Oct 272023
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

Velvet Underground and Nico

On October 27, 2013, ten years ago today, Lou Reed died. I happened to be in New York City at the time, and his passing was a lead story on the 11 o’clock news. It was as though a part of the city itself had died. Which, inescapably, it had. Reed embodied NYC, from its seedy back rooms to its secret heart, in a way few other people, let alone musicians, ever did.

While Reed’s solo career is highly and deservingly accoladed, it still got overshadowed by the Velvet Underground. Reed’s first band featured Welsh musician John Cale, guitarist Sterling Morrison, and drummer Maureen Tucker, with Nico singing on the first album and Doug Yule replacing Cale in 1968. The band’s four studio albums started ripples that turned into tsunamis; they went from secret-handshake status to Hall of Fame giants, their influence right up there with the Beatles.

We’re honoring Lou and Company with this collection of covers. Some covers couldn’t hold a candle to the original (you’ll find no “Heroin” here), but many of the originals were receptive to another artist’s distinctive stamp. Whether you prefer the first or what followed, you’ll hear the sound of immortality as it opens yet another path of discovery.

–Patrick Robbins, Features Editor

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Oct 132023
 

We stretched our own meaning of cover version previously, when we gave the earlier three volumes of the Jeffrey Lee Pierce Sessions Project a belated review. Now, and against the odds, lo and behold, here is a fourth. Its title, The Task Has Overwhelmed Us, provides a small glimpse into the work that went into it and its end result.

As before, Task has been put together by London-based guitarist and one-time Pierce sideman Cypress Grove. Once again, it is based on demos and early recordings by the prolific Gun Club auteur, with earlier volumes stemming from cassettes squirrelled away in a drawer and found after Pierce’s untimely death. As with the others, it brings together quite the cast of contributors, many reprising roles from the earlier sets. In a reflection of the time it took to put this Task together, this includes both the living and the dead–perhaps fitting, as Pierce himself also “appears,” like a ghost at the feast, across a fair few of them.

With 18 tracks spread across four sides of vinyl, it would be impossible to talk about all the tracks here. Of course, there is the issue that few, if any, of these songs can be compared to any original. Even if you think you recognize the name of the song, possibly from one of the many Gun Club albums, the chances are that the words will be different; Pierce was notorious for writing completely different versions of, nominally, the same song.

A word is necessary for the production duties, which transcend the occasional slip from the sublime, transforming even the slightest melodic sow’s ear into a a golden purse. Sharing those duties with Grove is Australian singer, Suzie Stapleton, herself also based in London, and who appeared, if just as a performer, on the last volume. Here she steps right up, showing a sure and deft hand on the sound balance, as well as giving one of the album’s more striking vocal offerings.
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Oct 302020
 
best cover songs 2000

Every year, I do a big anniversary post tackling the best covers of a year before Cover Me was born. So far we’ve done 1969 (in 2019), 1978 (in 2018), 1987 (in 2017), and 1996 (in 2016). And in 2020 we circle back to the not-so-distant past with the most recent year yet: 2000.

Cover Me began in 2007 and we did our first year-end list in 2008, so 2000 isn’t that long before we were following this stuff in real time. But, in music eras, 2007 and 2000 seem eons apart. 2000 was nü-metal and Napster, Smash Mouth and the ska revival. Beyoncé was in the quartet Destiny’s Child; Justin Timberlake only had a one-in-five chance of being your favorite member of N’Sync (or maybe one-in-four…sorry Joey). By the time this site started seven years later, all this seemed like ancient history.

There were a lot of extremely prominent covers in 2000. “Prominent,” of course, doesn’t necessarily meaning “good.” This was the year that Madonna covered “American Pie” (not to be outdone, Britney Spears then took a stab at “Satisfaction”). It was the year a Jim Carrey movie soundtrack inexplicably asked bands like Smash Mouth and Brian Setzer Orchestra to cover Steely Dan. It was the year of “Who Let the Dogs Out?” Bet you didn’t even know that one was a cover (unless you’re a faithful Cover Me reader).

None of those are on this list (though, if you want more dated trainwrecks like those, stay tuned Monday for a bonus list I’m calling the “The Most Extremely ‘2000’ Covers of the Year 2000”). But 2000 offered a wealth of wonderful covers, often flying just under the mainstream radar. Some of them still seem of the time – anything ska, basically – but most could have come out decades earlier. Or yesterday.

YouTube was still a few years away, as was streaming more generally, so covers still mostly came out through “traditional” avenues: on albums, as the b-sides to singles, etc. As I wrote in my new book, tribute albums were big business by this time too, which means that many 2000 covers emerged through that format. Even narrowing this list down to 50 was hard, which is why Cover Me’s Patreon supporters will get a batch of 150 Honorable Mentions.

Check out the list starting on Page 2, and stay tuned for the best covers of this year coming in December.

The list begins on Page 2.

Jul 242015
 

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

sticky

Sticky Fingers is the third of the Rolling Stones’ three records (the other two being Beggars Banquet and Let It Bleed) that defined their transition from great singles band to “the greatest rock and roll band in the world,” which at the time seemed no mere hyperbole. Furthermore, the 44 years on re-issue set is just out, both uniting and dividing its critics, and the band have just revisited the album by way of a complete live concert performance, arguably their strongest work this century (and it’s now available on iTunes).
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May 162014
 

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Chuck Prophet is the classic “under the radar” artist. He’s a musician who has been recording for nearly 30 years – first with Green on Red, a band that seems more respected in its absence than it was recognized during its existence, and then as a solo act, in which a small handful of his impressive songs have barely nudged into public consciousness. He has been a successful songwriter for hire, a sought-after sideman, and has a number of higher-profile admirers. His music is generally well reviewed, and he tours regularly and successfully. Although we at Cover Me are not privy to his tax returns, it is probably safe to say that he makes a pretty good living at the music thing, but that he isn’t using hundreds to light his smokes.
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Jan 282014
 

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!

In their, yes, 40 years as a band, Los Lobos have demonstrated that not only can they play pretty much any style of music, they can play it very well. They have excelled with albums that have included blues, rock, R&B, experimental sounds, numerous styles of Mexican folk music, American folk music, Americana, and Tex-Mex, all performed and played brilliantly. They play acoustically and electrically. Their songs can be simple rockers, sinuous jams, complex sound collages, or heartbreaking stories of life on the margins. They tour regularly, with different sets each night. The core members of the band – David Hidalgo, Cesar Rosas, Louie Pérez and Conrad Lozano – have been together from the start. Sax player Steve Berlin joined in the early 1980s, and they have had a few different drummers (though not quite to Spinal Tap levels of turnover), with the excellent Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez currently occupying the stool. Considering their longevity, the breadth of their output, and the quality of their songwriting and musicianship, they should be in contention for the mythical title of Greatest American Band, and it’s sinful that they’re not in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.
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