Oct 122010

Recording a tribute album is a tricky proposition. Taking on an iconic band like Led Zeppelin increases the risk significantly. And trying it with 39 tracks (51 if you include the digital bonus tracks)? That’s a lot of freakin’ songs. Some of Led Zeppelin’s songs are even covered more than once in this collection. This project is the brainchild of Rob Jones, who runs the Jealous Butcher record label (home of The Decemberists and M Ward among others), and has been over five years in the making.

I, like so many others, love Led Zeppelin. I have all of their albums, box sets, and various paraphernalia. Led Zeppelin soundtracked my teenage years, helped me realize how bad most ’80s hair bands were (thanks guys) and led me to discover other great musicians Led Zeppelin cited as influences. Because their musicianship and writing is so strong, any cover will instantly be compared to the iconic original. Therein lies the rub for an artist attempting a Led Zeppelin cover. Completely re-imagine a song and risk being torn apart by the purists; stay too faithful and be told that your cover pales in comparison to the original.  Some artists on The Land of Ice & Snow are faithful to the original, others…not so much. One of the few times being unfaithful is a good thing. Continue reading »

Aug 112009

Look up. No, not at the ceiling, at the top of this blog. See that masthead? It’s ugly. I know you’ve been thinking it every time you visit here but were too polite to say anything. For that I thank you. Still, it’s time for an upgrade.

For that, I need your help. I am no artist, but I’m sure some of you are! Whether your medium is paint or Paint™, photos or Photoshop, I’m looking for someone to design a logo, a masthead, a title image to replace that ugly text up there. So let’s have a contest! Aspiring artists can design an image to go at the top of the blog and the winner (or winners, if I can’t pick just one) gets some fun prizes.


  • Street cred, resume-booster, your image seen by thousands of readers a week.
  • The opportunity to choose one week’s theme and the opportunity to choose some songs for that theme (you provide the files if I don’t have them). You can even write the descriptions if you like!
  • If you are a musician, an opportunity to have you or your band be featured in an upcoming Cover Commissions. If you’re not a musician, you can pick someone for me to try to get!
  • A grab-bag assortment of cover CDs mailed to you. Who knows what you’ll get!


  1. The image should legibly say “Cover Me.” You can include the “Songs done different” slogan or not, at your discretion.
  2. The image should be sized to fit in that space above. The width is 730, not sure about the height (anyone?)
  3. Bear in mind the blog’s color scheme when you design your image. Don’t make it look out-of-place.
  4. For bonus points, design a logo for any or all of our regular features: Cover Commissions, Cover News, Shuffle Sundays, or Full Albums. Those should be sized to fit at the top of an individual blog post. Prizes for this to be allocated as applicable.
  5. The deadline for submissions is Monday, August 24 (two weeks from today). Email submissions to covers86[at]gmail.com.

To get those creative juices following, here are some songs about art.

Elvis Costello – When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan)
It’s a live one from fall of 2006, only a year before Costello would go on tour opening for Dylan himself. This is a full band affair though, rough guitars laying the bed for Elvis’ signature nerd-boy croon. Not sure who the woman dueting with him is. Anyone know? [Buy]

Adam Selzer – Stop Talking About Comic Books or I’ll Kill You (Ookla the Mok)
Ookla the Mok, in addition to being a phenomenal band name, was a character in the Saturday morning cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian. Yet this songwriter hates comic books? Ah, sweet irony. It’s a side-splittingly funny song, made all the better in this hyper-sincere take. Oh, and did we mention Adam is doing this month’s Cover Commissions? Only a few days left to vote! [Buy]

Clinker – Story of an Artist (Daniel Johnston)
Adding a bed of strings and echoed vocal should totally kill this beautiful song, but all the elements are arranged so perfectly they take the oft-covered tune to a whole new place. [Buy]

Ericka Nova – Let It All Go (Mark Knopfler)
This one’s the source of Mark’s 2007 album title Kill to Get Crimson. It’s a truly brilliant song by the most underappreciated songwriter in rock, so I will send you to look at the lyrics. A lament about a failing artist being told to just give up, there are more important things to do. “It’s the end of the thirties / No time for arties / Over in Poland a right old to-do.” [Buy]

Holly Ramos – Art Lover (The Kinks)
There’s something about the delicate Ramos singing “I’m not a dirty old man” that gets me every time. [Buy]

The Thing – Art Star (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
It’s instrumental horn-fueled grunge-free-jazz and, awful as that sounds, it’s somehow grin-inducing as these guys say the hell with convention. [Buy]

