After Christine McVie’s passing last week (here’s our covers tribute), many artists on tour began working her songs into their setlist. And though there have been a fair share of “Don’t Stop”s and “Little Lies”, one song has become the clear, cathartic favorite: “Songbird.” Here are four of the most prominent (a fifth, LCD Soundsystem’s, I can’t find any recording of).
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
In June of 2022, Kate Bush’s “Running Up That Hill (A Deal With God)” was used to soundtrack a climactic scene in the premiere episode of season four of the Netflix series Stranger Things. What happened next is already the stuff of pop music legend and a tale that will be remembered and recounted for years to come. As the 37-year-old pop song by the reclusive legend played, millions of kids and teens who had never known of Kate Bush’s existence completely lost their minds. Then came the real mayhem.
The next week saw “RUTH” (let’s just call it) ascend to the top of pop charts all over the world, going to number #1 in eight countries (England! New Zealand! Switzerland! Lithuania! More!). Okay, it only got to #4 in the U.S., but still, that’s Top 5 (upon the song’s original release in 1985 it only got as high as #30)! The song garnered millions of plays across all the streaming services (Apple! Spotify! YouTube!), inspired masses of TikTok videos, and most importantly introduced a whole new generation to the incomparable genius of Catherine “Kate” Bush.
But while the pop-chart-exploding Stranger Things-inspired introduction was a singular event unto itself, the experience of just plain hearing Kate Bush for the first time has never really changed. As existing Kate fans can confirm, the excitable reaction of the new listeners was perfectly normal. When Kate Bush enters your pop listening life for the first time, the natural human tendency has always been to go a little “oh my God” crazy.
But perhaps the most mind-blowing thing about all of this is that “RUTH” is not even the best song on the album it actually hails from. That’s how great Hounds Of Love is.
A foundational fixture on every “Best Albums of All-Time” list from now until forever, Hounds Of Love is Kate Bush’s finest hour. Despite its unending sonic drama, Hounds was recorded in the comically peaceful and idyllic environs of a converted barn at Kate’s childhood home. Yes, this madly ambitious album, consisting of four gorgeously unhinged anthems of love, an eerie demon ballad, and a 26-minute oceanic fever dream, actually came to be in storybook surroundings full of greenery, birdsong, and sweet dogs (that’d be Kate’s front cover co-stars and forever icons, Bonnie and Clyde). Epic and anthemic enough to scream along to in the car, but brimming with enough empathy and intimacy for intensive solo headphone engagement, Hounds Of Love is just plain magic.
‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
The always prolific Jack White releases his second album of 2022 today. So it felt time to look back at his most iconic musical project: Goober & the Peas.
Okay, okay – we’re of course talking about The White Stripes. Though by this point Jack’s released more solo and side-project music than the Stripes’ entire six-album discography, his and Meg’s music still gets covered far more than the rest. Part of that is because that band had actual hits; I doubt there’s anything on his new album that’s gonna do “Seven Nation Army” numbers. But part of it also reflects the stripped-down nature of that band’s work. With just two pieces, combining rudimentary guitar riffs from Jack and cavewoman drumming from Meg, the band’s output leaves plenty of open space to welcome in other interpretations.
So no surprise our list below includes a wide variety of genres, from orchestral bowers to soul belters, bluegrass pickers to reggae toasters. By the band’s end, the Stripes were bringing in genres beyond their beloved blues and garage-rock (see the cabaret of “The Nurse” or mariachi of their Patti Page cover “Conquest”), but these artists take their songs even further afield. They dig deeper into the catalog than you might expect too. The most-common song on our list won’t surprise you (all together now: dunnn, dun-DUN-dun, dun, dunnn, dunnnnnn), but just how obscure some of the others are might, hits and deep cuts from their first album to their last. Fall in love with a cover, below.
It feels like a cliché these days to start one of these year-end lists writing about “the times we live in,” but, as you read and listen to our picks, you’ll find the specter of the coronavirus and lockdown pretty unavoidable.
One of these albums is titled Songs from Isolation; another is Awesome Quarantine Mix-Tape. Even on some albums where it’s so blindingly obvious, it’s there. Aoife Plays Nebraska is a recording of a quarantine livestream she gave. Los Lobos envisioned Native Sons as a balm for being stuck at home, unable to tour. And then there’s the tribute to John Prine, the long-awaited sequel to 2010’s Broken Hearts and Dirty Windows, inspired by his death from the coronavirus last year.
But many of these albums recall better times too. Two are belated releases of in-real-life, pre-pandemic tribute concerts, one to Leonard Cohen and the other to Eric Clapton’s Derek and the Dominoes (well, I guess both of those subject are kind of bummers, in different ways…). Tributes abound to other recent deaths – Andy Gibb, Justin Townes Earle, Roky Erickson – but we have plenty to artists still with us too, like Nick Cave, Peter Gabriel, and a host of underground psych-rock bands you’ve never heard of.
Then there are those that don’t fit any narrative. An artist felt inspired by an unconnected bunch of songs, decided to cover ’em, and brought them all together into a cohesive record. What do Vampire Weekend and The Supremes have in common? Lauren O’Connell’s beatifully intimate imaginings. How about Allen Toussaint and Calexico? Robert Plant and Alison Krauss harmonizing all over ’em. Whether it’s a quote-unquote “lockdown record” or just someone saying, “hell, why not get a bunch of folkie weirdos to play Phish tunes?,” every album on this list brought something meaningful to – ugh – the times we live in.
– Ray Padgett, Editor-in-Chief
The list starts on the next page…
‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.
“I usually come in second to Dylan,” Paul Simon once said, “and I don’t like coming in second.” Indeed, he’s had to deal with it literally ever since he was born, in 1941. We already celebrated Bob Dylan’s 80th birthday in May, and today we turn to the man Dylan has called “one of the preeminent songwriters of the times,” Paul Simon, as he hits his own 80th. Simon’s in the rarified air of someone whose songs get covered almost as much as Dylan’s (ugh – second place again), so for this month’s Best Covers Ever, we’re diving into covers of the entire Paul Simon catalog, both solo and with Simon and Garfunkel.
Another thing Dylan once said about Simon, in relation to his own music, is this: “I’m not Paul Simon. I can’t do that. My songs come out of folk music and early rock n’ roll, and that’s it. I’m not a classical lyricist, I’m not a meticulous lyricist. I don’t write melodies that are clever or catchy.”
False modesty aside, Dylan hits on some of what makes Simon’s work so beloved by other musicians. His melodies are clever and catchy. His lyrics are meticulous. In both words and music, Simon can use a little to say a lot. His songs have strong cores, but leave a lot of space for other artists to play around with. So it’s no surprise that the list below spans genres from punk, dance music, gospel, and more. You’ll hear every sound except one: Silence (sorry). No matter how afield the songs roam, though, they still sound like Paul Simon.
So enough talk about Simon being a perennial silver medal winner. His craft and his talent have earned him and his songs a place at the top of the medal podium, and these fifty covers prove it.
The list begins on Page 2.
Last fall, in our Best Leonard Cohen Covers Ever article, I wrote, “It is beyond me how no record label has yet turned First Aid Kit’s magisterial 2017 tribute concert into a proper album.” Back when they first performed it, I wrote, “If they had released the soundtrack, this might have been our favorite covers album of 2017.” And pretty much every other time I’ve mentioned it, I’ve expressed my bafflement that this brilliant performance was not released as a proper album.
Well, guess what. It finally, belatedly, is! Who By Fire comes out March 26, containing every song from the concert. Maybe they got sick of my constant yammering about it…