cover songs Tag

My Favorite Covers

Everyone here at the Roundtable is playing the cover-songs game, and now it’s my turn to make like Michael Damian and rock on!

 

Elton John, “One Day (At A Time)”

Back in 1974, little seven-year old me acquired his first rock and roll 45: Elton John’s epic cover of “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.” I wore out that little piece of vinyl during my childhood, and I even occasionally flipped the 45 over to play the b-side. “One Day (At A Time)” was another Beatles-related song—it had first appeared on John Lennon’s so-so 1973 solo album Mind Games. Elton’s version squashes John’s original like a grape, but Lennon didn’t seem to mind—you can clearly hear him singing backup on the track.

 

Soundgarden, “Girl U Want”

This “Outshined” b-side might just be the perfect bridge between ’80s new wave and ’90s grunge. Soundgarden slows down Devo’s original and finds a colossal groove, but musically they’re almost identical in structure. Could “Smells Like Teen Spirit” actually have more in common with “The Safety Dance” than we ever possibly imagined?

This Mortal Coil, “Song to the Siren”

This beautiful Tim Buckley song has been covered by everyone from Pat Boone to Robert Plant, but no one will ever match the ethereal beauty of This Mortal Coil’s 1983 take. This version punches me in the stomach every single time I listen to it thanks to Elizabeth Fraser’s stunning vocal.

 

Lindsey Buckingham, “I Am Waiting”

As I write this, I am still seething over Fleetwood Mac’s decision to fire Lindsey Buckingham on the eve of their 2018 tour. The Mac are one of my all-time favorite bands, and I absolutely worship Neil Finn as a songwriter and performer, but I will not be attending any Fleetwood Mac shows this year. Instead, I’ll just stay home and dive into Lindsey’s stellar solo work—including this whispering take on a deep cut from the Rolling Stones’ 1966 classic Aftermath.

The Clash, “I Fought the Law”

The Clash’s searing version is actually a cover of a cover. The Bobby Fuller Four took “I Fought the Law” to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1966, but the song was first recorded by songwriter Sonny Curtis and the Crickets after Curtis joined the band following Buddy Holly’s death in 1959.

 

Ian McCulloch, “Lover, Lover, Lover”

You can’t have a top covers list without a Leonard Cohen song—I think that’s an actual law. I will, however, defy the odds by not including one of the 73,459 covers of “Hallelujah” that have bombarded the musical landscape over the past 25 years. Instead, check out this sublime cover of “Lover, Lover, Lover” from Echo & The Bunnymen’s Ian McCulloch. His 1992 solo album Mysterio was a bit of a letdown to longtime Bunnymen fans, but he absolutely nailed the Cohen vibe on this overlooked gem.

 

Harry Nilsson, “Without You”

This might just be my favorite cover song of all time. Badfinger’s 1970 original was a perfectly solid album track, but Harry Nilsson’s remake two years later completely redefined the concept of the rock ballad. I am still amazed that this song appears on the same album as “Coconut” and “Jump in the Fire.” Harry may have been all over the place stylistically, but the crazy bastard could SING.

 

Wilson Pickett, “Hey Jude”

When you have Wilson Pickett and Duane Allman, you don’t even need the na-na-na-na’s. Take a sad song and make it better.

Gary Maxwell

Gary Maxwell lives in Dallas with his wife, three cats, 6,000 LPs, and a vintage Atari 2600.
He once attended 218 consecutive Texas Longhorn football games over a span of 17 years,
yet he seems unable to commit to a particular brand of shampoo. His all-time favorite TV
show is Star Trek, except when it’s dark on Tuesday. When someone asks Gary if he prefers
the Beatles or the Stones, his answer is “The Who.”

Cover Me: Addendum

Propellerheads Star-Crossed Lovers
Propellerheads & Martha Wainwright, “Star-Crossed Lovers”

I knew this would happen. I wrote up my random list of covers and then told myself I was going to move on. But my brain just would not stop gnawing on that bone. So it guided me back to the Propellerheads “History Repeating” video. But, as I was watching it, I realized that wasn’t supposed to be my goal. This was:

 

I don’t want to be indulgent, continuing to pile tracks onto my list as they pop into my head. But it would be beyond remiss of me not to mention and praise this one. And the irony is that it’s off a tribute album.

Whatever works in this cover off the Duke Ellington tribute Red Hot + Indigo is irreducible—which means it can’t be bottled, which means it both expresses and reaches beyond its moment, which means whatever it is it does right only exists on this track and nowhere else. And pop music hates that, because it runs completely against the grain of its assembly-line, Thou Must Conform nature.

 

Good.

 

“Star-Crossed Lovers” is both hardcore and gorgeous, and you really can’t do any better than that.

Michael Gaughn

 

Red Hot + Indigo is available for streaming on YouTube, Google Play Music, and Deezer.

