Aug 142020

tanya donellyjenn champion the blue albumTanya Donelly has a long history, as both singer-songwriter of Belly and solo artist, of interweaving emotionally charged originals with covers similarly forged from despair, heartbreak, and loneliness. The results have frequently been sublime, as when she complemented “Gepetto” with a heartfelt version of Gram Parsons’ “Hot Burrito #1” on the Gepetto EP of 1992, or when she accompanied “New England” and “Days of Grace” with an equally fervent rendition of the Beatles’ “Long, Long, Long” on 2006’s This Hungry Life. The covers have usually taken the backseat as B-sides and deep cuts, or as contributions to tribute albums to the likes of The Smiths or Elliott Smith. Yet now, in this topsy-turvy year of 2020, they are the main event; Donelly has not only released a series of quarantine covers for charity (featuring Labi Siffre’s “Bless the Telephone,” and the Pixies’ “Here Comes Your Man”), but has also polished off a covers album in collaboration with the Parkington Sisters, Tanya Donelly and the Parkington Sisters.

It’s Donelly’s first all-covers album, therefore, that stands before us, but it’s clearly no ordinary covers album. The Belly, Breeders, and Throwing Muses star initiated it out of a desire to do something different with the format in the wake of Juliana Hatfield’s recent successes with Sings Olivia Newton-John (2018), and Sings The Police (2019). She might well have followed in the steps of her sometime collaborator and fellow doyen of New England alt-rock by making, effectively, a tribute album to one of her musical heroes: Kate Bush, say, or Echo and the Bunnymen. But instead, Donelly has attempted to bring a sense of unity to nine reinterpretations of songs that have been hugely meaningful to her, by way of the moody string arrangements and somber vocal harmonies that the classically trained, Massachusetts-based Parkington Sisters are known for.
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Aug 082019
david byrne cover songs

Talking Heads only ever recorded one cover, and when I talked to David Byrne about it for my book, he seemed to have mixed feelings on the subject. “There’s always a little bit of resistance to recording a cover like that because it’s kind of a crowd pleaser,” he told me. “I’d seen it happen before, where radio DJs who pick what they’re going to play will often pick a cover song… So then a band gets known for covering somebody else’s song as opposed to writing their own material. They have to go through a struggle for years to get identified with their own songs.”

Talking Heads recorded “Take Me to the River,” it became their biggest hit up to that point, and Byrne said: That’s it. No more covers. The band never followed it up with a second.

He’s relaxed the rules a bit more in his solo career, most recently covering Janelle Monae’s “Hell You Talmbout” on tour (he says he’s bringing the cover to Broadway, too). And clearly he’s been listening to covers. For his DB Radio show on his website, he just compiled a wonderfully eclectic mix of his favorite covers. The theme, he says, is artists doing the unexpected, from Sonic Youth covering The Carpenters to Miley Cyrus covering Nine Inch Nails. And when the song choice itself may not be surprising – Patti Smith covering the Rolling Stones, say – the arrangements are. Here’s what he wrote on his website: Continue reading »

Nov 042015
Bond Week

Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.

double o heaven

With James Bond Part XXIV being released this week, the time seemed right to take a look at some Bond-related covers. Tune in tomorrow for some of the best ever made; for today, we’re whetting your appetite with a look at an all-Bond cover album that’s not like all the others.
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Mar 012013

Under the Radar shines a light on lesser-known cover artists. If you’re not listening to these folks, you should. Catch up on past installments here.

Kevin Dotson got the name Linus of Hollywood from his wardrobe bearing a similarity to that of the Peanuts character. A self-described metalhead in his youth, he started out in the pop-punk band Size 14; by the time he was releasing solo work, he was radiating California, from his nom de tune to the good vibrations coming off his sunny melodies in waves. Continue reading »

Feb 092011

Every Wednesday, our resident Gleek Eric Garneau gives his take on last night’s Glee covers.

After its post-Super Bowl spectacular, Glee resumed its regular Tuesday-night schedule with this week’s “Silly Love Songs.” As you might expect, that’s a Valentine’s Day-themed episode in which Coach Schuester directs the members of his glee club to partner up and sing their favorite love songs to each other. Strange teaching methods aside, what results is, like “The Sue Sylvester Shuffle,” another solid set of covers that spans a number of popular genres. Continue reading »

Aug 062009

The first post of the month always features a look at songs covering every track on a famous album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!

Like many Beatles fans with a Y chromosome, I always thought of Paul as a bit of the wimpy Beatle. His songs were slow and sappy, and how could someone so cute be taken seriously? His continual nostalgia tours did nothing to enforce an impression of Relevant Artist. Until I saw him live a few weeks ago. He did all the old Beatles songs, sure, but he dipped into his catalogue from the Wings days through his albums of the last few years. All the solo material held its own. Best of all though were, of course, the Band on the Run songs. Each tune is a classic and I only wish he’d done more. I’ll satiate myself with this comp.

We All Together – Band on the Run

Loads of covers of this exist, most of them carbon copies of the original. This could be accused of the same, but I like the tint of the psychedelic that tries to fight its way through. The tune came out in 1974, only one year after the original. Nice turn around! [Buy]

Laurence Juber – Jet

The downside of this cover: you just want to scream “Jet!” at the top of your lungs each time the chorus comes around. On an acoustic instrumental though, that’s awkward. If you can exercise the appropriate restraint though, the funky fingerpicking keeps the energy of the original, staying far away from elevator music. [Buy]

Denny Laine – Bluebird

Paul’s other [color]bird song is significantly less metaphorically significant than its companion. The beautiful falsetto melody of the original matches the simple lyrics perfectly though. You may know Denny Laine as the original Wings guitarist, so he knows his way around a McCartney tune. [Buy]

Brevis – Mrs. Vandebilt

Ok, first to acknowledge the obvious: No, I have no idea why Brevis pronounces “vandebilt” so strangely. I guess when you’re going for techno dance you want to sound as much like a Scandinavian as possible. [Buy]

Robyn Hitchcock – Let Me Roll It

Definitely no drug references here. Get your mind out of the gutter. [Buy]

Mark Hoffmeister – Mamunia

The title of this song always reminds me of the imprisoned Mumia Abu-Jamal. The lyrics about how rain is really good thing make for a mixed-message protest song though, so the tune’s probably not about the probably-innocent criminal. Oh, and it was written ten years earlier. That too. [Buy]

The Couper Brothers – No Words

Fun fact: the Couper Bros. are currently the backing band for the aforementioned Laine. This solo-heavy jam comes from before those days though, ironically on the one tune Denny co-wrote. [Buy]

The Shazam – Helen Wheels

I’ve listened to the original many times and I never got the pun of the title until hearing this cover. For anyone else similarly dense, take a listen. [Buy]

Brian Burns – Picasso’s Last Words (Drink To Me)

Picasso is an interesting choice for Paul to commemorate. Paul always seemed the least abstract Beatle, and this solo album is far more grounded in traditional pop than psychedelia or any other Picasso-esq genres. Clearly Picasso’s parting words from earlier in ‘73 just struck a chord. [Buy]

The Golden Dogs – Nineteen Hundred and Eighty Five

It starts out sounding like “In the Year 2525”-style fearmongering, but don’t worry; it’s just another tune about a girl. [Buy]