Jan 182021
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Hot Chocolate's "You Sexy Thing"

Hot Chocolate’s career actually started with a cover. They covered John Lennon’s “Give Peace a Chance” in a reggae style, but had to go through Lennon himself to get approval. Although Hot Chocolate then went on to have a stable career of hits in the UK in the ’70s, “You Sexy Thing” is the standout. The song has helped sell products from the Double Whopper to cameras and cars, and it’s been featured in many movies and TV shows. It’s become iconic.

However, this song was originally a B-side track when it was released in 1975. Big mistake, huge! Once re-released as a remix, it took off. It was even headed for the top spot in the UK, but an obscure song beat them there. Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody,” ever heard of it? How did they know this song would “be the one” to stand the test of time? It ended up being the only song to stay in the UK top ten across the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s.

Whether you believe in miracles or not these days, let’s hear five different takes on this unabashed tune.
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Oct 152018
 

Folk FeverWhat is the difference between pastiche and parody, I wonder? The dictionary tells us the first becomes the second when comic intent is sought. That said, pastiche all too often implies a knowing degree of tongue in cheek, and, however lovingly performed, I fear this is where the outcome lies on the Band of Love’s album Folk Fever.

Certainly nobody designed Folk Fever to make you laugh. Indeed, the standard of playing and singing, by a selection of the UK folk scene’s finest established and upcoming names, is exemplary, the love evident in the performances. The key players are probably unknown outside purist circles – they would be Jim Causley, Greg Russell, Alice James and the duo of Phillip Henry and Hannah Martin, all of whom have made respectable names for themselves on the folk circuit in Britain. Older timers like Steve Knightley and Phil Beer, aka Show of Hands, perhaps known to these pages for this, and Mike McGoldrick, a flute and pipes whiz currently earning a crust with Mark Knopfler, are along to add gravitas, instrumentally and vocally.
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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 »

Mar 072011
 

On Friday night, Yo La Tengo hit the studios of WFMU 91.1 to lend their support to the station’s annual pledge drive. As they have every year for over a decade, the Hoboken trio spent three hours performing listener-requested cover songs. Listeners were encouraged to go obscure, requesting songs the band had never played before (though presumably there was some filter, since no Miley Cyrus deep cuts slipped through). Given that they already played 44 new covers just a couple months ago, that sometimes meant pretty obscure. We’ve got ‘em all below. Continue reading »