Michael Gaughn—The Absolute Sound, The Perfect Vision, Wideband, Stereo Review,
Sound & Vision, marketing, product design, a couple TV shows, some commercials, and
now this.

My Favorite Cover Songs Are All By Ingrid Michaelson

The ball’s in my court, I suppose. A few weeks back, Ash shared some of her favorite cover songs and challenged the rest of the Roundtable to do the same. While I was hemming and hawing and trying to think of more than one cover that I truly loved, Adrienne beat me to the punch with a followup.

 

Why has it taken so long for me to do the same? Because I have rules for cover songs that are nearly impossible to abide by. For me, a good cover song absolutely must sound nothing like the original. It must force me to reinterpret my relationship with the original. It must be a product of its time, not just a nostalgic romp down memory lane. It must, in other words, be like Hendrix’s cover of Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”

 

I realized a thing last night, though, as I put my iPhone on shuffle and let it play to drown out the memory of a pretty rough day. In constructing those rules, I forgot that my favorite cover songs absolutely violate them in the most blatant ways possible. But then again, in violating those rules, they uphold my Number One rule of music: Ingrid Michaelson can do no wrong.

Take Ingrid’s cover of “Skinny Love” by Bon Iver, for instance. She isn’t really doing anything inventive with the arrangement, aside from trading guitar for her trademark ukulele. She isn’t changing the intent of the song. She isn’t putting anything resembling her own spin on it. Instead, she’s holding church, worshiping a song she loves and asking the audience to worship along.

 

Much the same could be said of her take on “Over the Rainbow,” one of the most covered songs of all time. Yes, she plays with the tempo a little, as well as the cadence of the song. But if anything, Ingrid seems to be reacting to the numerous reinterpretations of the song throughout the decades. To me, she seems to be saying, Hey, cut the crap with your theatrics and your melismatic wankery. This is a song of mournful but hopeful longing, of being trapped in a dreary world and dreaming of a better place. It’s definitely the most vulnerable version of “Over the Rainbow” recorded since 1939, and that’s exactly as it should be.

You could argue the Ingrid’s riff on Radiohead’s “Creep” takes the song to new places, but with her quiet, stripped-down cover of the song, she gets right to the heart of the self-doubt and hesitation imbedded in its lyrics. There is, of course, the fact that having said lyrics delivered by a woman instead of a man drastically changes the gender-political implications of “Creep,” and yes, that does make it fascinating on one level. But I’m not sure that was the intent here. I get the sense that this is merely Ingrid’s honest and open interpretation of what the words mean to her and how she relates to them, gender be damned.

 

As for her cover of “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” what can I say, really, that I haven’t said already? Before my momma died, she once opined that anyone with the temerity to cover Elvis should be beaten half to death with a wet piece of cardboard. I’d like this think this one would have changed her mind.

Dennis Burger

Dennis Burger is an avid Star Wars scholar, Tolkien fanatic, and Corvette enthusiast
who somehow also manages to find time for technological passions including
high-end audio, home automation, and video gaming. He lives in the armpit of
Alabama with his wife Bethany and their four-legged child Bruno, a 75-pound
American Staffordshire Terrier who thinks he’s a Pomeranian.

My Favorite Cover Songs

OK, Ashley, you asked for it. In a recent post, you shared some of your favorite cover songs and asked the rest of us to do the same. Open the flood gates.

 

Like Ashley, I’m going to begin with a Tears for Fears cover. Michael Andrews and Gary Jules’s cover of “Mad World” might be my favorite cover song of all time, and that’s saying something. A stark and haunting combination of vocal and piano, their version drives home the song’s dark core for me in a way that the original’s ’80s synth-pop sound just can’t match.

I know some people will never forgive me for what I’m about to say, but I believe that Bob Dylan songs are always better when someone else sings them. Here are two examples from my own collection. First, I adore Cassandra Wilson’s version of “Shelter from the Storm,” one of my favorite Dylan tunes. If Wilson’s rich, silky alto doesn’t create a sense of shelter, I don’t know what will.

 

And then there’s this nice slow-jam cover of “Just Like a Woman” by Gov’t Mule, Gregg Allman & Friends. I could

listen to it all day. On a side note, I always thought the lyric was, “She tastes just like a woman” (hey, the next line is, “She makes love just like a woman,” so it made sense to me). Then I learned that the line is, “She takes just like a woman,” which changes the tone entirely. I sense a topic for a later post: Songs you loved until you learned the correct lyrics.

Next up is William Shatner’s cover of Pulp’s “Common People.” That’s right, I said William Shatner. You got a problem with that? Shatner’s 2004 album Has Been was produced by Ben Folds, and the best decision he made was to bring in Joe Jackson to provide the backing vocals on “Common People.” Jackson lends just the right amount of British contempt to complement Shatner’s American disdain. Pulp’s original song is really catchy and makes you want to bounce. Shatner’s version makes you want to punch someone in the face—but, you know, in a good way.

