Monday, April 30, 2012

30 April 2012 - Joss Stone - Fell In Love With A Boy

While I never really got into The White Stripes, I have to admit that Fell In Love With A Girl was a decent tune. When I heard a 17-year-old soul singer from England had covered it two years after the song's initial release, I was skeptical. Then I actually heard it, and well, I fell in love with a tune...and Ms. Stone.

29 April 2012 - The Soggy Bottom Boys - Man of Constant Sorrow

The Soggy Bottom Boys are fictitious.  The music and vocals behind George Clooney and friends were done by session musicians. That doesn't make it any less excellent.

The song was originally recorded in 1913 by blind fiddler Dick Burnett, as "Farewell Song," but it is unclear whether he wrote it or if it predated him.  It has been recorded dozens of times, by such artists as Bob Dylan and Rod Stewart.  

This version, from the movie "Oh Brother Where Art Thou", is a faithful bluegrass cover version of the song, and it works as such.  This pivotal scene from the movie is a tremendous performance of this song that I truly hope you enjoy.

Saturday, April 28, 2012

28 April 2012 - They Might Be Giants - Istanbul (Not Constantinople)

Constantinople was the capitol of the Eastern Roman and later the Ottoman Empire.  However, the name change to Istanbul was mandated by the new Turkish government, who wanted to distance themselves from their history and insisted that the rest of the world call their city Istanbul, and not Constantinople.

This history/geography lesson was originally recorded by a Canadian band called The Four Lads.  However, They Might Be Giants rerecorded it, remade it, and now, it's theirs.

Friday, April 27, 2012

27 April 2012 - White Stripes - Walking With A Ghost

Sometimes, a song just sounds like it was meant for a group to perform.  Sometimes, it sounds like they wrote it for themselves.  This is one of those songs.  When I first heard the song, I thought it was theirs.  It certainly sounds like the kind of stuff that Jack White writes.

And when I heard the Tegan and Sara version, I thought THAT was the cover. It wasn't.

I was wrong, but that doesn't diminish the great song that Jack and Meg White crafted.  It just means that someone else did it first.  The two versions of the song go at approximately the same pace, but the hard edge of this version strikes a sharp contrast with the folky sounds of the original. Jack White can only harmonize with himself here, but it works, as well as the original, in a different way.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

26 April 2012 - 7 Seconds - 99 Red Balloons

7 Seconds is one of my favorite punk bands. I've been lucky enough to see them a few times over the years and they always seem to cover this song to close out their shows.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

25 April 2012 - Elwood - Sundown

Gordon Lightfoot is a Canadian national treasure.  There's no clearer way to express that.  And the original version of this song was one of his greatest - a classic.

So, when I heard yet another hip hop inspired band had covered such a treasured classic, I was instantly turned off.  Turns out I didn't have to be.  Elwood, straight out of the Portland underground, took an old song and reinvented it, successfully, without taking away any of its quiet charm.  To be clear, this classic song was certainly a tribute to naughtiness - Elwood didn't forget that when they covered it.

This live version doesn't have great song quality, but you can see the energy of the band clearly.

Here is a short documentary and the official music video for the song, if you are so inspired.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

24 April 2012 - Camper Van Beethoven - Pictures of Matchstick Men

While most people know Camper Van Beethoven for their classic first single Take The Skinheads Bowling, it's today's Status Quo cover that garnered CVB their biggest chart success. So sit back. Click the play button. And enjoy this psych-rock classic done Camperstyle.

Monday, April 23, 2012

23 April 2012 - Selena - Fotos Y Recuerdos

The late Selena was a Mexican - well, Tex-Mex - treasure who died far too soon and far too tragically - killed by the president of her fan club in cold blood.

This video, recorded three weeks before her murder, is a loose cover of The Pretenders' classic "Back On The Chain Gang."  It did make it onto her fourth album, and was released as a single a month before her death. Selena brings a brightness to the song that Chrissy Hynde lacks - it's a completely different song when Selena sings it.  And, technically, since she changes some of the words - and the language of the song - I debated whether or not it was really a cover.

