It’s been a while since i’ve done a Best Cover Artist ever post, and i’m not going to do one now either. But i did stumble on this Track of the Day blog on The Atlantic, which it bills as “the most transformative cover songs”. Many will be familiar to those of us around these parts, but there are many that are new to me. Fell in love with this cover of one of my favorite CSN songs. Other faves from the blog – The Gourds’ Gin and Juice and Blue Man Group / Venus Hum’s I Feel Love, Aztec Camera’s Jump. They take submissions too. (maybe look away from the Sisters of Mercy cover, Beth)
When I was doing my radio show at KRCB Santa Rosa Ca. the station’s program director decided that we’d do a tribute to Dylan’s 50th. All the DJ’s would do a 2 hour program devoted to Bob, 12 straight hours on the Saturday, 8am ’til 8 pm plus me from midnight ’til 2am. My friend Roland Jacopetti and I decided to do a preview a couple of days before, we jointly put together a 3 hour program of Dylan covers. I engineered it, Roland hosted it.
I came across this tape of the final hour a couple of nights ago, I thought you might enjoy it.
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 →