We already counted down the 50 Best Cover Songs of 2018 but, inevitably, many of our staff’s personal favorites get left off. So, before we begin scouting for what might become the best cover of 2019, we share the best of the rest, an unranked hodgepodge of worthy covers that only just missed our year-end countdown.
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
In 1991, Townes Van Zandt wrote the following: “Anytime anyone asks me who my favorite music writers are, I say Mozart, Lightnin’ Hopkins, Bob Dylan, and Dave Olney. Dave Olney is one of the best songwriters I’ve ever heard — and that’s true. I mean that from my heart.”
Twenty-seven years later, Townes is gone, but Olney keeps on keepin’ on. He may not have become a household name in that time, but his reputation among his peers has only grown. Emmylou Harris has sung three of his songs. Linda Ronstadt tackled a pair herself. When Steve Earle covered Olney’s “Saturday Night and Sunday Morning,” he noted it took him four or five years of playing the song before he realized it was “so perfectly constructed that it doesn’t have a rhyme in it.” He added that Olney was “one of the best songwriters in the world.”
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
Empire Burlesque is Bob Dylan’s best country album since New Morning. Or, well, it should have been. Instead, it is considered a nadir of his career.
All the previous Full Albums selections we’ve done for Bob have been undisputed classics: Highway 61 Revisited, Blonde on Blonde, John Wesley Harding. Empire Burlesque is the opposite. Bob reportedly asked his producer to make him sound like Prince for this 1985 album. Now, his voice is as far from Prince as you can get, so they surrounded his rasp with drum machines, synthesizers, and chirpy backing vocals. Needless to say, it sounds nothing like Prince, and not a lot like Dylan. I’ve always defended this album, but if you can’t stand Men At Work or Culture Club, this may not be the album for you.
Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
After listening to the rock & roll on side one of Bob Dylan’s Bringing It All Back Home for the first time, the folkie purists of 1965 who dared to flip the record over must have done so with no small measure of dread. To their relief, side two was made up of basically acoustic songs, and led off with “Mr. Tambourine Man,” a song that may not have had a single whiff of Protest to it, but whose light surreal flow felt as smooth and magical as a steady creek and defied its listeners to not feel uplifted. It was as if the Pied Piper had switched to percussion, only gaining in followers for many jingle jangle mornings to come.