What do you think?  Is this type of song remake really a cover?  And what's your opinion of the song?  Please share your thoughts in the comments!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

22 April 2012 - Electric Six - Radio Ga Ga

I wanted to share with you what I consider to be an underrated song by Queen, covered by an underrated, straight-ahead rock band from Detroit.

Electric Six is a band that sometimes tends to be a little bit on the goofy side. So, for them to do such a great tribute to Queen, in such a straight-forward manner, shows how much respect they have for the band and the song.  And let's talk about the song for a minute.  It was never a big hit in the US, but it should have been.  What a great tribute to old-time radio this song is.  It's kind of a companion to "Video Killed The Radio Star", without the negative slant.

So, appreciate the cover and the song.

Friday, April 20, 2012

20 April 2012 - Laura Cantrell - When The Roses Bloom Again

I first heard Laura Cantrell on an episode of my favorite radio show, Mountain Stage. It airs on Sundays on most NPR stations - please check out where to catch it in your area.  Laura herself actually hosted a old-time music show in New Jersey - WFMU was the station, I think.  She doesn't anymore - she makes old-time music.

This song, as she told the story on Mountain Stage, was found in some New York City archives by Laura and members of the band Wilco.  It was originally thought to be a Woody Guthrie song, at least by them.  It ended up being a song written by Carter family member A.P. Carter, but it is still a gem.   This arrangement was done by Wilco, but no one sings the song better than Ms. Cantrell.  This performance is from a 2004 BBC broadcast. Enjoy it.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

19 April 2012 - The Civil Wars - Billie Jean (live)

This Saturday is Record Store Day. Be sure to support your local record shop (if you have one). I was looking at the list of this year's releases and was psyched to see that for the third straight RSD, I can get some new music by my one of my most favorite bands...The Civil Wars. This year you can get a live cd by them AND a 7" with today's Michael Jackson cover and their version of Portishead's Sour Times!!! Looks like I'm waking up early again this Saturday to wait in line...

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

18 April 2012 - fIREHOSE - Sophisticated Bitch

Both The Minutemen - the band that immediately preceded this one - and fIREHOSE were known for their live covers.  The former was known best for repeatedly covering Blue Oyster Cult's "The Red and The Black" (and doing it well).

For me, fIREHOSE is best defined by their cover of the Public Enemy classic honored here.  It really shows the parallels between hip-hop and punk.  Ed Crawford isn't quite as iconic as Chuck D, or even D. Boon, but he does this song justice, in all its controlled and well-reasoned anger.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

17 April 2012 - Bettie Serveert - Lover I Don't Have To Love

I've been a pretty big Bettie Serveert fan since their 1992 debut Palomine came out (it's still one of my top 10 or 20 favorite records ever). While their own music is other-worldly (some will say dreamy...hell, I'll say it too), I always dug the songs they chose to cover (or albums, in the case of 1998's Bettie Serveert Plays Venus in Furs and Other Velvet Underground Songs). If I had to choose a favorite cover by them, I would have to go with their version of Sebadoh's Healthy Sick off of Palomine...but since I couldn't find a good video for it, we'll go with No. 2 -- their Bright Eyes cover off of 2004's Attagirl record.

16 April 2012 - R.E.M. - Crazy

This live performance is of a song that appeared on R.E.M.'s Dead Letter Office album, which was full of rarities and B-sides.  Dead Letter Office is my favorite R.E.M. album. most likely because it's full of odd covers, like this song.  Crazy was originally performed by a band called Pylon, who were contemporaries of R.E.M. in the Athens, GA, music scene.  This is a reasonably faithful cover of the song.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

15 April 2012 - Ciccone Youth - Addicted To Love

Ciccone Youth were really a side project for Sonic Youth to do with Mike Watt, formerly of The Minutemen. The rumor is that Ciccone Youth were formed to help Mike Watt recover from the death of bandmate and best friend d. Boon, but we'll never know if that's true.

