Aug 112023
 

One Great Cover looks at the greatest cover songs ever, and how they got to be that way.

Saint Etienne Only Love Can Break Your Heart

Prior to Saint Etienne, a bevy of notable names stepped up to cover Neil Young‘s “Only Love Can Break Your Heart,” with varying degrees of success. Elkie “Pearl’s a Singer” Brooks wrung out the simple—almost childlike—lyrics of the classic 1970 ballad on a moribund disco version of 1978. Stephen Stills rediscovered its 3/4 time and added a self-written verse on a schmaltzy non-hit version of 1984. Psychic TV made an agreeably acid-tinged waltz out of it (yes, one of those) in 1989.

However, it was the UK trio of Bob Stanley, Pete Wiggs, and Moira Lambert, going by the name of a French soccer team, who made the song the basis of a massively influential post-house sound in 1990. That’ll be the great cover you’re looking for. And that’ll be the great cover that launched Saint Etienne’s long and remarkable career in samples, beats, and basslines.

But just how an old folk-rock number by a nasal-voiced Canadian hippie made the journey to cutting-edge electronic pop in the days of UK rave is a question worth asking. Continue reading »

Jul 032023
 

FolkocracyRufus Wainwright’s Folkocracy is a reminder of how different a context is the word folk, when there is that Atlantic Ocean dividing America and Europe. This album feels a very North American version, where, broadly, anything much with an acoustic guitar, and on the softer side of rock, fits the bill, with often a fair old slice of the older social commentators, Seeger, Guthrie et al, chucked in for good measure. In the UK, folk tends more to the trad. arr., in style if not necessarily sacrosanct in content, and of a devoutly Celtic or Anglo hue. Wainwright doesn’t totally ignore any particular aul’ country, but Folkocracy is full of nods, sometimes eccentric, to an early 60’s heyday of Kingston Trios, Peter Paul and Mary and that ilk, if with a few left field lurches into Broadway and Hollywood. At times it is astonishing, in a beguiling way, sometimes bewildering and sometimes just plain odd. But, overall, this album is impressive, if more on the side of to be admired more than loved, with a slew of guests adding their varied (and variable) flavors at several stages along the way.
Continue reading »

Jul 032023
 
best cover songs of june 2023
Aaron Taos ft. Jordana — Under Control (The Strokes cover)

Aaron Taos says: “When Jordana and I met for the first time, we realized very quickly that we both shared an obsession with the Strokes. What’s more surprising is that we also share the same favorite Strokes song, “Under Control,” an album cut off of their second LP Room On Fire. Naturally, we decided that we had to cover this amazing tune. Reimagined as a minimalist duet, this slow burn produced by Blake Richardson (formerly artist Sage Baptiste) also comes with a lo-fi vid shot in Brooklyn, NY. We just want to make Julian Casablancas proud.” Continue reading »

May 312023
 
best cover songs may 2023
Beck – Hands on the Wheel (Willie Nelson cover)

Willie Nelson’s giant 90th birthday concert in Los Angeles featured a whole host of covers. Some of them featured the man himself. Admittedly, that makes those not really covers, so we’ll feature a couple Willie-less Willie tunes. First up, Beck tackles Willie’s Red Headed Stranger classic “Hands on the Wheel.” (Find another cover of this song in the Best of the Rest list.) Continue reading »

May 152023
 
Rufus Wainwright

The title track of Neil Young’s breakthrough album Harvest is a bit of a deep cut. Never released as a single, it has never got the radio play that the hits from Harvest have received over the years. This is especially true since Young’s last hit of any size was “Harvest Moon,” an unrelated song that further obscured the original. Continue reading »

Apr 212023
 
goodnight sunrise rockin in the free world cover

Released in 1988, “Rockin’ in the Free World” was Neil Young‘s biggest hit in over 15 years and has become one of his most covered songs. It captures much of what made classic Young great: abrasive, distorted guitar, acerbic political lyrics, and a seemingly iconoclastic desire to perform those same lyrics in a completely different way. Much like with the iconic “Hey Hey, My My” and Rust Never Sleeps, Young actually recorded a softer acoustic version of “Rockin’ in the Free World” to help bookend its accompanying album Freedom.

Fellow Canadians Goodnight Sunrise have been performing together since 2011. They’ve recorded two albums and a few EPs and are currently touring ahead of their first album in seven years. As part of this new project, they’re recorded a cover of the electric version (the famous version) of “Rockin’ in the Free World.” Continue reading »