Marc Almond – Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
After “Tainted Love” it should be no secret that the Soft Cell frontman has a way with covers. This one’s dark and huge, like a Phantom of the Opera outtake. [Buy]

Treepeople – Andy Warhol (David Bowie)
You can’t have songs about art without a few songs about artists. David Bowie’s off-kilter meandering gets a grunge-punk treatment here which, ironically, warps the strange rhythms into a more conventional-sounding tune. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – Vincent Van Gogh (Robert Friemark)
Dylan busted this one out with his old parter-in-crime Bob Neuwirth at various dates on the second leg of his legendary Rolling Thunder tour. It’s a shame the recording quality isn’t better, but I recommend playing it yourself anyway. [Buy]

Pearl Jam – Picture in a Frame (Tom Waits)
Tom Waits himself wouldn’t perform at one of Neil Young’s legendary Bridge School Benefits until the following year, but he was already a presence in 2006 when Eddie Vedder led Pearl Jam in this cover that sounds like it was made for his gruff voice. [Buy]

Aug 072009

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist produces a special cover for this blog. The song to be covered is usually chosen by blog readers via a poll or suggestions form. Any artists interested in participating in a future installment, please email me at the address on the right.

The Broken Chimneys is the brainchild of one Adam Selzer. Adam’s been making music for years in various incarnations (search his name on iTunes and watch your computer crash) but the Broken Chimneys moniker came out of his other career: a young adult author. The author of Pirates of the Retail Wasteland and I Put a Spell On You, his latest is I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It. If Katy Perry doesn’t sue, maybe Jill Sobule will! He describes how that turned into a new musical project:

The Broken Chimneys were formed to record a “cover of an Adam Selzer song” for use on the “soundtrack” to the forthcoming novel I Kissed a Zombie and I Liked It. The results were so good that a whole album was recorded, featuring “rock” versions of some of Adam’s “greatest hits,” a couple of long-lost songs that were staples of the live set before the first album was out, and a couple of new songs.

What he neglects to mention are the non-Selzer covers the Chimneys have churned out. We’ve already seen four Dylan tunes (reposted below), and the version of “I Get a Kick out of You” below will make you beg for a full The Chimneys’ Tribute to Anything Goes album. Selzer even uncovers a lost Porter lyric: “I get no kick eating brains / One little taste and the rest goes to waste.” Now why wasn’t that in the original?

And that’s just the beginning! Selzer has offered to work up another Chimneys cover specifically for this blog, but he needs your help! Eight song choices are presented below, each with a link to a youtube video so you can easily listen to any tunes you don’t know. Which tune covers is up to you!

Listen to each, listen to the Chimneys’ other music (way more over at his site), then cast your vote in the poll on the right. Voting closes in one week and a brand-new cover of the winning song will debut here in a month or so.

For Your Consideration:
Joan Baez – Diamonds and Rust (7 votes)
John Lennon – Nobody Told Me (6 votes)
Richard Marx – Hazard (8 votes)
Neutral Milk Hotel – Two Headed Boy (11 votes)
Bruce Springsteen – For You (23 votes)
Tom Waits – Innocent When You Dream (14 votes)
War – Low Rider (17 votes)
Wilco – Laminated Cat (aka. Not for the Season) (8 votes)

Voting closes in one week, so hop to it on the right!

Jul 262009

This Week’s News

First up, if you haven’t heard Jordan Galland’s new covers of Pulp’s “Bad Cover Version” and Duran Duran’s “Hungry Like the Wolf,” check them out now!! They earned him a shout-out on RollingStone.com, so you know he’s done something right.

A couple cool covers up at SPIN from backstage at Bonnaroo. We’ve got Alberta Cross doing a John Lennon diss and Everest tackling a Crazy Horse obscurity. And be sure to read the finely-written descriptions…

I posted about the upcoming Marc Mulcahy tribute album a few weeks back, but the tracks have started coming out. The most-anticipated is clearly Thom Yorke’s contribution, and you can hear the Radiohead main man take on “All For the Best” here! Even better in my book is The National’s version of Polaris’ “Ashamed of the Story I Told.”

That National tune can also be got in Captain Obvious’ new covers mixtape. Always a good day when one of these comes out – thanks Cap’t!

Hot Chip fans and folk-pop fans can gather together to enjoy this “Ready for the Floor” cover from Lissy Trullie.

Beck continues to be a cover maniac, getting halfway through The Velvet Underground & Nico thus far at his website. Nice! Then you can get pumped for another upcoming album, Skip Spence’s Oar featuring Jeff Tweedy! Still wish he’d managed that Ace of Base disc though.