Their only album - The Whitey Album - was mostly sonic experimentation, and hard to listen to.  However, there was a Madonna cover by Mr. Watt - Burnin' Up - and one by Thurston Moore - Into The Groove(y).  Both were interesting, but not as interesting as Kim Gordon's foray into a karaoke booth at Macy's, from which she emerged with this classic Robert Palmer cover.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

14 April 2012 - Steps - Tragedy

Robin Gibb is currently in a very grave state, in a coma and long suffering from cancer.  What better way to honor him than to feature a Britpop cover of one of his group's greatest songs?

Steps were a late-90's manufactured boy/girl pop group.  They recorded three albums before disbanding (although they have recently reformed).This version reached #1 in the UK in 1998.  It is one of the few Bee Gees covers that lives up to the harmonies of the original.

Friday, April 13, 2012

13 April 2012 - Lyle Lovett - Friend of The Devil

I was never a big fan of the Grateful Dead.  I don't know why - I just wasn't.  The album of covers of songs originally performed by the Dead - Deadicated - changed that for me in a small way.  I could learn to appreciate them lyrically, through the mouths and music of other artists.

By far, my favorite cover from the album is Lyle Lovett's cool version of Friend of the Devil.  The original is an upbeat tune - this one is more somber and dark, which I think meets the gravity of the song so much better.  This performance, a live one for a TV special honoring the Grateful Dead, is even a touch more somber than the one previously recorded.

A few months after that album was released, he became Mr. Julia Roberts.  Coincidence?

Thursday, April 12, 2012

12 April 2012 - Mighty Mighty Bosstones - Simmer Down

Really bummed that I couldn't find a good live video of the Mighty Mighty Bosstones doing their cover of Metallica's Enter Sandman. Never fear though, as this Bob Marley and the Wailers cover is just as cool.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

11 April 2012 - Emiliana Torrini - White Rabbit

I will be the first to admit that I heard this version of a Jefferson Airplane classic in the movie Sucker Punch.  The movie itself wasn't that great - I saw it on HBO in a hotel room - but the visual effects were kind of neat, and the music was excellent.

This is not the version featured in the movie.  This is a less remixed, more straight-forward cover of the song.   This is the version that topped off at number 34 on the Icelandic pop charts - the artist is from Iceland.

For comparison, here is the version featured in the movie.  I think it's a bit darker - the movie was really dark - and in some ways is even stronger and more emotion-filled. Plus, you get some images from the movie, which is an added bonus.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

10 April 2012 - Johnny Cash - Hurt

I love Johnny Cash and have since I was young. I was lucky enough to see him in 1996 (the first concert I ever went to with my dad...I was 22). This was right around the time when Unchained, the second of his six "American" releases, came out. During the sessions for these fantastic albums, producer Rick Rubin picked the songs and Johnny made them his own. Here's the Nine Inch Nails cover that blew everyone away...and still brings a tear to my eye when I hear it.

Awww heck, let's do the Soundgarden cover too!

9 April 2012 - Liz Phair and Material Issue - The Tra La La Song

Many of you probably remember the Saturday Morning tribute album that came out several years ago.  These two Chicago icons - Liz Phair and Material Issue - did the best of any of the fantastic covers on this album in capturing the style and energy of the original.

For those who are not aware, this was the theme song to a television show called The Banana Splits, featuring the creations of Sid and Marty Kroft - many scenes from the show are used in this video.  It was one of my favorites as a wee lad.

Anyway, enjoy the show.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

8 April 2012 - Blake Babies - Temptation Eyes

Before Juliana Hatfield was Juliana Hatfield, she was the lead vocalist for a band called The Blake Babies, one of my favorite bands of all time.  By the time this video came out, off their EP Rosy Jack World, they were already well on their way to splitting in half, between Freda Love and John Strohm returning to Indiana to form Antenna, and Juliana having a successful solo career.

So it's good they ended on this fantastic note, a cover of a Grass Roots classic.

