Apr 292022
 
best cover songs april 2022
Aimee Mann – Brooklyn (Steely Dan cover)

If you missed the whole brouhaha when Steely Dan dropped Aimee Mann as their opening act, it’s too long to recap here. To skip to the end, Mann tweeted, “All is forgiven if Donald [Fagan] just tells me what Brooklyn is about.” And he did! So, at a recent show at City Winery, she covered it. All does indeed appear to be forgiven. Continue reading »

Apr 082022
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.

Beatles Yesterday covers

This post has been a long time coming. Any cover song site worth its weight in scrambled eggs has to touch on the most covered song by the most covered band of all time. So now we arrive at “Yesterday” by the Beatles, a song they recorded four days before Paul McCartney turned 23. (They recorded “I’ve Just Seen a Face” and “I’m Down” during the same session – not a bad day’s work, Paul.)

“Yesterday” was the first Beatles song to feature only one member, and the first to feature a string quartet. The lads weren’t especially keen on the song, burying it deep on side two of Help! and not allowing it to be released as a single in the UK. Matt Monro stepped up to release his version two months after the Beatles released theirs. Après Matt, le déluge – over a hundred covers in 1966 alone, over three thousand covers total according to the Guinness Book of World Records (you get the sense that they eventually threw up their hands and stopped counting).

Sinatra, Aretha, Dylan, Elvis – all of them recorded terrific versions. Many more great ones were recorded by artists who weren’t known by only one name. Parodies were recorded by artists from EuFourla to the Beatles themselves (on their 1965 Christmas record). In fact, never has the topic “Five Good Covers” felt more woefully inadequate than it does for this song. Nevertheless, we persist, and we hope you enjoy these five drops in “Yesterday”‘s ocean.
Continue reading »

Feb 282022
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Mark Lanegan

It doesn’t seem five minutes since this, less than two years ago, with the publication of his memoir Sing Backwards and Weep seeming a good time to celebrate his apparent immunity to death. Even in a world becoming nervously aware of the pandemic, he seemed then a figure above such inconvenience, a latter-day Keith Richards made flesh, even in recovery. Little then did we know what his second volume would reveal, Devil In a Coma ripping apart that semblance, the Devil possibly in that very coma at the time of that article’s writing. I guess the assumption was that he had fully recovered from that further near-death, making last week’s news all the more astonishing and upsetting. At the time of this writing the cause of his death remains unknown. I hope he went in peace.

Not the place to regale and remind of his derring-do; others have done that better and by more right elsewhere. Here we celebrate, again, his winning way with the songs of others, his uncanny instinct to possess and inhabit the writings of other artists, as if the words had been written solely for his sepulchral tones. I don’t like the Devil comparison, however many coming up against him in their own lives might, preferring the image that he had the voice of God, with no need of any article, indefinite or otherwise. Sure, an older God, a vengeance-is-mine God, where forgiveness has to be earnt, much as he too tried to atone for his past behaviors, a forbidding God not to be taken in vain.

Hyperbole? Why not? Enjoy these ten further covers and sink one in his memory.
Continue reading »

Nov 292021
 
willie nelson all things must pass

“All Things Must Pass” is one of George Harrison’s signature solo songs, but by all rights, it should have been a Beatles tune. In the new documentary The Beatles: Get Back, there are scenes of the group working on the track in rehearsal. After the Fab Four opted not to record it, Billie Preston released a version on his 1970 album Encouraging Words. The song was later immortalized as the title track to Harrison’s 1972 solo album. Now, fifty years later, it almost seems like an understatement to call “All Things Must Pass” a classic. The track is both timeless and timely, a secular hymn, meditating on the brevity of beauty, love and time itself.

Willie Nelson knows a thing or two about the passage of time. The country music legend released his first album in 1962, several months before the Beatles dropped their debut Please Please Me. Nelson has continued putting out records at a furious pace over the last few decades. For his latest, The Willie Nelson Family, he enlisted the talents of his children. The album has the feel and consistency of many of Nelson’s recent offers, not exactly breaking new ground but still compelling enough to warrant a listen. The album features multiple gospel recordings including takes on Hank Williams’ “I Saw the Light” and “Keep It On the Sunny Side,” a hymn made famous by the Carter Family.

Wedged in between the many tracks about Jesus is a cover of Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass.” Willie’s son Lukas Nelson takes on the lead vocal duties, with Willie providing backup. The two deliver a quiet, passionate rendition of Harrison’s masterwork that feels like it’s been part of their family repertoire for decades.

Click here to listen to more covers by and of Willie Nelson.

Sep 172021
 

Five Good Covers presents five cross-genre reinterpretations of an oft-covered song.
The Scientist
“The Scientist” is the one song that even the most ardent Coldplay phobes can grudgingly admit to, if not actually liking, agreeing that it’s a good song, with nine out of ten subconsciously singing along with it, sotto voce, should it ever appear of the radio. Which it does really quite often. Despite the near impossibility of recreating Chris Martin’s falsetto, you just can’t stop yourself from trying, hating yourself as you then have to.

No, that’s unfair, but the band do present an easy target, being so damn successful and so damn ubiquitous. In the time old time old of an unreconstructed music snob, I like to prefer their old stuff, always finding a tall poppy anathema to my enjoyment. From their second album, 2002’s A Rush of Blood to the Head, “The Scientist” is the insanely catchy standout ballad in a record chock-full of earworm melodies. Catnip both to the lovelorn and those in love, it has become a favorite of slow dancers, although quite who or what the scientist was or is remains enigmatic. He sounds genuinely sorry enough.
Continue reading »

Aug 022021
 

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

billy joel covers

When Bruce Springsteen invited Billy Joel to play with him at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s 40th anniversary concert, he described their meeting as the “Bridge and Tunnel Summit.” This crossover surprised no one; the two artists are similar in many ways, riding careers that exploded from modest singer-songwriter origins playing dive bars to filling stadiums across the world. But one of the ways their trajectories have diverged: The Tunnel side of that equation (that’s Bruce from New Jersey) is about 100 times cooler than the Bridge side (Billy from Long Island). As a result, Springsteen songs have been covered far more often than Joel tunes, despite both having quite a few household-name hits under their belt.

Or maybe they’ve just been covered differently. When we did our Springsteen list, we had an abundance of genre-spanning covers to choose from, the hippest artists around finding meaning in Bruce’s work from every conceivable direction. Doing this month’s Joel list, we had an abundance too – of lounge piano. So much lounge piano.

Joel’s songs deserve better treatment than they often get. So we had to dig deep for this list, sifting through the schlock. There’s a little jazzy piano sprinkled in here and there, sure, but there’s also hardcore punk, ’90s R&B, spectral folk, robot electronica, south-of-the-border disco, and more. Turns out there are plenty of revelatory Billy Joel covers out there; they’re just lurking a little below the surface.

Dive in.

The list begins on Page 2.