I love Springsteen covers almost as much as I love the originals, so a new 38-track tribute album by up-and-coming indie acts? Sign me up! It’s available here, with loads of free samples!

Ryan’s Smashing Life has uncovered a top-notch dance-funk “This Must Be the Place” cover which, paired with remade scenes from American Psycho is both fascinating and disturbing. A must-watch.

This Week’s Submissions

A Cappella – You Rock My World (Michael Jackson)

The Broken Chimneys – Ain’t Gonna Go to Hell for Anybody (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – Changing of the Guards (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Bob Dylan)

The Broken Chimneys – She’s Your Lover Now (Bob Dylan)

M. Pyrees and the Moonwalkers – I’ll Be There (Jackson 5)

David Potts-Dupre – Ingrid Bergman (Woody Guthrie/Wilco/Billy Bragg)

Apr 072009

I never listened to Metallica until Bonnaroo last year. I was among those most furious that they were on the lineup (as you can see here), and I made sure not to see their show. I could hear it from my campsite though, and ended up spending two hours lying in my tent listening to the music. This may not be the classic viewpoint, but to me these songs are just fun. Every time I listen to Master of Puppets a huge grin spreads across my face. I don’t know if I’m missing something or not, but what I do know is that these tunes make for great covers, particularly of the out-of-genre instrumental variety.

Lots of interesting stuff didn’t make it here, so if you want to jig check out the Celtic Tribute to Metallica or, when December rolls around, how about And Christmas for All! A Holiday Tribute to Metallica, featuring a very disgruntled looking Santa on the cover. Then drift off to sleep with Rockabye Baby! Lullaby Renditions of Metallica. Each is shockingly good; I’ve loved listening to as many strange versions of “Welcome Home (Sanitarium)” as I can find. Hope you like listening too.

Van Canto – Battery
A German a cappella metal group? Where do I sign up? All these five singers need is someone holding down the drums; every other sound from that furious guitar line to the bass progressions is voices. Absurdly good voices. Watch the video here to see for yourself. [Buy]

Harptallica – Master of Puppets
Harptallica sounds like a gimmick, and of course it is. A harpist duo performing mini-concertos of everything from “Fade to Black” to “Enter Sandman.” The thing is though, the melodies in the songs are strong enough that it works, producing a very soothing result. Just don’t expect any “Master! Master!” shout-alongs. [Buy]

Primus – The Thing That Should Not Be
Frontman Les Claypool auditioned to take over bass duties for Metallica after Cliff Burton’s tragic death, but it didn’t go so well. Lars responded to his suggestion that the crew jam on some Isley Brothers tunes by asking incredulously if he knew what kind of music they played. James Hetfield later said they turned him down because “he was too good.” [Buy]

Scott Davis – Welcome Home (Sanitarium)
I’ve posted Davis’ solo piano covers before, but they never disappoint. Listening to them, I always begin each tune amused by the novelty of the familiar tunes arranged on the keys. However, I’m quickly so drawn in to his masterful playing I forget that these are covers at all. He did a whole Metallica tribute album well worth getting. [Buy]

Adam Selzer – Disposable Heroes
A little backwoods folk from Selzer, a violin underscores his joyful singing. It’s off a full Metallica covers EP he released years ago. The fact that it sounds like it was recorded in his living room is part of the charm. [Buy]

The Scorched Earth Orchestra – Leper Messiah
I can’t find any information on this metal tribute act, but they’ve released three records, tributes to Metallica (Masters itself in fact), Slipknot, and Cradle of Filth. They’re so unknown that the About the Artist description on Amazon is about Metallica themselves. However, that same page features four reviews, all of them five stars, all lengthy and written with passion. If people actually putting thought into an amazon review doesn’t tell you something, I don’t know what does. [Buy]

Rodrigo y Gabriela – Orion
Rodrigo y Gabriela is a guitar duo without parallel, playing mostly original material of flamenco-tinged guitar influenced by Megadeath and Slayer. So a Metallica cover, of an instrumental no less, was perhaps not a surprise. What you may not expect is how truly phenomenal it is. [Buy]

Razed in Black – Damage Inc.
When I saw a cover by a group called “Razed in Black,” I thought “Oh God, tribute band.” Metallica released The Black Album once upon a time you see, and razing seems like one of those things they’d sing about. I’m glad I looked deeper, to discover that Razed is a gothic electronic act that has been featured in shows on NBC and the WB. They hop on board plenty of tribute discs, but this one comes from a mostly original album. It starts off sounding somewhat like the original but give it, oh, twenty seconds. It’s different. [Buy]