Oct 212010

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

Note: This post was supposed to go up yesterday, but due to server issues it never did. So a happy belated birthday to Mr. Dogg!

Happy b-dizzle to Cordozar Calvin Broadus, the king of Tha Dogg Pound. Hailing from sunny California, Snoop Dogg turns 39 today and still continues to make cameos on some of the latest pop hits. His association with Dr. Dre, a penchant for the smokier things in life, and of course the addition of “izzle” to our vocabulary have made him a legendary icon in hip hop.

His soothing rap voice is unforgettable, his ability to party is undeniable, and he'll leave you no choice but to join in. For a tough rapper, Snoop has shown he has a sense of humor in various movie roles. Artists have adopted that same humor in their covers of his songs. Continue reading »

May 032010

The first post of the month features covers of every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

clash london calling covers

London Calling entered into the world in December 1979, but didn’t make its stateside debut for another month.  That makes 2010 the album’s 30th anniversary on this side of the pond.  It’s aged well.  While many classic albums sound very much of their time — that’s not to say dated — London Calling sounds like something that could have been made yesterday.  With the cover image and the cover songs, the politics and the pop, the ambitious two-disc package set a bar that no double album has since matched.  So, all together now: “And I…live by the river!”

Bruce Springsteen, Elvis Costello, Dave Grohl and Little Steven Van Zandt – London Calling

Many artists cross genres with “London Calling,” ranging from bossa nova (Bruce Lash) to surf instrumental (The Pyronauts).  Somehow though, kicking this set off with anything besides a balls-to-the-wall rocker seemed wrong.  This all-star performance comes from a Grammy tribute to Joe Strummer.  [Buy]

The Brian Setzer Orchestra – Brand New Cadillac (Vince Taylor)

The Clash wasted no time getting to the rockabilly, turning Vince Taylor’s 1958 twelve-bar b-side into a full throttled rave-up.  Setzer and his orchestra jump, jive and wail through their unique brand of big band punk, adding in a touch of the Theme from Peter Gunn[Buy]

Skarabazoo – Jimmy Jazz

You may never have noticed the subdued whistle in the intro to this one, but Skarabazoo pushes it front and center.  The Italian accent adds a suitably sinister touch.  [Buy]

No Doubt – Hateful

Before all the B-A-N-A-N-A-S nonsense, Gwen Stefani could pull off some real punk swagger.  [Buy]

The Cocktail Preachers – Rudie Can’t Fail

The Charlie Does Surf tribute album settles comfortably into the über-niche genre of instrumental surf-rock.  The Cocktail Preachers buck the trend though, shouting out “Rudie can’t fail” one whole time!  Such rebels.  [Buy]

Brady Harris – Spanish Bombs

Brady’s fantastic Cover Charge album polishes everyone from Motörhead to the Killers with a country-folk gloss.  Check out the “Heart of Glass” cover he recorded for Cover Me back in February. [Buy]

Southern Arts Society – The Right Profile

In 1956, screen star Montgomery Clift was driving home from a party at Elizabeth Taylor’s.  Having had one too many, he smashed his car into a tree, destroying his famous good looks with one crunch of glass and metal.  His next ten years have been described as the “longest suicide in Hollywood history.”  The Clash wrote this song about it.  [Buy]

Petty Booka – Lost in the Supermarket

Joe Strummer wrote this song imagining the childhood of guitarist Mick Jones (who sang lead on the track).  Japanese ukulele player Booka adds a dose of cute without losing the sad.  [Buy]

The National – Clampdown

In music history, 2010 may be remembered as the Year of the National.  Everyone from Rolling Stone to NPR is stumbling over themselves praising High Violet, the most anticipated album of the spring.  The stream over at the New York Times indicates it might live up to the hype.  [Buy]

Calexico – The Guns of Brixton

Fun trivia fact: Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong named his son Brixton after this song.  Must be cheery growing up as an homage to police repression.   [Buy]

Buck-O-Nine – Wrong ‘Em Boyo (The Rulers)

The classic death-ballad tale of Stagger Lee, a southern pimp convicting of murdering William “Billy” Lyons on Christmas Eve 1885, gets twisted around.  In the Rulers’ version, Stagger Lee is the hero of the tale.  St. Louis’ Riverfront Times hosts a telling[Buy]

Social Distortion – Death or Glory

Following a few years behind the Clash, Social Distortion gave punk anger a West coast spin.  They didn’t get around to covering the Clash until 2005 though, on the soundtrack to the skateboard film Lord of Dogtown[Buy]<

La Furia – Koka Kola

La Furia are a Clash cover band with a twist: every song gets translated into Spanish.  [Buy]

James Dean Bradfield – The Card Cheat

The Manic Street Preachers singer busted out this relative obscurity at a 2006 festival appearance.  This underrated narrative describes the rise and fall (mostly fall) of a dishonest gambler.  [Buy]

Mauri – Lover’s Rock

If one had to name London Calling’s Achilles heel, this song might be it.  It aims for insight into the tension between love and sex, but quickly devolves into blowjob puns.  [Buy]

Creation Rockers – Four Horsemen

The Clash roiled punk purists by incorporating outside styles like reggae.  Shatter the Hotel: A Dub Inspired Tribute to Joe Strummer pays it back.  [Buy]

Thea Gilmore – I’m Not Down

Gilmore popped up here last week, beautifying Dylan’s “I Dreamed I Saw St. Augustine.”  Now she’s back with an anthem for society’s trampled on.  [Buy]

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs – Revolution Rock (Jackie Edwards & Danny Ray)

And we’re back to Spanish, on a track from these prolific Argentineans’ 1994 album Vasoc Vacíos (Empty Glasses).  [Buy]

Dwight Yoakam – Train in Vain

Johnny Cash once called Yoakam his favorite country singer, which is about as much endorsement as anyone should need.  [Buy]

Last month’s album: So, by Peter Gabriel.

