I seem to be in a classic rock kinda mood today, so i figured it was as good a time as any to have a look at these 2 guys as cover artists. Lotta similarities here – both have (arguably i suppose) some of the finest pipes ever bestowed upon mortals and their voices often (inexplicablty to me) get confused. They shared a band – Stevie Marriott was with the Small Faces until he quit to form the Pie, and Rod Stewart took his place on pipes and Ronnie Wood took over his axework and they morphed into the Faces. They both wrote songs, and some damn good ones too, but covered more than their share. Many of the same artists. Small Faces was one of the most original and inventive bands going, and yet Stevie left to do a few great original tunes (30 Days in the Hole, Thunderbox, Hot and Nasty) and a slew of covers with the Pie. Rod went solo and did a few great original songs (Every Picture Tells a Story, Maggie May, You Wear It Well, Mandolin Wind), some ok ones, some shit ones, and a buttload of covers of varying quality.
So i never did get around to making a plug for Linda Ronstadt for my severely lapsed Best Cover Artists Ever series. And now she quite sadly has Parkinson’s and can’t sing a note anymore. So a bit of a tribute is in order i think – she wasn’t a songwriter but a world class singer and cover artist who did very proud the bulk of artists she covered. Imagine, to sing like that with no autotune. You can hear maybe a bit too much 70′s California production in some of the songs, but that was also her era and the artists that she covered as well. They’re none the worse for it either, really. Peace and best wishes to you, Linda. And thank you.
Haven’t done one of these posts in a long time, but really feeling like it’s time to give these guys the shout that they deserve. (And maybe you need a little something to listen to before the list goes up.) For starters, because not just anyone can take on the Midnight Rambler and do it justice.
What makes these guys such great cover artists? Well, you start with a southern boy with pipes to die for, (and Chris Robinson certainly has them) a definite requirement if you want to take on the likes of Mick, Joe Cocker, Stevie, Plant, etc. But you don’t do great Stones covers with pipes alone, and the band is more than up for the job. Brother Richie on guitar, and Chris on harp, do the Stones proud on this and many, many other Stones covers. (If i’m missing Mick and Co. at all here, it’s only because i’ve become addicted to the coke fueled live bootleg versions.)
I’ve probably mentioned once or 10 times that i’m not a huge country music fan. But bluegrass is exempt, don’t know if that’s due to the musicianship involved, or to the celtic / folk roots. Anyhoo, another tangent from sidebar surfing – bluegrass covers of tunes form other genres. They don’t always work, but the ones that do work work a lot better than you might expect. The ones that don’t are basically a wedding band rendition, and the ones that do are an entire re-imagining of the song. Here’s a few of my faves, feel free to add any of your own you may find.
The first one here is the one that set me off on the surf – (first posted by gunnison on our yankee politics spill blog)
Ok, just to get the answer out of the way first – no. Gov’t Mule is not a contender for the best cover band ever. I’d put them in roughly the same category as the Dead (and they do tend to play together, amusingly covering a Metallica tune together, and Sugaree) as cover artists – jam band, excellent covers. But unlike the Ramones, Nirvana, etc – not really definitive or radical re-interpretations that give pause to the originals. (Chris – feel free to disagree and make your case.) Continue reading →
I mentioned here recently how I enjoyed the way iTunes stacks your music so that you can search by title or artist or album; I usually keep mine organized by title and it’s always a pleasant surprise when I come across the same title by multiple artists that I’d forgotten that I owned. I recently noticed this set whilst looking for something totally different, it’s four versions of the same song and I was amazed by how differently each artist handled it and by the backing in each case. The song is ‘Cold Cold Heart’, it was written by Hank Williams in 1951 and reached number one on the country music singles charts. Over the years it’s been covered many times by a variety of artists and the four that I’ve accumulated are; Aretha Franklin [early 60's], Norah Jones , Dinah Washington  and I’ve included the original version by Hank Williams just to show what a great cover can do. They play in the following order:
My latest post-jazz post features a French based, Korean singer whose new album is doing well in the French jazz charts (though it received a lukewarm reception in the Guardian).
It’s de rigueur for post-jazz artists to cover grunge or metal hits, and I think Youn Sun Nah delivers one of the best recent efforts, stripping this song back to its skeleton to focus on the quite decently creepy lyrics, and indulging in some tasteful Purim-esque screaming midway through.
One of my favourite albums of the last few years is God Help The Girl – the album (and much more) from Stuart Murdoch’s side project of the same name. God Help The Girl
I particularly like the re-working of the track Funny Little Frog which originally appeared on Belle & Sebastian‘s The Life Pursuit and here gets a funky face lift, turning it into a sort of soulful torch song.
I always find it interesting when an artist takes another bash at an old favourite of theirs – and I don’t mean a remix or an acoustic version – I mean a whole new take on a song. Same lyrics, same chords but with an entirely different feel to it.
Diana – Prefab Sprout
Version one appeared as an extra track on the double-pack 7″ single of When Love Breaks Down. About five years later, a much slower and more downbeat version turned up on the Protest Songs album.
This early live favourite from the floppy-fringed, Glasgow art-school pospters first saw the light of recorded day in February 1980 when a live version appeared on a flexi disc given away with a fanzine. A slightly more polished version turned up on the band’s debut album, the seminal You Can’t Hide Your Love Forever in 1982.
Orange Juice are thought by many to be synoymous with Edwyn Collins – and of course Edwyn was always at the forefront of what made Orange Juice great but it would be wrong to underestimate James Kirk’s contribution to the band: a contribution which included penning Felicity.
Many years after Orange Juice‘s demise, James Kirk embarked on a solo career, the highlight of which was the 2003 album You Can Make It If You Boogie. And the album included a reworking of Felicity - a less-frenetic, more thoughtful version, I think you’ll agree.
Pop trivia: when The Wedding Present recorded their own version of Felicity, David Gedge introduced it with the words “this is a William Shatner song” – a reference to the songwriter, James (not T) Kirk.
In 1990, Jonathan Richman recorded a whole album of Country songs under the title Jonathan Goes Country. Alongside some Country & Western classics, he reworked a number of his own songs, including You’re The One For Me, a semi-autobiographical song which had originally appeared on the 1983 album, Jonathan Sings.
No guessing which top pop combo Mr Lewis is covering, but it’s the way they’ve been covered : luscious strings, horns and even a moog! It’s all for you in the ‘box … and on a thingy player (mucho gracias maki!)
There’s a tribute album to Shel Silverstein due out next week, and don’t worry the news wouldn’t normally have me leaping in the air and clicking my heels with joy either. But I heard Lucinda Williams do The Ballad of Lucy Jordan over on theCover Meblog, and if that’s any indication this’ll be a milestone tribute to the man who wrote Boy Named Sue, One’s on the Way, Cover of Rolling Stone and several other half-novelty songs. (Bit of a coup for us to have the song too, but shhh, trade secret)
As a possible reply to Blimpy’s recent Polar Bear post, here are cover versions of Ronnie Foster’s Mystic Brew and M.I.A.’s Galang by Vijay Iyer’s piano trio from their new album, Historicity. I wouldn’t necessarily call it post jazz, but it’s certainly exploring new ground, and I like it a lot.I also like the way Vijay apparently first heard the Ronnie Foster track as a sample in ATCQ’s Electric Relaxation.