Dark Side of the Moon, the success of which is hard to overstate. In its wake, Floyd guitarist David Gilmour called Dark Side “a benevolent noose hanging behind us.” Many a Floyd aficionado loves Wish You Were Here more than its predecessor (even some Pink Floyd members count it as their best), but among the general populace nothing eclipses Dark Side. Just glance at the landscape of cover versions: Dark Side has sprouted all manner of tributes and reinterpretations—some of which have taken on lives of their own, with anniversary reissues and the like—while Wish You Were Here remains practically virgin territory for other musicians to explore.
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Jun 252021
 

Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Eurythmics Greatest Hits

Yes, we are back in Greatest Hits territory again, probably the only way to sufficiently scour out the coverland of this undeniably extremely successful band, largely better known for singles rather than albums. Some may question my choosing to take this challenge, given a prior opinion or two of mine around the fragrant Ms. Lennox. But let me stake my claim: the initial output of Eurythmics sounds just sublime to these ears and was seldom bettered amongst the bevy of synthesizer duos of the day. Sure, ubiquity can conspire against how well critical reception actually was at the time, but, for a while, wow, how ubiquitous were they? With 75 mill records seemingly sold, either you or someone you know must have at least something by them. I know I have.

I remember well my first sight of Eurythmics, on that venerable UK serious rock show, The Old Grey Whistle Test. It aired late at night on a minority channel for nascent music nerds, all pretending to be asleep for their parents downstairs. I was already familiar with the duo of Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart, from their earlier work in The Tourists. And I confess, I was as much taken that Whistle Test concentrated more on the dual facts that they were at Conny Plank’s German studio, the home of Can, and that Blondie sticksman, Clem Burke was thumping their tubs, as well as Can bassist, Holger Czukay, turning up on French horn. But they failed to set the cash tills ringing; a revision and revamp required and delivered, just in time for the peak of MTV, their videos ideal for the format. I was transfixed.

Eurythmics’ first (OK, second really) record was a masterpiece fit for its times, with a slew of singles all gaining attention and acclaim. Over the next (was it only) six years, they took over the charts, with a run of 21 singles, between two and five each year, most going top twenty if not top ten. After quitting at the top of their game, they made a brief return in 1999 and had a further brace of hits. The sound changed radically over those years, from synthesizer duo to stadium rock extravaganzas, but always with the searing knife through butter vocal of Lennox to the fore. Lennox then reverted to her solo career, Stewart to a lot of plans and promises, if little much of real merit to show for it. Bar a solitary appearance at a Beatles tribute show in 2014, that was it, they were done. (OK, seeing as that was a cover……)

A confession before kick-off: this piece was originally based about Ultimate Collection, the second and slightly larger of Eurythmics’ hit compilations, mainly as I liked so much the two singles that came from Peace, their 1999 reprise. Frustratingly, I had to ditch that idea, due to the shortage of cover versions. Which isn’t saying this set was necessarily easy. But it was a shame, there being more than a couple of covers I liked, songs that had been hits for the band, but had inexplicably failed the cut for that first collection. So, having done the work, may I sneak in an odd bonus track?

So, let’s see who was listening to Eurythmics…
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