Apr 012021
 

‘The Best Covers Ever’ series counts down our favorite covers of great artists.

best queen covers

There is no Queen without Freddie Mercury. On a fundamental level, we all agree that is true. But, if you want to be literal about it, there is Queen without Freddie Mercury. Thirty years after Freddie’s death, the show must go on, and so the band still exists. Adam Lambert now sings Freddie’s parts on tour, just as Paul Rodgers did before him. The Bohemian Rhapsody movie included some new vocal recordings – not by star Rami Malek, but by Canadian singer Marc Martel. And then of course there are the many singers who fronted Queen at the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert, broadcast to an audience of up to one billion people. (If you haven’t watched George Michael singing “Somebody to Love” or Annie Lennox joining David Bowie for “Under Pressure,” go do that now, then come back.)

Suffice to say, millions if not billions of people have heard Queen songs sung by singers other than Freddie Mercury. But none of those we just mentioned are covers, strictly speaking, since they feature most or all of the band’s three surviving members. Bassist John Deacon has since departed – and his joining Queen fifty years ago this month, solidifying the lineup, marks the anniversary we’re pegging this post to – but guitarist Brian May and drummer Roger Taylor have kept the Queen name alive. No doubt, when touring becomes a thing again, Queen will be back on the road once again.

The forty actual covers on our list do not feature any members of Queen. As such, they’re free to roam much further afield than Adam Lambert or George Michael, turning the band’s hits and the occasional deep cut into genres from polka to punk, a cappella to acoustic instrumental. Queen dabbled in so many different genres during their time – I mean, “Bohemian Rhapsody” alone! – I think they’d appreciate how malleable their songs can be. Even when they’re not the ones performing their songs, Queen will rock you.

Or, in one case, polka you.

The list begins on Page 2.

Sep 082020
 

Powerhouse singer and songwriter Neko Case turns the big Five-Oh today. Case has never been an artist to deny or put a spin on who she is, so well-intentioned remarks like “50 is the new 30” might not fly. We’ll keep it simple with a loving “Happy Birthday, Neko!”
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Jun 082020
 

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!

Nancy Sinatra covers

Nancy Sinatra, ‘60s pop icon and elder daughter of Frank Sinatra, celebrates her eightieth birthday today! To celebrate, we’ll swing, baby, through some of her biggest hits. But before we dig in, let’s take a look at the impact she’s made as an artist in her own right.

Sure, it helped being the daughter of the most famous entertainer of all time, but Nancy’s bona fides are legitimate. She charted 21 Billboard Hot 100 singles between 1965-72 and added multiple high-ranking exposures for many of those songs on Adult Contemporary and Country charts; one of those coming as late as 1981. Along the way, she became the epitome of feminine cool by co-starring in films with Elvis Presley and Peter Fonda, singing a Bond theme, even appearing in Playboy as a 50-something. Although her music output has slowed, she continues to consistently release new and remixed material. For the past 13 years she’s heard weekly on SiriusXM’s “Nancy For Frank” show with 3-hour episodes on the Siriusly Sinatra channel.

But it was in early 1966 when Nancy, and eventual longtime collaborators Lee Hazelwood and Billy Strange (now both deceased), really cemented her pop legacy. “These Boots Are Made for Walkin” (included on her debut studio album “Boots”) went to #1 on US, UK, and worldwide charts. The song – supported with one of the earliest examples of a music video – has been credited with ushering in the era of woman in rock & roll. And for nearly 55 years, the prevalent themes of independence and free thinking – which never seems to wane – have sustained its popularity in pop culture!

So, with that… are you ready, boots? On this birthday, let’s start walking–right over to Nancy’s biggest hits…

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Jan 302018
 

mark erelli mixtapeMark Erelli seems one of the good guys: prolific in the often solitary and lonely furrow of singer-songwritery, under the radar of most observers, weaving his nuanced mix of country and folk that never fails to beguile my ears. Lord knows how he makes a living. Along with others like Jeffrey Foucoult (with whom he has collaborated) Damien Jurado and the Joshes Rouse and Ritter (another collaborator) he seems always there in the background, a reliable source of well-crafted songs, never troubling the mainstream nor stealing the show.

Although he has a healthy and extensive repertoire of his own songs, covers are very much also his stock in trade, as a visit to his website soon reveals, with a monthly free download of the month – often a cover – unavailable elsewhere. (As I write his excellent version of “Midnight Rider” is serenading me, the January freebie.) He also performs an annual series of shows entitled ‘Under the Covers’ – sadly in the wrong continent for this writer to ever catch. Continue reading »

Mar 032017
 

They Say It’s Your Birthday celebrates an artist’s special day with other people singing his or her songs. Let others do the work for a while. Happy birthday!

robyn

There are people out there whose time in college was accompanied by a Robyn Hitchcock soundtrack. Back in the ’80s, when alternative/indie music was known as “college rock,” Hitchcock and his off-off-kilter music figured prominently. Those people who loved “Balloon Man” and “My Wife and My Dead Wife” would in all likelihood react very badly to the idea that the surrealist scamp who wrote those songs turns 64 years old today. If it’s any consolation, his songs, both solo and in collaboration with the Soft Boys and the Egyptians, remain as timeless and vital as ever.
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Jan 252017
 
protest cover songs

Well, it has been quite a week in politics. President Trump got sworn in Friday, then on Saturday hundreds of thousands of protesters marched across the country. We don’t need to go into the many (many) controversies and debates the first few days of the Trump administration have already brought us. You know them, and that’s not really our beat anyway.

What is our beat is cover songs, and a whole lot of politically-minded covers came out in the past week. Some are explicitly covers of songs with political lyrics, like Neko Case, kd lang, and Laura Veirs covering Patti Smith’s “People Have the Power” and OK Go covering Morrissey’s “Interesting Drug” (opening lines: “There are some bad people on the rise / They’re saving their own skins by ruining other people’s lives”).

Other covers are only political in the sense that they were released to raise money for groups like the American Civil Liberties Union or Planned Parenthood. Barsuk Records put out a covers comp featuring Nada Surf, David Bazan, Mates of State, The Long Winters (wonderfully titled Sad!). Members of the Philadelphia punk scene came together for a 35-song set of covers by the likes of Laura Stevenson and Jeff Rosenstock, which range from the covers of political artists like Against Me! and Bikini Kill to a cover of the Beatles’ “I’m Only Sleeping,” which would be difficult to find a political take on. Continue reading »