Jul 162020
 

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

Box of Birds

Is the Church’s A Box of Birds the stock contractual filler for a band bereft of ideas, or a vivid introduction to those influences that begat the inspiration to form in the first place? In truth, it’s a bit of both. At a first listen it even begs whether it deserves status as a Covers Classic. Bear with me, it does, if only saved by the bell of the closing track.

A Box of Birds is a curious mix of songs, from hit singles familiar to all to deeper cuts known but to the few. Gone, by and large, is the space and counterplay that had made the Church’s name, with very little demonstration of how dual guitars can sparkle off each other. Sure, it sounds fun, with an image of the band playing these songs on the hoof, in a garage, that picture added to by the slightly muddy mix and the contrived run of one track into the next. If they hadn’t fully decided what to play until they began, well, that too seems not unlikely. But it all becomes a little wearing, particularly in the build-up to the finale. If ever an album cries out for a grand finish, this is it. And, praise be, the Church deliver.

Continue reading »

Jun 252020
 

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

Noel Redding, mostly remembered for his thunderous work as bass guitar player for The Jimi Hendrix Experience, never achieved the same level of fame post-Experience, but it wasn’t for a lack of projects. Jimi chose Redding – then a guitar player – to play bass (Hendrix connected with Redding’s musical taste and hairstyle), then selected Mitch Mitchell for drums to form the early “power trio” in London during the fall of 1966. The line-up only lasted until the pre-Woodstock summer of 1969, but it was enough time to pump out three landmark albums: Are You Experienced, Axis: Bold as Love, and Electric Ladyland. Looking back on their disbanding, in 2002 Redding would tell Billboard magazine: “I think Jimi needed to have a rest at that point. He should have actually taken some time off and done nothing, ‘cos we all worked our arses off for three years.”

After the Experience split there were other psychedelic hard rock bands for Redding like Road and the Noel Redding Band, but a decade of legal battles attempting to recover lost Hendrix earnings (documented in his 1990 autobiography Are You Experienced?) eventually took a financial and personal toll.

The Noel Redding and Friends line-up consisted of Redding on bass, Frankie LaRocka (ex-Scandal, John Waite, Bryan Adams) on drums, Anthony Krizan (ex-Spin Doctors) on lead guitar, and Ivan Kral (ex-Patti Smith Group, Iggy Pop) on rhythm guitar. Krizan, LaRocka, and Redding handled vocals. The group played several US tour dates before and after these shows, but Live From Bunkr would be their only album release together. It would be Noel Redding’s last recorded work prior to his untimely death at age 57 in 2003.

Continue reading »

Apr 302020
 

Check out the best covers of past months here.

best cover songs april 2020
Arlo Parks – Redondo Beach (Patti Smith cover)


I’ve wanted to do a “Full Albums” on Patti Smith’s Horses for years. But it, and she, gets covered less than you’d think. This beautiful piano “Redondo Beach” gets me one step closer. Though, admittedly, I already had Courtney Barnett’s recent cover for that slot. Someone cover “Break It Up” already! Continue reading »

Nov 292019
 

MOSE-ALLISON-IF-YOURE-GOING-TO-THE-CITYMose Allison is possibly best known these days through his association with Van Morrison, who released Tell Me Something: The Songs of Mose Allison in 1996. Morrison probably gave Allison’s career a late boost, presenting him as a somewhat kindred spirit, albeit having a few more years on him, and hopefully a more benign presence than Van the Man, if even harder to classify.

I had always filed Allison under jazz, though blues was probably closer to his idiom, yet here we have If You’re Going to the City: A Tribute to Mose Allison, which sees him being covered by a slew of largely rock music gentry from the past few decades. Listening to this selection, it becomes easier to see that blues is at least the template to Allison’s songs. Not necessarily a version familiar to the backstreet bars of Chicago, this is a more polished version of the blues, with echoes of both supper club and Tin Pan Alley – though in Allison’s hands and voice, they sound perhaps a shade less archaic. These are fine songs and, if these covers succeed in pointing attention back to the originals, then at least part of the work of this collection has been done.
Continue reading »

Feb 222019
 

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

When David Bowie moved to Berlin, he took an apartment over an auto parts store. Iggy Pop shared a room with him. There were no chairs – they had decided chairs were unnatural. One night they were sitting on the floor waiting for Starsky and Hutch to start on the Armed Forces Network. The show started with a call signal – beep beep beep, beep beep beep beep, beep beep beep. Bowie picked up a ukulele (“it might have been his son’s,” Pop later remembered) and wrote out the chord progression. “Call it ‘Lust for Life,'” he told Pop. “Write something up.”

Describing their songwriting process, Bowie said, “I often gave him a few anchor images that I wanted him to play off, and he would take them away and start free-associating.” Pop later realized that Bowie’s title came from the Kirk Douglas film about Vincent van Gogh. “In the two albums we made,”said Pop, referring to Lust for Life and The Idiot, “I think Bowie wanted to make the comment that I was an idiot à la Dostoyevsky and insane à la van Gogh. Like, ‘Here I am producing albums for this insane idiot — let’s see what happens!'”

Continue reading »

May 192018
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with covers of his or her songs. Let someone else do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

grace jones covers

Here’s a stumper: Is it more correct to ask who Grace Jones is, or what Grace Jones is? The model-actress-singer-diva-icon turns 70 today, and her appeal—which might once have appeared to be a particularly long-running flash in the pan—shows no signs of abating. The documentary Bloodlight and Bami, an intimate look at the performer, came out this year, and her memoir I’ll Never Write My Memoirs was a notable book of 2015.

Jones materialized onto the dancefloors and catwalks of mid-70s New York as if dropped from a passing spaceship. Single-handedly redefining “exotic”—back in the days when that questionable term meant “non-Caucasian”—Jones brought a fierce and, for the time, shockingly confrontational androgyny to the pages of fashion glossies. Simultaneously tribal, futurist, techno and primitive, Jones and her trademark glare fairly leapt off the page, daring you to look away. Many could not, and her modeling career, launched in 1966 when she was 18, has never truly ended. Continue reading »