Oct 082021
 

I was obsessed with the thrash metal band Anthrax in the late ‘80s. After repeatedly seeing their videos on MTV, I purchased several of their albums and even saw them headline the Headbangers Ball Tour in 1989.

Around that time, I remember having a heated dinner-time discussion with my brother about Anthrax’s long-term musical prospects. “They won’t be around in five years,” my brother declared. I was more confident in the band’s sustainability, but even I couldn’t have predicted that thirty-two years later the group would be celebrating its 40th anniversary. I doubt even they could have imagined such longevity. Metal still rules, apparently.

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Aug 132021
 

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!

everything but the girl covers

Confession: I was not happy when Everything But the Girl traded in their jangly, moody, melodic guitar pop to “go electronic” in the mid-’90s. While I wouldn’t equate it to what Dylan purists apparently felt when he infamously decided to “go electric” back in the ’60s, my eternally ’80s teen self thought it sucked and felt downright betrayed. EBTG had been one of my absolute favorite bands, and here they were forsaking their nerdy identity to go hang with the cool kids, leaving behind the introspective and geeky brethren and sistren who loved them.

The song that changed it all, “Missing,” began its life innocently enough. It was just another perfectly constructed, poetic and winsome track on an album that was chock-full of them, 1994’s Amplified Heart. This original version was released as a single, but only got as high as #69 on the UK pop chart. Then, in 1995, this crazy thing happened. The duo gave the track to DJ-Producer Todd Terry to remix for club play. But calling it a “remix” is underselling what it really was: a resurrection. Terry expertly sculpted “Missing” into an sleek, housed-up, heartbreaking dance anthem for the ages. It sold millions of copies all over the planet and has since become a permanent fixture on every “Best Songs of the ’90s” playlist in existence.

The success of “Missing” paved the way for the duo’s stylistic shift from earthy acoustic sounds to cooler electronic ones. The duo debuted the updated sound on their very next album, 1996’s Walking Wounded; its heartbreaking charms were undeniable, and all it took was one listen for me to fall back into the fold of hardcore EBTG fandom, never to depart again. Tracey (Thorn) and Ben (Watt) were still EBTG, after all, and the songs were as regal, poetic, and beautiful as they had ever been, even in this new and different guise (inside joke there for you EBTG nerds), a guise they maintained until they decided to close the book on the EBTG partnership in 2000 and just focus on their respective solo endeavors.

Now the reason I bring all this history this up is to note that pretty much all of the covers they did were recorded before this famous stylistic change; hence, their sound harkens back to the jangly days. Fact is, they pretty much stopped doing covers once they started exploring the electronic/dance side of things. So by default, the best EBTG covers all happened during the era we’ll call EBTG b.c. (before clubland), as opposed to the latter-day incarnation, EBTG a.d. (after dance).

In keeping with the longstanding tradition of all pop music ever, the most popular EBTG covers aren’t necessarily the best ones. Their cute ‘n’ groovy version of Cole Porter standard “Night And Day” and jaunty run-through Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Only Living Boy In New York City” are nice, as is their duet on Tom Waits’ “Downtown Train.” But if you want to hear EBTG at their interpretative best, swivel the chair around from the openly cool, famed and critically acclaimed and cast an ear toward the unabashedly POP heartbreakers–Mom favorites and oddball deep cuts. Let’s get driving…
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Aug 102021
 

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!

20th Century

People come up with crazy schemes all the time – what’s less common is when someone actually goes through with said crazy scheme. Americana legend Peter Stampfel, formerly of The Holy Modal Rounders and The Fugs, is that someone. Continue reading »

Jul 092021
 

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!

The Jaded Hearts Club

Let’s start our final day of Supergroup Week with the band that started my own deep dive into supergroups…

The origin story of The Jaded Hearts Club is so pure of heart (just look how happy they look above!). Jamie Davis, co-owner of Transcopic Records, wanted a Beatles cover band for his birthday party, so he recruited his musical friends, Matt Bellamy (of Muse), Nic Cester (of Jet), Graham Coxon (of Blur and co-owner of Transcopic), Miles Kane (of Last Shadow Puppets), and Sean Payne (of the Zutons), to help him out. After that initial foray into covers, the band released a cover album in 2020, expanding beyond the Beatles.

This inspired me to look into other supergroups, their origin stories, and the musical networks that create them. What musicians have a day job as musicians but still have creativity overflowing to pour into side projects? There’s an extra layer when supergroups cover other musicians’ work (I’m not including when they cover songs originally by members from their formal musical careers). Cover bands are the ultimate anti-ego; they’re paying their respects to music that has influenced them.

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Jul 072021
 
The Highwaymen Supergroup

The previous supergroups we’ve featured for Supergroup Week have been members of other bands, forming a new band with musicians based on their musical networks. This sometimes is a natural progression: band dynamics cause groups to fracture and leave members looking for a new team to create music with. Friends from a musical past-life join others that they’ve jammed with at some point to try something new. This time around, we have solo artists joining forces. This suggests a longing to collaborate and be part of a bigger musical effort. We also switch genres, from rock to country & western with some outlaw flair. The supergroup networks are still strong in the ’80s, often first marked by solo artists covering others’ work that they admired, and their legacies sparked new supergroups in the ’10s.

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Jul 062021
 
Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

David Crosby (formerly of Byrds), Stephen Stills (formerly of Buffalo Springfield), and Graham Nash (formerly of the Hollies) formed the creatively named Crosby, Stills & Nash supergroup in 1968. There were no formal ties between the three; they had just played together in non-formal settings and were wrapping up their involvement in their previous bands around the same time. Starting in 1969, Neil Young (who knew Stills from Buffalo Springfield) was in and out of the group. This supergroup is the first band to have all members inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, true supergroup status!

Despite their popularity and success, there was frequent transition between being a trio and being a quartet due to conflicting dynamics within the group. They started as CSN in 1968, became CSNY in 1969, and then went on a hiatus in 1970. Until 1973 everyone was working solo, and then CSNY 2.0 arose in 1973. By 1976 they were down to CSN. Young made his final stint in the band starting in 1988 but wasn’t always part of the touring, especially in the 2010s.

Crosby, Stills & Nash were supposed to release a covers album, teased in 2010 and 2014, but it never happened. A devoted fan has crafted a place holder if you can’t let it go.

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