Oct 312023
 
Deer Tick – Dancing In The Dark (Bruce Springsteen cover)

“For me, ‘Dancing in the Dark’ isn’t a song about romance, but instead a desperate plea to break out of some degraded, stagnant situation. The narrator is filled with angst, self doubt, and the only way out is to the sheer force of unwavering will power,” says Deer Tick guitarist/vocalist Ian O’Neil. “Bruce really shows us who he is on this one and it looks an awful lot like the rest of us.”

Die Sauerkrauts Polka Band — Now That’s What I Call Polka! (Weird Al cover)

There are a lot of Weird Al covers out there (okay, maybe not a lot, but more than you might think). This is new though. This band didn’t cover one of Weird Al’s parodies. They didn’t even cover a Weird Al original, like “Dare to Be Stupid.” They covered one of his polka medleys (a subject I interviewed Al about in Cover Me the book—excerpt at The AV Club). Meaning, they covered polka versions of hits by Miley Cyrus, One Direction, Gotye, and many more, all in a brisk medley. A very silly music video brings it home. Continue reading »

Oct 262023
 
moby brie o banion we're going wrong cover

“We’re Going Wrong” is a rarely covered Cream deep cut from their second album, Disraeli Gears. It’s the rare Cream song that lead singer Jack Bruce actually wrote the lyrics to, as he often worked with collaborators. There are few lyrics, though, which helps explain Bruce elongating every phrase. The song is notable for the slow pace of the Bruce’s voice and bass contrasted with Ginger Baker’s manic drums, which both build to a climax. Continue reading »

Jul 052021
 
Cream band

It’s supergroup week at Cover Me!

What’s a supergroup, you ask? Well, it’s a bit of a fuzzy concept, but the idea is that a supergroup is a musical endeavor that is made up of folks who have previously established their musical prowess in other contexts. It’s the opposite of when groups split up to go solo. Supergroups provide an interesting way to track the networks of musicians, and they also lend some insight into the creative motivations of musicians who have already struck it big but are looking for a change of pace. Sometimes famous solo musicians join forces; other times bands break up and reform new ones. We’ll see both combinations throughout the week. Today we start off with super supergroup orchestrator Eric Clapton and his multiple (if short-lived) collaborations with friends.

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Jun 142020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

The recent rioting and violence in U.S. cities forms the backdrop to this remembrance of the much-loved Irish blues-rock guitarist Rory Gallagher, who died on this day in 1995–making this the 25th anniversary of his death. The connection is simply this: in the early ’70s, when Belfast, Northern Ireland was a war-torn site of terrorist bombings and assassinations with rival paramilitary units roaming the streets, Rory defied the fear that kept other performers away. Gallagher returned repeatedly to the shattered European capital, playing sold-out shows that brought Catholics together with Protestants, Loyalists together with Nationalists, healing the region’s division with music. For a few magic hours, anyway.

The Irish still remember his bravery and of course his music–on this day especially–though both Belfast and Ireland have transformed dramatically since. The peace agreements between the warring sides were signed in 1998, just three years too late for Rory Gallagher to witness the achievement.
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Aug 072017
 
phish bakers dozen covers

For years, Phish superphans and the band’s many detractors – so far apart on so much else – have been able to agree on one thing: the band does some killer live covers. Phish long ago made a Halloween tradition out of covering another band’s album in full, tackling ambitious choices like the Beatles’ White Album and Talking Heads’ Remain in Light. And “ambitious” was also the keyword for the band’s just-completed thirteen night run at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Dubbed the “Baker’s Dozen,” each night featured a different donut theme and, more significantly, no song repeated the entire two weeks.

But back to the donuts. The band took the silly premise seriously, theming their sets each night around a donut flavor. This led to a number of surprise covers that they’ve never played before (or probably ever will again). Strawberry-donut night got “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Strawberry Letter 23.” Chocolate-donut night got “Chocolate Rain” and “You Sexy Thing” – originally by Hot Chocolate. They even dug deep into lyrics, playing the one Radiohead song that talks about lemons.

Such first-time-ever covers tend to appeal even to non-fans because they tend to be short and –
let’s keep the donut theme going here – sweet. Unlike a jelly donut, on a song they’ve never play before they rarely jam. Instead, the fun and sheer rock chops to come forward in a way they may not on the heady stuff.

So I’ve ranked all the first-time covers from the past two weeks of Phish’s concerts, below. I’ll admit I’m not a huge fan myself – I once wrote an article defending their home of Burlington, Vermont from its jam-band stereotype – but some of these are among the best performances I’ve heard by them. Others…are not. Continue reading »

Jun 032016
 

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

rotary_connection-songs

With the rise and, more importantly for the record companies, financial success of the pop music market in the mid-to-late-’60s, it should come as little surprise that this era served as one of the most prolific for cover songs. Some artists merely issued them as singles, while others saw fit to fill entire albums with pop hits of the day. And while the majority were given something of an easy listening makeover or subtle rewrite, there were a handful who saw fit to take this well-known, well-loved material and turn it on its ear. One of the best one-off examples of this is Smith’s smoldering reworking of Burt Bacharach’s song “Baby It’s You,” in which co-lead vocalist Gayle McCormick gives one of the best vocal performances of the era.

Taking a similar tack, psychedelic soul group Rotary Connection set their sights on the psych and pop hits of the day to create something wholly new and different with their 1969 album Songs. Where others who chose to take songs like the Band’s “The Weight,” “Respect” (either Otis Redding’s original or Aretha Franklin’s iconic version) and Cream’s riff-tastic “Sunshine of Your Love” stuck largely to the recognizable for understandable commercial reasons, Rotary Connection opted to take each song in an entirely new, often wildly experimental direction. By stripping the songs of their melodic and rhythmic familiarity, even the most played-out of these covers feels entirely new and different.
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