Nov 112020
 

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

This Year's Model covers

 

Before there was Elvis Costello, there was Day Costello. Well, actually, Day Costello was the name Ross MacManus (Declan Patrick MacManus’s father) used for a recording of a cover of Paul McCartney’s “The Long and Winding Road” in 1970. The song was a number one hit in Australia, and the name Costello actually belonged to Elvis’ great-grandmother. Six years later, young Declan signed to Stiff Records. He was going by D.P. Costello until his manager Jake Riviera rechristened him Elvis.

Elvis Costello unleashed an instant power pop classic when he tossed 1978’s This Year’s Model into the mix. It earned best album of the year in Robert Christgau’s Pazz & Jop poll in The Village Voice, and has topped many a best album list since. It was Costello’s second album, but his first with The Attractions. His sharp wit and punk rock ethos manifest themselves in each song, shedding some light on why this nerdy Buddy Holly-esque looking guy runs around calling himself Elvis and gets away with it. His new band is a little more rocking than the backing band on his debut album, My Aim Is True (a country band called Clover), and Steve Nieve’s organ is a driving force that cements a lifelong partnership between the two men.

Elvis Costello has gone on to release over 30 albums (eight with The Attractions), win a few Grammys, get inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and pen a few songs for films (including partnering with Burt Bacharach and T-Bone Burnett on two of them). He’s collaborated with the likes of Paul McCartney, Daryl Hall, Annie Lennox, Billie Joe Armstrong, Fiona Apple, Bruce Springsteen, and many more, and he’s had a very successful career. But his 1978 masterpiece tends to resonate most with people. It stands the test of time, and its punk rock/power-pop mix of attitude and hooks with clever wordplay, and the occasional laidback number, lend it a wide scope influencing artists across genres.
Continue reading »

Oct 202020
 

My Darling ClementineForgive the sense of deja vu. We have indeed been here before, at different stages of fruition; this being the 3rd and final chapter of Country Darkness, hitherto a work in progress.

For those not up to speed, here we have the UK’s answer to George’n’Tammy, the married country torch singers Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. Otherwise known as my Darling Clementine, they’re both big fans of Elvis Costello, and they have been spending their 2020 putting together a collection of Costello covers. To add icing to that cake, they’ve done this in conjunction with no less than Steve Nieve, right hand man and keyboard pilot for Costello since near the beginning. Released in three helpings (earlier volumes reviewed here and here), this final set is again four songs. Over the course of the year, the question has changed from whether it will be worth hearing (’twas ever thus) to whether they can keep up the momentum.

My answer: a muted yes.
Continue reading »

Oct 052020
 
best tribute albums

Over our time tracking cover songs (13 years this month!), we’ve written about hundreds of new tribute albums, across reviews, news stories, and, when they’re good enough, our best-of-the-year lists. We also have looked back on plenty of great tribute albums from the past in our Cover Classics series. But we’ve never pulled it all together – until now. Continue reading »

Jun 022020
 

My Darling Clementinejenn champion the blue albumGiven we are again treading the tearstained paths of country music, as soon as bawling follows brawling, and sinking follows drinking, one other thing in the world to rely on is the expectation honed by entitling anything as “Volume 1.” Not that it always delivers or guarantees a followup, but when husband and wife duo, My Darling Clementine, dropped Country Darkness, Vol. 1 (reviewed here), my hopes for a volume 2 went high and held there. Thankfully, the wait for said volume has not been a long one.

Country Darkness, Volume 2 has arrived. Once more it is an EP of songs of Elvis Costello, tackled by Michael Weston King and Lou Dalgleish. The duo maintain their mantle as a latter-day George Jones and Tammy Wynette, tho’ with fewer guns and lawnmowers and (hopefully) less naggin’ and nippin’. And once more it is the rippling fingers of guest Steve Nieve that does the heavy lifting beneath their vocal interplay, again proving himself a less frantic and more sensitive player than when with his usual employer. An EP, like its predecessor, with another four songs; I wonder how many more are in the box? (The press release suggests one more, 12 songs having been chosen overall.) Certainly there is no shortage of Costello songs that fall into this genre, and despite the relative annoyance of this gradual drip feeding, I am sure it makes for good accounting for the duo and their record company. Plus, I can’t wait for the eventual compilation, duplication be damned.

Continue reading »

Apr 282020
 

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

Deadicated

Deadicated is so much more than a great covers album; it’s a great album, period. But more, it also heralded the era for covers albums to be more than a leg up for aspiring musicians to get a grip on the slippery pole, by riding on the laurels of another more established act. This was one of the first tribute albums where the great and the good lined up to salute their peers.

But I’ll get back to that. My reasons for it attaining classic status stemming a whole lot more than from the fearsome reputation of the Dead. As a… well, whatever I was, I loved the idea of the Grateful Dead. But over here in Britain, there was no Deadhead culture as such. They came over, what, once? (Yup, Bickershaw Festival, 1972, as at least one contributor to the album knew only too well.) As an avid reader of New Musical Express and Melody Maker, the UK “inkies”, the musical press within whose hallowed pages they were ensured good copy, to me they were just the coolest dudes ever. I’d also read Tom Wolfe’s The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test and was smitten.

But where to start? In truth, I was daunted, happier to wear the T-shirt than buy the music. I didn’t want it spoilt by any risk of finding the idea to be less than the reality of the dream.

Luckily a trip to Orlando, circa 1987, solved that conundrum, around about the time of In the Dark. Of course, the big hit single helped, even if there were more filler tracks than killer tracks on the album. Clearly I hadn’t quite got that the Dead were more a live experience than a studio band. Still haven’t, really; to this day, listening to live records has never been a great immersive for me. But, praise be, I loved the studio records, snapping up the back catalog.

When Deadicated dropped in 1991, I bought it, unheard. The roster of artists included an impossible array of my favorites: Elvis Costello, Los Lobos, Suzanne Vega, Dr. John, Indigo Girls, Cowboy Junkies and more. Catnip and heaven combined. (Deadicated also served as a benefit for Rainforest Action Network, active to this day, a charity dedicated to the preservation of these vital once macro-climates, shrinking by the day through the scourge of deforestation.)
Continue reading »

Apr 222020
 

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

Charles Mingus

I remember when interviewers used to ask him, despite the breadth of his legacy, how he fit into traditional categories that included European classical forms, bebop, Dixieland, gospel, Latin rhythms, and the blues—all genres of music he drew upon in his compositions and then transcended. He would look up and sigh: “Can’t you just call it Mingus music?” —Sue Mingus

Today is the day Charles Mingus Jr. would be turning 98 years old. Only two years left to prepare for the centennial! It should be epic: the mark he left on 20th century music was profound and lasting. He leaves behind this monumental legacy even though his life was cut short—he died at age 56 after a diagnosis of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). Let’s celebrate Mingus with a look back at his musical legacy through some wildly different covers of his material. We’ll include several from the past couple of years, and one from an artist born well after Mingus had passed, proving that his spirit is still with us to this day.
Continue reading »