Jan 242012

Though Bob Dylan moved away from his role as a ‘protest singer’ long ago — we saw Another Side by his fourth album — his name will forever be associated with social activism. The international human rights organization Amnesty International rose out of the same turbulent era as Dylan, forming in 1961, the year Dylan recorded his first album. Fitting, then, that in celebration of their 50th birthday, Amnesty would call on artists to contribute their Dylan covers to the massive four disc set Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International. Continue reading »

Dec 122011

Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International doesn’t come out for another month, but the massive four-disc tribute is available to stream below. We’re just making our way through it ourselves, but the Gaslight Anthem’s “Changing of the Guards” and Queens of the Stone Age‘s “Outlaw Blues” are early highlights. On the flip side, Ke$ha‘s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s Alright” is truly atrocious (though Miley Cyrus‘ “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go” isn’t bad at all). For whatever reason, you can stream 60-second excerpts of the first two discs and the full songs for the second two. At 2+ hours of music, though, we think you’ll survive. Stream the album below, then tell us what the best/worst songs are in the comments. (via Facebook) Continue reading »

Nov 282011

Can you ever have ever too much Bob Dylan? With the release of an astounding line-up of artists for the latest Dylan tribute, the answer is a resounding – never! Last month we brought you more info on the upcoming Bob Dylan tribute album, Chimes of Freedom: The Songs of Bob Dylan Honoring 50 Years of Amnesty International (including Ke$ha’s unfortunate quote comparing her music to that of the legend), but the full tracklist gets us even more excited. Elvis Costello! The Gaslight Anthem! Pete Townshend! Flogging Molly! Kronos Quartet! Continue reading »

Aug 112009

Look up. No, not at the ceiling, at the top of this blog. See that masthead? It’s ugly. I know you’ve been thinking it every time you visit here but were too polite to say anything. For that I thank you. Still, it’s time for an upgrade.

For that, I need your help. I am no artist, but I’m sure some of you are! Whether your medium is paint or Paint™, photos or Photoshop, I’m looking for someone to design a logo, a masthead, a title image to replace that ugly text up there. So let’s have a contest! Aspiring artists can design an image to go at the top of the blog and the winner (or winners, if I can’t pick just one) gets some fun prizes.


  • Street cred, resume-booster, your image seen by thousands of readers a week.
  • The opportunity to choose one week’s theme and the opportunity to choose some songs for that theme (you provide the files if I don’t have them). You can even write the descriptions if you like!
  • If you are a musician, an opportunity to have you or your band be featured in an upcoming Cover Commissions. If you’re not a musician, you can pick someone for me to try to get!
  • A grab-bag assortment of cover CDs mailed to you. Who knows what you’ll get!


  1. The image should legibly say “Cover Me.” You can include the “Songs done different” slogan or not, at your discretion.
  2. The image should be sized to fit in that space above. The width is 730, not sure about the height (anyone?)
  3. Bear in mind the blog’s color scheme when you design your image. Don’t make it look out-of-place.
  4. For bonus points, design a logo for any or all of our regular features: Cover Commissions, Cover News, Shuffle Sundays, or Full Albums. Those should be sized to fit at the top of an individual blog post. Prizes for this to be allocated as applicable.
  5. The deadline for submissions is Monday, August 24 (two weeks from today). Email submissions to covers86[at]gmail.com.

To get those creative juices following, here are some songs about art.

Elvis Costello – When I Paint My Masterpiece (Bob Dylan)
It’s a live one from fall of 2006, only a year before Costello would go on tour opening for Dylan himself. This is a full band affair though, rough guitars laying the bed for Elvis’ signature nerd-boy croon. Not sure who the woman dueting with him is. Anyone know? [Buy]

Adam Selzer – Stop Talking About Comic Books or I’ll Kill You (Ookla the Mok)
Ookla the Mok, in addition to being a phenomenal band name, was a character in the Saturday morning cartoon Thundarr the Barbarian. Yet this songwriter hates comic books? Ah, sweet irony. It’s a side-splittingly funny song, made all the better in this hyper-sincere take. Oh, and did we mention Adam is doing this month’s Cover Commissions? Only a few days left to vote! [Buy]

Clinker – Story of an Artist (Daniel Johnston)
Adding a bed of strings and echoed vocal should totally kill this beautiful song, but all the elements are arranged so perfectly they take the oft-covered tune to a whole new place. [Buy]

Ericka Nova – Let It All Go (Mark Knopfler)
This one’s the source of Mark’s 2007 album title Kill to Get Crimson. It’s a truly brilliant song by the most underappreciated songwriter in rock, so I will send you to look at the lyrics. A lament about a failing artist being told to just give up, there are more important things to do. “It’s the end of the thirties / No time for arties / Over in Poland a right old to-do.” [Buy]

Holly Ramos – Art Lover (The Kinks)
There’s something about the delicate Ramos singing “I’m not a dirty old man” that gets me every time. [Buy]

The Thing – Art Star (Yeah Yeah Yeahs)
It’s instrumental horn-fueled grunge-free-jazz and, awful as that sounds, it’s somehow grin-inducing as these guys say the hell with convention. [Buy]

Marc Almond – Paint It Black (The Rolling Stones)
After “Tainted Love” it should be no secret that the Soft Cell frontman has a way with covers. This one’s dark and huge, like a Phantom of the Opera outtake. [Buy]

Treepeople – Andy Warhol (David Bowie)
You can’t have songs about art without a few songs about artists. David Bowie’s off-kilter meandering gets a grunge-punk treatment here which, ironically, warps the strange rhythms into a more conventional-sounding tune. [Buy]

Bob Dylan – Vincent Van Gogh (Robert Friemark)
Dylan busted this one out with his old parter-in-crime Bob Neuwirth at various dates on the second leg of his legendary Rolling Thunder tour. It’s a shame the recording quality isn’t better, but I recommend playing it yourself anyway. [Buy]

Pearl Jam – Picture in a Frame (Tom Waits)
Tom Waits himself wouldn’t perform at one of Neil Young’s legendary Bridge School Benefits until the following year, but he was already a presence in 2006 when Eddie Vedder led Pearl Jam in this cover that sounds like it was made for his gruff voice. [Buy]