Editor's Note:  Yes, I know they reformed several years later and recorded "God Bless The Blake Babies".  No need to complain that I got my facts wrong.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

7 April 2012 - Vanessa Paradis - I'm Waiting For The Man

Vanessa Paradis isn't well known in the United States by anyone except those who are fans of Johnny Depp.  She's been in a committed relationship with the actor for over a decade - they've actually gotten some press lately over a rumoured (and untrue) split.    In France, on the other hand, she's a superstar.  Not only does she have a music career, she's also a sought-after model in her home country.

I first heard Vanessa Paradis in the late 80's, when she released an album here, largely in French.  She had a minor hit - Joe Le Taxi - which was pretty standard pop music, but cute and fun.  When she went to record English language music, she looked to the music of Lou Reed and The Velvet Underground.  She did two covers originally sung by Lou Reed - one was of the great Walk On The Wild Side, and the other was this song, which was done with a slightly poppy voice that clearly identifies English as a 2nd language.  It's not as hard as the original, yet still compelling.

Friday, April 6, 2012

6 April 2012 - Elastica - Da Da Da

I have seen Elastica live twice.  Far and away, they are the best band I have ever seen live.  Ironically, I was disappointed to be seeing them the first time, when they were added to the Lollapalooza lineup to replace a departing Sinead O'Connor.   They were a significant upgrade.

I really hope they reunite at some point.  Fantastic band.

This live cover of a classic Trio song features original bassist Annie Holland on bass.  She was so good, they wrote a song about her. This song adds life to a song, which was largely in German, that prided itself in being somewhat monotone.  The original leaned on a keyboard sound, which is still there, but adds more of a fuzzy guitar sound.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

5 April 2012 - Nirvana - Molly's Lips

Has it really been 18 years?

Through Nirvana's music, I was introduced to a ton of bands. Most by mere influence. Others though, were more direct. Nirvana was always good at picking the right songs to pay tribute to. My favorite cover by them was this fantastic song by The Vaselines. Here's a live performance of it from the MTV studios.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

3 April 2012 - Green Day - Knowledge

I think I've seen Green Day live about five or six times over the years. Always a great time. One of my favorite moments at any Green Day show is when they bust out this Operation Ivy cover. Early on, Billy Joe would give up his guitar to a member of the crowd to play (as seen in this video). As the years went by, the entire band started handing over their instruments to members of the crowd to play. Somehow it always seems to work out.

2 April 2012 - Nicolette Larson - Lotta Love

Some people perform a song, and then they just own it, no matter who did it first.  This version of Lotta Love is one of them.

Few people realized that, when this song was released, it was a cover. Originally performed by Neil Young, this version is far more upbeat than the original.  The original recording of the song, from the Comes A Time album, an album that featured Ms. Larson as a background singer (this song did not).  However, Neil Young offered the song to her if she wanted it.

This recording is from Italian television in 1978.  Ms. Larson had several other hits on the country charts, but none as big as this one.  Sadly, she passed away in 1997 at age 45.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

1 April 2012 - The Presidents of the United States of America - Video Killed The Radio Star & Cleveland Rocks

On August 1, 1981, at midnight, a cable transmitter in New Jersey turned on, and showed a video of the first space shuttle launch, followed by a music video by a little band called The Buggles.  Of course, you have realized that the transmitter was for MTV, the cable network that at one time showed music videos, and that video was for the minor hit song "Video Killed The Radio Star".

Fast forward a few years to this goofy little band from Seattle, who got a record deal because they were from Seattle at about the same time as Nirvana and could play their instruments.  In all seriousness, they were a really talented, fun-to-listen-to band, and it's good that their city got attention thanks to Nirvana, but they didn't have that kind of sound.  

In 1996, MTV held a concert at Mount Rushmore, and invited these fun and talented individuals to perform their very first song.  The result was this simple, stripped-down performance that is an instant classic:

The song would go on to be featured on the soundtrack to the Adam Sandler film The Wedding Singer.  This performance is far better than any studio version.

Of course, this isn't the only classic cover they did for television.  This Ian Hunter cover - like the previous song, originally from 1979 - was commissioned by Drew Carey to be the theme song for his underrated TV show.  No, not The Price Is Right.