Feb 042010

Cover Commissions is a monthly series in which a featured artist covers a reader-selected song for this blog. Any artists interested in participating, email me at the address on the right.

When Blondie released “Heart of Glass” in 1979, the New Wave pioneers were accused of abandoning their roots for the emerging disco sound. For once the critics may have a point, since the tune was written as a funky blues number before producer Mike Chapman got his hands on it.

“We didn’t expect the song to be that big,” guitarist Chris Stein responded. “We did it as a novelty item to put more diversity into the album. It’s not selling out; it’s only one song.”

November Cover Commissions artist Brady Harris takes “Heart of Glass” back from disco. He takes it way back. Here’s what he has to say:

I always admired how Blondie could move comfortably from genre to genre – hit to hit.
 “Heart of Glass”, like most well written songs, lends itself easily to multiple stylistic interpretations and genres. Perhaps unconsciously taking a cue from The Lovin’ Spoonful, I decided to go with an Americana-30s kind of vibe when recording this arrangement.

I laid down the acoustic guitars and a scratch vocal here at my own humble home studio then I took the song to my friend, multi-instrumentalist John Adair and his studio in Santa Monica. John laid down the mandolin, banjo, upright bass, lead guitar, piano, backing vocals, etc. I re-cut my lead vocals there and we were done but for the mixing, which John did the following week. 

Musical geek-out note on the recording: I love how on the last “Ooh-ooh, ooh-oh” you can hear the bass reach up and grab the melody riff that the mandolin’s been playing the whole song, like some poor grunt reaching for the spotlight at the last possible moment.

Thanks to John Adair!

And thank-you, Ray!

No, sir, thank you. The rich folksy swing is sure to revitalize this oldies classic for anyone sick of the disco-cheeze original.

Brady Harris ft. John Adair – Heart of Glass (Blondie)

Check out Brady’s website and MySpace for more tunes (highly recommended: his Cover Charge album, featuring takes on the Vines, Culture Club and more) and catch more John Adair at his site or ‘Space.

This mp3 may be freely shared with the artist’s blessing. Post it on your blog, send it to your friends, tweet it to the world. When you share this though, please include a link to this site. Cover Commissions is a monthly occurrence. Check back for future installments.

Dec 012009

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.

We’ve fallen a bit behind on our Cover Commissions her at Cover Me, but we’re not about to let November slip away without a new artist! In fact, Commissions is about to kick into high gear this week, beginning with a Cover Me song debut later this week (song hint: it’s not about married men). Then, getting us back on track, another poll’s coming your way next week for December’s Cover Commissions.

But first…

Brady Harris first came to our attention with his acoustic-blues cover of Snoop Doggy Dogg’s “Who Am I? (What’s My Name?),” which you can still download here. That led us to his 2007 album Cover Charge, where he takes on everyone from the Vines to Madonna. We’ve got a couple selections from that record below, but to whet your appetite you should first watch this video of him putting together the Clash’s “Jimmy Jazz” with Babyshambles’ “Fuck Forever.”

Brady’s been around much longer than that though, releasing his first album in 1993 (No Place Like Gone, with his band-at-the-time the Solid Goldstein). An emerging solo career soon led him from his native Texas to North Hollywood, where a series of albums won him accolades from the Los Angeles Times, the NXNW Music Festival and a long list of others. In the early part of this fast-fading decade he even won the Pontiac Vibe Car Commercial Contest, using the prize money to (what else) produce another record, the critically acclaimed Lone Star. His most recent is North Hollywood Skyline and is well worth a listen or ten.

Right now though, we don’t care about his original stuff (sorry). Here’s a sampling of the way this guy nails a cover.

Brady Harris – Like a Virgin (Madonna)

Brady Harris – Ace of Spades (Motörhead)

Now, the important part. As regular readers will have already guessed, Brady has graciously agreed to record a special cover just for this blog. What song? You tell him!

Below are ten songs. Click on any one to listen to the original. Then just pick which one Brady should cover in the poll on the right! The winning song get the Brady Harris treatment which, as you now know, is quite something.

Enough talk though; this month’s almost over. Presenting…

The Contenders
The Beatles – Glass Onion
The Beatles – Your Mother Should Know

Blondie – Heart of Glass

Ian Brown – Dolphins Were Monkeys
Cheap Trick – Come On, Come On

Feist – 1, 2, 3, 4

Grace Jones – I’ve Seen That Face Before
Oasis – Hello
Kevin Salem – Lighthouse Keeper

Bruce Springsteen – Born in the U.S.A.

Voting closes in one week, so get deciding! Vote on the right. And remember, check back later this week for more Commissions excitement.