Mar 012021
best cover songs february 2021
Black Country, New Road – Time to Pretend (MGMT cover)

If you’re expecting the “Time to Pretend” you knew and loved a decade ago, think again. UK post-punkers Black Country, New Road, one of the buzziest bands of the new year, deconstruct the song entirely. It starts pretty sane, then gradually veers off the tracks into chaos. By the end there’s a free-jazz sax solo leading a wall of noise only barely identifiable as this, or any, song. Continue reading »

May 152015

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

Maybe it is too facile to say that Van Morrison’s second solo album, Astral Weeks, is respected, while its follow up, Moondance, is loved. We looked at Astral Weeks about a year ago, so there’s no reason to repeat that here, but it’s clear that Morrison took a very different approach with the two albums, both of which have entered the rock pantheon as classics (for example, both albums were inducted in the Grammy Hall of Fame and Astral Weeks is 19 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time; Moondance was ranked 66.) But while the older album is revered as a work of art, you actually heard (and still hear) songs from Moondance on the radio. Astral Weeks failed to chart, and no singles from the album were released, but Moondance reached 29 on the Billboard Pop Album chart, and had three singles released.

Astral Weeks is considered to be a unified song cycle or a concept album, filled with stream of consciousness lyrics. The musicians that were recruited mostly had jazz backgrounds, and Morrison encouraged them to improvise after hearing Morrison play the songs on an acoustic guitar. Despite critical acclaim, it received little commercial airplay and limited support from the label, Warner Bros.

After recording Astral Weeks, Morrison and his wife moved into a mountaintop house near Woodstock, in upstate New York. He began to write the songs for Moondance and recruited local musicians for the recording sessions. Although, like with his previous album, there were no formal written charts, Morrison focused this time on shorter, more upbeat and optimistic songs with accessible song structures, in part influenced by another group of Woodstock area residents, The Band. It also was greeted with great reviews, but garnered significantly more radio airplay and immediate sales than its predecessor. And, I would argue, few albums have a stronger first side (when that mattered) than Moondance (“And It Stoned Me”/”Moondance”/”Crazy Love”/”Caravan”/”Into The Mystic”), and side 2 isn’t shabby, either.
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Oct 132011

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!

“I usually come in second [to Bob Dylan],” Paul Simon told Rolling Stone earlier this year. “I don’t like coming in second.”

Well, bad news Paul. Bob beat you to something else: turning 70. When Dylan turned 70 in May, it was accompanied with all manner of fanfare, tributes, and think pieces. We ourselves held a five-day celebration. Paul’s 70th birthday today comes with noticeably less pomp and circumstance. No lavish tributes, no critic navel-gazing, not much notice of any kind. It’s an occasion worth celebrating though, whether he was first or not. Continue reading »

Feb 012011

Paul Simon has always been a master of crafting simple narratives with his music. The man is a storyteller, and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is quite the story. Simon paints a picture of a man and a woman, having the discussion quietly but intensely. Perhaps over coffee, perhaps at a low-key bar; it seems like it’s probably in New York.

Where Simon gave us a smooth, calm conversation, G. Love’s cover seems more like a recounting of it over shots of whiskey and empty beer bottles. It takes a masterful artist to cover a song so ubiquitous and give it his own unique sense of story, and G. Love‘s distinct style does just that. Continue reading »

Jan 142011

We first heard G. Love and the Avett Brothers’ “Fixin’ to Die” collaboration last month, but today we bring it back with visual accompaniment. The new music video shows the band recording the old delta blues song in an old church with lots of stomping, old-timey harmonies, and stained-glass windows. It’s sparse, but you probably don’t want high production on a blues song about dying. Continue reading »

Dec 032010

G. Love has announced his fourth solo album, called, cheerfully, Fixin’ to Die. For this one he replaced his highly-regarded hip-hop collective Special Sauce with a decidedly rootsier group: the Avett Brothers. The pair not only produced the disc, but play the role of Love’s backup band. Recorded in a converted church, Love described the back-to-basics blues album as “the record behind all the other records.”

“It was an emotional recording session and I was truly blown away by the level of focus, care and passion Scott & Seth [Avett] brought to it,” G. Love said. “It was a tremendously positive and encouraging experience. This is the most inspired I’ve ever felt making a record.” Continue reading »