Sep 212020
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

Annie Lennox

It’s March of 1995, and by this point in time it has been firmly established that Annie Lennox doesn’t make bad albums. From her earliest days in The Tourists, through her incredible partnership with Dave Stewart in Eurythmics, to her glorious 1992 solo debut Diva, the quality level has been ridiculously high. Every album to the last has contained multiple soaringly wonderful evergreen pop classics, most of which are justifiably worshipped and treasured to this very day. But of course, if there’s one thing we know for certain about pop music, it’s that it’s a cruel, fickle beast, and critical favor can turn on a dime. And so, after a pretty consistent outpouring of acclaim, maybe it was inevitable that by 1995 the jar of journalistic goodwill was empty. Annie’s second solo album Medusa featured a perfectly sung and slickly produced selection of cover songs, and the time had finally come; the critics hated it.

While its brilliant, theatrical first single “No More I Love You’s” was a worldwide hit and the LP itself sold by the truckload, music journalists were pretty much across the board unimpressed (even here at Cover Me). One review in a big culture magazine at the time amusingly referred to the album as “a muff,” described Annie’s attempts at certain songs as “belly-flops,” and declared the overall sound to be “microwaved.”

So whose assessment of Medusa was “right,” the fans’ or the critics’? Well, truth be told, both. Put simply, it was an immaculately sung, pristinely produced, cleverly chosen selection of covers, with nary a rough edge to be seen. And while the overall sound could be characterized as chilly and/or mechanical in spots, it was still home to some pretty gloriously heartfelt and powerful song interpretations. Case in point: a broodingly beautiful take of Neil Young’s “Don’t Let It Bring You Down,” as well as a grandly dramatic reading of Procol Harum’s epic “Whiter Shade of Pale.” And of course, the aforementioned “No More…” was a brilliant pop song by any standard.

But here’s the thing: Despite its renown, Medusa shouldn’t be looked at as the final word on Annie Lennox’s ability to reinvent and breathe new life into old songs. Over the years, she has proven herself to be an exceptionally gifted interpreter… and the majority of her finest cover work has come in the form of free-standing one-offs. With that in mind, let’s put Medusa to the side for a minute and turn a spotlight on the heart-clutchingly wonderful stuff around the edges, the live, the rare, and the underrated. Let’s venture into the depths of Annie’s truly exceptional cover canon, wherein lay a whole lotta treasures…
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Mar 082017
 
Man About a Horse

Radiohead songs work surprisingly well as bluegrass. Chris Thile’s Punch Brothers alone have covered “Kid A,” “Paranoid Android,” “Packt Like Sardines in a Crushed Tin Box,” “2+2=5,” and, with Sarah Jorosz, “The Tourist.” Then there’s one of those The Bluegrass Tribute To… albums saluting the band. And the latest killer Radio-grass cover comes from Philadelphia quintet Man About a Horse, tackling the very timely OK Computer track “Electioneering.” It’s the first single from their debut album out in May, and we’ve got the exclusive premiere below. Continue reading »

Jan 132017
 

In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!

keith richards

Over the years, the perception of Keith Richards has changed from “He’ll die any day now” to “How has he not died yet?” to “He’s never going to die.” In 2016, a year that wiped out Bowie, Prince, and Abe Vigoda, not to mention Emerson, Lake, and (Arnold) Palmer, the soul of the Stones kept right on glimmering. A popular meme shows him reading the paper and saying, “Hey, Mick, look who I outlived this week.” In a way, it’s self-fulfilling prophecy; Keith is rock and roll, and rock and roll – especially in the form of the Rolling Stones’ songs – will never die.

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Nov 302011
 

When you think of Rancid’s “Ruby Soho,” you probably think: punk. And it is, but it’s always had a vaguely reggae-ish groove. The opening line even makes this explicit: “Echoes of reggae coming through my bedroom wall.” Now the connection becomes even clearer from reggae legend Jimmy Cliff, who covers it on his new EP. Continue reading »

Aug 122011
 

Jimmy Cliff may not be a household name these days, but the name Bob Marley may not have been one either had it not been for the road paved by Cliff. Cliff rose to international fame with his role, musically and as an actor, in the 1972 film The Harder They Come, which exposed much of the world to reggae for the first time. The title song of the movie is listed on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, along with Cliff’s “Many Rivers to Cross.” Continue reading »

Apr 072011
 

Paul Simon’s So Beautiful or So What, his first album in five years, drops next week (listen to it now on NPR), so it figures the Simon promotion machine is in full swing. Just an hour ago we heard Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig cover Simon and now Simon himself performs a Jimmy Cliff cover. Continue reading »