Jun 212024
 

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

The Kinks covers

If The Kinks had stopped after their first year, they’d still be legends. “You Really Got Me” and “All Day and All of the Night,” two of the all-time-great sixties rock singles, were both released in 1964. That’s more classics in one year than most bands have in decades (and their year gets even better if you slide in January 1965’s “Tired of Waiting for You,” recorded before “All Day Etc”).

But if The Kinks had stopped after their first year, this list certainly wouldn’t run 50 covers deep. Because, of course, they didn’t stop. They kept releasing hits, including Top 10s in both the ’70s (“Lola,” “Apeman”) and ’80s (“Come Dancing”). Maybe even more importantly, they kept creating, kept innovating, kept pushing forward, not settling into retreading their early garage-rock sound. That wide breadth gets reflected in the Kinks songs that artists covered. The big hits, of course, are well represented. But so are plenty of album cuts and singles that “flopped” at the time but were rediscovered years later.

Ray Davies turns 80 today. So today, we celebrate his birthday—and his ability to withstand decades of interviews about whether he and brother Dave will ever reunite—with our countdown of the 50 Best Kinks Covers Ever.

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May 022023
 

Matthews Southern ComfortWell, there’s a title for you. “Woodstock” was the song Iain Matthews, post-Fairport Convention, took to the top of the UK charts 53 years ago. Neither he nor his band, Matthews Southern Comfort, actually played at Yasgur’s Farm the year before, but, this side of the pond, it became the best-known version of Joni Mitchell’s song. The band actually fell apart within a year; Matthews was uncomfortable with the fame and bored with the pedal-steel-drenched country tropes now expected of him. Instead, he plowed on with a solo career and with another band, Plainsong.

Plainsong broke up and later reformed, and in 2010, Matthews decided to do the same for Matthews Southern Comfort. He’s since flitted between the three versions of himself, pursuing whatever suits him, under the brand it might suit best. (You might recall he, as Plainsong, covered the songs of Richard Farina with Andy Roberts on 2015’s Re-inventing Richard.) For The Woodstock Album, he has chosen the Matthews Southern Comfort moniker.

The idea behind The Woodstock Album was to pick a selection of artists who played at Woodstock, and some of the iconic songs they played there. Given that Matthews’ metier is very much of a folk-tinged country/country-tinged folk, these would neither ape nor echo the originals, but would hopefully give a fresh new spin on the material. Given many of the songs are not without some considerable covers history, this might be conceived a brave idea, especially as the tracklist becomes apparent. Let’s see.
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Nov 012022
 

In Defense takes a second look at a much maligned cover artist or album and asks, “Was it really as bad as all that?”

Duran Duran Thank You

With Duran Duran about to be indicted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, what better time to re-examine Thank You, their eighth full-length offering, released in 1995 to a blaze of apathy. To be fair, it didn’t actually fare that badly in the charts, reaching the top 20 in both the UK and the US. The singles did less well, failing to make any stateside impression and only one of them bruising, just, their homeland top 20. The critics gave Thank You a fairly uniform hammering, with the legacy casting a long shadow over the rest of their career: Q magazine, in 2006, called it the worst record of all time, having had 11 years to make that considered opinion. At the time Rolling Stone described many of the selections as “stunningly wrong headed.” Ouch.

Today we’re thinking it about time this much derided potpourri of styles and statements had a good seeing to, via the retrospectroscope. I fully confess I had never listened to Thank You until researching this piece. So I got me a copy sent through, all of £3 plus p&p, which currently equates to about $3. Money well spent? Well, you know, actually, yes, it isn’t half as bad as I had been led to believe, and some of the tracks are really rather good. Of course, it is dated, but, by imagining myself back all those 27 years, I find myself heartily disagreeing with those snarky scribes from Q.

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Jun 302022
 
best covers of june 2022
Angel Olsen – Greenville (Lucinda Williams cover)


Angel Olsen dropped two terrific covers this month. Her version of Dylan’s “One Too Many Mornings,” recorded for the TV show Shining Girls, features haunting electronic textures underpinning her voice. It’s a surprisingly un-folky cover of one of Bob’s early folk songs. Her version of Lucinda Williams’ Car Wheels on a Gravel Road standout “Greenville” is just as good, guitar echoing behind her mesmerizing double-tracked vocals. Continue reading »

Nov 012021
 
best cover songs 1991

As regular readers know, every year, at the end of the year, we do a big year-end covers list. This tradition started in 2007 and will continue in a couple months with the best covers of 2021.

But there are so many years before 2007 where we weren’t doing year-end covers lists (and, as far as I’m aware, no one else was either). So once a year, we do a big anniversary post tackling the best covers of a year before Cover Me was born. So far we’ve done 1969, 1978, 1987, 1996, and, last year, 2000.

And for 2021, we look back thirty years, to the heady days of 1991. The days of grunge and acid house, of parachute pants and ripped denim, of The Gulf War and Home Alone. Country music and hip-hop increased their cultural dominance (or really just making their existing dominance known; 1991 is also the year Soundscan made the Billboard charts more authoritative). In a single day, Nirvana released Nevermind, Red Hot Chili Peppers released Blood Sugar Sex Magik, and A Tribe Called Quest released The Low End Theory. Think that’s a fluke? The week before saw massive albums from Mariah Carey, Hole, and Guns ‘n’ Roses (two albums, no less). The week before that came Garth Brooks, Talk Talk, and Saint Etienne.

All of those trends are reflected in the list below. Many of these covers scream “1991!” LL Cool J raps Disney. Courtney Love shrieks Joni. Aretha Franklin tries to new jack swing. A spate of early tribute albums (in fact, last year I wrote a 33 1/3 book about a 1991 tribute album). Other covers are more timeless, from veteran artists doing great work several decades into their careers, or way-underground artists who never even approached the mainstream. The only criteria was quality. Thirty years later, these 50 covers Hole-d up the best.

Check out the list starting on Page 2, and stay tuned for the best covers of this year coming in December.

The list begins on Page 2.

Jul 172020
 
low cut connie covers

As everyone from Rolling Stone to their hometown Philadelphia Inquirer have noted, Low Cut Connie’s Adam Weiner has been putting some of the best – strike that, the best – live streams of our quarantined era. In twice-weekly shows he calls “Tough Cookies,” Weiner, sometimes accompanied by guitarist Will Donnelly, strips down to his skivvies and plays a high-energy set with a whole lot of crowd participation – doubly impressive without an actual crowd. He also invites friends ranging from Dion to Big Freedia to join him (when’s he going to get his most famous fan in on the action?) If you haven’t watched one, you should; it’s at a whole different energy level than any other artist’s stream. Continue reading »