When delivered with passion and a reverence for the record being covered, a track-for-track covers album reimagining an iconic album by someone’s musical heroes can result in an intoxicating listen. Norah Jones and Billie Joe Armstrong mined this territory on 2013’s Foreverly, an album paying tribute to the Everly Brothers’ Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. The Walkmen took the format to the next level, inhabiting the very essence of the John Lennon-produced Harry Nilsson cult classic Pussycats with Pussycats Starring The Walkmen. And now, in 2018, the Austin-based Americana group The Band of Heathens have delivered A Message from the People Revisited, a timely tribute to the Ray Charles record A Message from the People, originally released in 1972.
A little over a week ago, Paste Magazine held an amazing release party for my new book Cover Me: The Stories Behind the Greatest Cover Songs of All Time. The event featured exclusive covers of songs from the book performed by some of our favorite musicians: Emel Mathlouthi (one of our Northside Fest finds this year), Eli Paperboy Reed, and Anthony D’Amato. Paste live-streamed the full thing from their New York studio, but if you missed it, now you can watch the clips online.
Mathlouthi and D’Amato both chose Bob Dylan songs – appropriately enough, as Dylan is the only songwriter who gets two chapters in my book. Mathlouthi did the rare “All Along the Watchtower” cover that owes little to Hendrix, her gorgeous voice soaring high above a churning guitar rhythm. And D’Amato picked the book’s final chapter, following in the footsteps of Adele, Garth Brooks, and Billy Joel by beautifully covering Bob’s modern-day standard “Make You Feel My Love.”
Leonard Cohen has been gone five months this week, but the tributes keep on coming. We’ve already heard new covers by – deep breath – Coldplay, Norah Jones, The Avett Brothers, Car Seat Headrest, Amanda Shires, Gov’t Mule, Okkervil River, Richard Thompson, Josh Ritter, and an all-star lineup. Plus, of course, we wrote our own massive covers tribute.
It’s hard to keep up. At Canada’s Juno Music Awards this week, Feist performed a beautiful trio cover of “Hey, That’s No Way to Say Goodbye” – though releasing one of his best-ever albums right before his death actually is a pretty good way to say goodbye. Watch the clip below, introduced by Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau (Cohen was a pallbearer at Trudeau’s father’s funeral).
Last night, Brooklyn’s Music Hall of Williamsburg held an epic Leonard Cohen tribute show, bringing together Cohen’s peers and younger admirers for a 22-song blowout of tribute covers. From a killer instrumental opener of “Hallelujah” by Delicate Steve – a smart move, getting that out of the way up front with a left-field guitar version that doesn’t attempt to compete with Jeff Buckley – the sold-out crowd sang along to Cohen many profound lyrics, and a few of his profound ones too (Lenny Kaye of the Patti Smith Group led a rousing holler through Cohen’s dumbest song, “Don’t Go Home with Your Hard-On”).
Many of performers had personal Cohen stories to share. “I met Leonard Cohen at a BBC session in 1967 – but I can’t remember anything about it,” Richard Thompson quipped, while Josh Ritter told a yarn about chasing Cohen down an alley backstage only to run headfirst into a truck and miss his once chance. Richard’s son Teddy Thompson recalled Cohen once asking him what he was working on. When he replied that he was making a country album, Cohen said cryptically, “I went country myself, once…” Thompson then covered one of Cohen’s most country songs, “Ballad of the Absent Mare.”
This week, specifically on July 7th, marks the Rolling Stones 50th anniversary of their first show ever at London’s Marquee Jazz Club, when they were billed as the Rollin’ Stones. It’s a profoundly nostalgic moment in music history, and throughout the month of July, BBC 6Music will be celebrating the occasion by having some of the station’s personal favorite bands play Rolling Stone tracks.
With hard work so too come moments of unplanned medleys covering three famous U2 songs, or at least that’s what happens for The Walkmen. The band recently announced that they have finished recording another album, and as a means of relief, celebration, exhaustion, etc, the band released an “embarrassing recording of a spontaneous outburst of frustration that occurred during the very rigorous sessions,” which culminated in covers of “Pride In The Name of Love,” “With or Without You,” and “Sunday Bloody Sunday.”