Next Sunday, the Simon Cowell-helmed UK television singing competition The X Factor (based largely on American Idol, itself a spinoff of his British series Pop Idol, on which Cowell also judged) will crown the winner of its seventh go-around. As tradition has held since the show’s second season, the victor’s debut single will drop the following day so as to compete to be the “Christmas number one,” (the top spot on the UK singles chart for the sales-heavy week prior to the holiday), a feat accomplished by four of the last five champs, much to the chagrin of the show’s detractors. Last year, however, a grassroots Facebook campaign known as Rage Against the X Factor lobbied over 500,000 supporters to pay to download “Killing in the Name,” the explicit 1992 debut single by Rage Against the Machine, and the title held off the debut of X Factor winner Joe McElderry (a cover of Miley Cyrus‘ “The Climb”) to become the first download-only Christmas number one in chart history.
Live Collection brings together every live cover we can find from an artist. And we find a lot.
The recent release of Easy Wonderful has given Guster fans reason to fall in love with them all over again. As their album title insinuates, they have an agreeable sound that resonates with you and has aged well over the past (almost) 20 years. If the Beach Boys went to college in the 90’s, added some bongos, and stayed out of the sun, Guster is what they would sound like.
Featured on soundtracks like Life as a House and Wedding Crashers, their songs can pull at the heartstrings as you croon along with them. On the other hand, they are better known for their laid-back, wisecracking personalities that beam from the stage and infect their fans. During their years of touring, they have taken on many cover songs with both their sensitive and playful dispositions (but mostly the latter). Typically at the end of a show, Guster will rile up the crowd with a number from Madonna, Talking Heads, or whoever sings the “Cheers” theme song (Portnoy) and get everyone involved. Most of the time, it’s just an excuse to get drummer Brian Rosenworcel out in front showing off his questionable vocals, calling in the crowd for backup. It’s just like being at a karaoke bar.
It’s Darwin Deez week on Cover Me! A few days ago, we heard him cover the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Scar Tissue.” Now he’s back, but the group’s moved from Australia to Lincolnshire, England for the BBC’s Live Lounge college tour at Lincoln University. Deez also played a solo two song set that included a “secret cover.”
The DJs asked why Deez chose Katy Perry‘s “Teenage Dream” as the cover (whoops, secret’s out). He told them he admired the songwriters, Dr. Luke and Max Martin—hit-writers for *NSYNC, Kelly Clarkson, Britney Spears, Pink and others. Interestingly, it wasn’t their songs he admired, but their methods. Dr. Luke and Max Martin write songs in groups of four or five, whereas Deez writes his material without collaborators. One of the DJs commented that Deez wrote songs with heart while Dr. Luke and Max Martin wrote songs with computers. It was a nice compliment. Or a subtle dig. Hard to tell.
Phish’s live shows can be polarizing. Fans (ahem, “phans”) adore every moment while those of us less noodle-prone get lost around minute 57 of “You Enjoy Myself.” Everyone agrees they do a mean cover though. Know for their Halloween full-album sets – most recently Exile on Main St. – the band spent the first leg of their summer tour debuting tons of new covers, almost a new one with every stop.
The jaunt wrapped up on Sunday so we’ve rounded up these first-time covers. Lots of classic rock (Led Zeppelin, John Lennon) with a few curveballs thrown in (Neutral Milk Hotel, Rage Against the Machine). Stream and download them all below.
Regular readers will notice the appearance of ads in the past few days. I had hoped to avoid shilling out our space here, but though my expenses are small, they do add up. As you navigate the new look, I’d love some feedback in the comments. Are these ads a necessary evil, or are they annoying enough that you will visit the blog less? If you find them annoying though, you’ll note in the sidebar that if you sponsor the blog for a month, the ads go bye-bye.
The business out of the way, it’s time for December’s album! I’ll admit I was somewhat disappointed to see in the recent poll that this was the least popular feature we do here, but in my mind it is also what gives this blog a unique character among the litany of cover blogs you see on your right. So it’s not going anywhere. Who knows, it may just introduce you to a new favorite. This month’s is the Stones’ Beggars Banquet. A blues-rock classic, with several well-known songs and a classic album cover.
Gail Swanson – Sympathy for the Devil
The hellfire apocalypse of this Stones classic is stripped down to an acoustic grove, with plenty of Swanson’s soulful riffing. And is that a Jethro Tull-esq flute solo? Sweet. [Buy]
Odetta – No Expectations
A lot of good covers of this one, but we’ll feature a blues legend who just passed away last week. An inspiration from everyone from Bob Dylan to Rosa Parks, she found her voice in songs of hope and freedom during the 50’s and 60’s and kept growing strong through the 90’s, when she received a National Medal of the Arts from President Clinton. Listening to this song, you can see why. [Buy]
Dr. Sin – Dear Doctor
This South American metal group released a whole album of songs about doctors, yelling about everyone from Dr. Robert to Dr. Feelgood. They show a surprising adeptness at a bluesy folk sound here though, even (gasp) harmonizing. [Buy]
Barry Goldberg – Parachute Woman
Straight up electric blues that sounds straight outta Chicago, the crunchy guitar chugs along with some nice organ solos. Who needs words when you can say it all in the music? [Buy]
Gerald Collier – Jigsaw Puzzle
Slide guitar doesn’t just need to be for sappy country. It whirls and wails behind every line here, embellishing the driving rhythm. [Buy]
Rage Against the Machine – Street Fighting Man
Hard distortion and aggressive drumming, it’s all one would expect from the Rage. [Buy]
Rude Dog – Prodigal Son (Rev. Robert Wilkins)
It’s not a Stones original, but Mr. Dog gives it as good a treatment as Mick and Keith did, hopping along while making heavy use of that little scraper instrument everyone used in kindergarten. I miss that thing. [Buy]
Johnny Winter – Stray Cat Blues
Guitar god Johnny Winter never leaves anything out when he’s rocking, and he goes all out here in this cut from his ’74 classic Saints & Sinners full of pedophilia goodness. Blues rock at its most badass. [Buy]
The Radiators – Factory Girl
Some New Orleans funk here from a classic bayou jam band. True to jam tradition, it’s a live one, and go here to hear it in the context of a longer medley that includes “Quinn the Eskimo,” “Lonesome Whistle Blow” and “Mountain Jam.” [Buy]
Dandy Livingstone – Salt of the Earth
Reggae straight out of Kingston, Dandy’s not afraid to let the strings and steel drum shine, serving the vocals (both his and the chorus’) instead of distracting from them. I’m surprised McCain didn’t use this one to introduce Joe the Plumber. One of the best of the bunch. [Buy]