I know it’s April, but I can’t talk about my favorite covers without mentioning U2’s version of Greg Lakes’s “I Believe in Father Christmas,” which the band released a few years ago to raise money for RED. The original is surely a classic, but there’s something about the quieter U2 version—The Edge’s classic weeping guitar sound combined with Bono’s characteristic wail in the “I wish you a hopeful Christmas” line—that makes me weepy every time I hear it.

Speaking of getting all weepy, my last pick is Peter Gabriel’s remake of “The Book of Love” by The Magnetic Fields. It appeared in the remake of the film Shall We Dance?, and Scrubs fans will mostly certainly remember it from the finale. Gabriel’s vocals and orchestration give the song a sweetness and sentimentality that pulls at the heart strings, but the almost Bowie-esque quality of the original is fantastic, too.

 

I could name a bunch more, but I think it’s time for someone else to grab the ball and run with it.

—Adrienne Maxwell

Adrienne Maxwell has been writing about the home theater industry for longer
than she’s willing to admit. She is currently the managing editor and video specialist
at HomeTheaterReview.com. Adrienne lives in Colorado, where she spends far too
much time looking at the Rockies and not nearly enough time being in them.

Confessions of a Shameless Cover Songs Lover

There are few subjects I feel as strongly about in music as I feel about cover songs. You know, the age-old tradition of artists taking a timeless classic and making it their own, keeping the basic melody and words but adding their own flavor and tone. Or totally butchering it, killing the original song’s spirit and the spirits of any listener.

 

You could say I have a pretty hot and cold relationship with cover songs. I either love them or hate them—but a good cover? It’s almost as good as discovering the original—sometimes even better. Not only does it give you a totally different perspective on the lyrics but it can transform the meaning and the feel of the original. It can turn an upbeat song somber or a serious topic lighter.

 

One of the best parts of streaming-music platforms like Spotify is the ability to find lesser-known covers. But no matter how good I am at finding killer cover songs from my favorite and lesser-known artists, I know there are many I’m missing.

 

How about I share my top list and you share yours?

 

Let’s start with an ‘80s classic that definitely played in your dentist-office waiting room on repeat. “Everybody Wants to Rule the World” was among Tears for Fears biggest hits (along with “Shout,” their dark rebellion anthem) and tackles similar themes of searching for power and the struggle it creates.

A trio of sisters from Portland who call themselves Joseph decided to tackle the TFF beat on their 2017 album Stay Awake, and it’s perfect in every way. Joseph is a folk band, so the tune is decidedly more mellow than the synth-pop original, but the cover’s quieter tone forces the lyrics forward, creating an tune that feels as relevant as ever.

 

(And if you like it, you’ll love all of their work. Thank me later.) 

There are several covers of the Leonard Cohen’s gorgeous, gutting “Hallelujah,” and it’s honestly hard to choose which one I love the most. Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright (the piano in his version is to die for)—they are all beautiful in their own way. But in 2010, k.d. lang took the stage at the Winter Olympics opening ceremony and belted out what is to this date the most beautiful rendition of any live song I’ve heard, anywhere.

There’s nothing more to say that will do it justice—but it’s worth a listen if you happen to be unfamiliar and it’s important (I think) to watch her sing it live:

 

This might be an unpopular opinion but I love Walk the Moon. They are a newer, pop rock band and they’ve had a few radio hits. I’m not generally one to fawn over pop music, but their music just makes me want to dance. I can’t help it. And their live shows are so much fun. In a world where everything feels so damn heavy all of the time, they are my escape. Some people have trashy TV—I have Walk the Moon.

Their last hit, “Shut Up and Dance” was overplayed on the radio, almost ruining its perfection as a great gym workout song. (I still love it.)

And it’s hard to see how it could feel like a ballad—and yet. Kina Grannis. A lovely human with an incredible voice and a penchant for turning popular tunes into art.

 

You can see where this is going. Her version of “Shut Up and Dance” stopped me in my tracks. “Felt it in my chest as she looked at me, ooh, we were born to be together” and you forget you’re listening to a song that made it to a 2015 Kidz Bop album. That is not a typo.

I could go on and on with cover recommendations—perhaps this deserves a Part 2? But it’s your turn: What’s on your top cover songs playlist and why? I’m itching to add some new tunes into rotation.

Ashley Daigneault

Ashley Daigneault knew she was a writer before she left kindergarten and has a particular
love for writing about tech, literature, music, and politics. She is currently the VP at Caster
Communications
, a full-service tech PR and social-media firm, and works with B2B and
B2C tech brands. She lives in New England with her family, which includes kids and dogs
who think they are kids.