Over our time tracking cover songs (13 years this month!), we’ve written about hundreds of new tribute albums, across reviews, news stories, and, when they’re good enough, our best-of-the-year lists. We also have looked back on plenty of great tribute albums from the past in our Cover Classics series. But we’ve never pulled it all together – until now.
In Pick Five, great artists pick five cover songs that matter to them.
Juliana Hatfield is an old hat at making an unlikely song her own. Earlier this year, she made both our Best Cover Songs of January and March roundups. A couple years before that, her version of “Needle in the Hay” was a high point of a Wes Anderson tribute album. A couple years before that, she released a terrific self-titled covers album of her own. I mean, how far back do we want to go here? Hell, she even made our Best Cover Songs of 1996 list! Suffice to say, she knows how to crush a great cover.
That’s why we were so excited to hear about Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, which comes out tomorrow. It more than lives up to our high expectations. Hatfield takes on hits like “Physical” alongside plenty of deep cuts that prove this is not some gimmick; she’s a genuine fan.
In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.
Merle Haggard died on April 6th, his 79th birthday. On another April 6th, eleven years earlier, he celebrated his birthday in Chicago, opening the spring run of Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour.”
I don’t know what he did for most of that 66th birthday, but I do know how five minutes or so was spent. He was standing outside his tour bus, listening to a handful of Dylan obsessives sing “Happy Birthday” to him. I was one of them.
In the Spotlight showcases a cross-section of an artist’s cover work. View past installments, then post suggestions for future picks in the comments!
In the 1980s, there was one artist that Minneapolis became known for. And that was Prince.
But if you took the bus to the bad part of town, watching the blight and the snowy misery go by through fogged up windows, you would eventually spot a burned-out, abandoned, and graffiti-tagged little red Corvette: perched up on blocks, stuffed with liquor bottles in the back seat, and harboring a coffee can in the front filled to the brim with cigarette butts. If you opened the door, you would find a floor littered with cassettes. K-Tel. Kiss. Big Star. And if you ran the VIN number, you’d find the owner to be the Replacements.
Full Albums features covers of every track off a classic album. Got an idea for a future pick? Leave a note in the comments!
The Doors are in the unfortunate position of being overwhelmed by their mystique. They were never a band that coasted on an image – they released eight albums (six studio, one live, one best-of) in the five years before Jim Morrison’s death, and two more studio albums afterward. Their dark voice was not always welcome in the peace ‘n’ love sixties, but they never stopped raising it. Some of their albums are spotty, but the best of their work has stood the test of time better than that of many if not most of their contemporaries. Alas, too many people today know them as nothing more than a vehicle for Morrison to wield the persona that famously led Rolling Stone to declare him hot, sexy, and dead. But in 1967, there was nobody like them, and their self-titled debut album proved them to be a cohesive unit with a vision only those four men could convey.
Cover Classics takes a closer look at all-cover albums of the past, their genesis, and their legacy.
Richard Thompson is an ideal subject for a tribute album. He’s been acknowledged as the most underrated guitarist in rock for so long he’s in danger of losing the title. His songwriting is inspired, both musically and lyrically. If his singing voice is by default the weak leg in the tripod, that only means a band can put their own stamp on it with greater ease. To top it off, his cult audience would guarantee small but significant sales to people who knew music and who would be more open to a wide range of approaches to Thompson’s songs. 1994’s Beat the Retreat: Songs by Richard Thompson is a gathering of some of Thompson’s best work, performed by disparate artists with devoted followers of their own, bringing all their contrasting styles to salute one man – as such, for all its flaws, it has become an archetypal tribute album.