Given the nature of Cover Stories, I thought I might spend some time talking about some of my favorite musical covers. I typically enjoy covers; getting to see one artist’s interpretation of another artist’s work is something I find very interesting. I especially like seeing the covers span different musical genres than the originals.
So without further adieu…
Ray Lamontagne – Crazy (Gnarls Barkley Original) – I really love this tune by Gnarls Barkley and Lamontagne’s interpretation is just perfect if you’re a fan of his work. The mellow acoustic guitar combined with his raspy, smokey voice lends a completely different feel to this song.
Red – Ordinary World (Duran Duran Original) – I will admit right off the bat, I am not a fan of Red as their Christian rock proclivities do not jive well with my view of the universe. However this new take on Duran Duran’s Ordinary World is a hodgepodge of hard, alternative rock and post-grunge, which breathes new life into it.
Various Artists – Jamming: A Bluegrass Tribute to Bob Marley - This is a full album and not an individual song but needs to be experienced as a whole. I’ve only recently started listening to bluegrass with anything more than a passing interest, but I’ve been a huge Bob Marley fan for as long as I can remember. You wouldn’t think that reggae would lend itself well to the bluegrass sound but it does so surprisingly well. Waiting in Vain, one of my all-time favorite Marley songs, turns out to be an amazing tune in bluegrass format and the entire album is worth multiple listens.
Jenny Lewis with the Watson Twins (feat. Ben Gibbard, Conor Oberst & M. Ward) – Handle with Care (Travelling Wilburys Original) – Yes that’s a lot of names, but they’re covering a band with a lot of names in it to begin with so it kind of fits. Handle with Care is an iconic classic rock song and I’m glad Lewis and crew didn’t change it up too much.
Donavon Frankenreiter – Theologians (Wilco Original) – Donavon Frankenreiter brings his traditional surf-rock feel to an already great song by Wilco. As usual, Donavon puts applies his signature style and gives it a significantly mellower feel than the original. It totally evokes images of oceans and beaches and sandy campfires at sunset which, if you really listen to the lyrics, is probably something much different than what Wilco originally intended.
Various Artists – 50 First Dates Motion Picture Soundtrack – Another full album. Whether you’ve seen the movie or not, this is just a flat-out fun album that contains lots of artists doing reggae covers of 80′s songs. My favorite track is the Ziggy Marley cover of Drive, originally recorded by the Cars. It’s a surprisingly good album especially given the fact that it’s a film soundtrack.
M. Ward – Let’s Dance (David Bowie Original) – Another extremely mellow cover of an otherwise upbeat song, M. Ward takes one of Bowie’s classic 80′s hits, removes all the adrenaline and applies his uniquely quiet voice to this tune which gives it an almost sad feeling.
Gary Jules w/Michael Andrews - Mad World (Tears for Fears Original) – Anyone who’s seen the film Donnie Darko should recall this song as the score to the ending montage. Perhaps it’s because of that association or perhaps it’s the acoustic piano and Jules’ unique voice, but this is just a raw and hauntingly beautiful song and I feel this version has much more of an impact on the listener than the original.
Whiskeytown – Dreams (Fleetwood Mac Original) – Whiskeytown did a really good job of retaining the soul and feel of the original song while still making it their own. It simultaneously comes across as both an old classic rock song and a recent composition.
Smashing Pumpkins – Landslide (Fleetwood Mac Original) – Another Fleetwood Mac cover, there is not much to differentiate this song from the original other than Billy Corrigan’s voice which is more than enough. However, like the previously mentioned Travelling Wilburys song, it came across as more of a tribute than a remake. For a time this was one of my favorite songs… until the Dixie Chicks took a dump all over it by covering it as well. And I realize I have no right to be a music snob because I admittedly like some pretty horrible stuff, but I draw the line at that kind of garbage.
Northern Kings – I originally had 10 covers lined up for this article, but I HAD to add a bonus. For those not familiar with the Northern Kings they are a symphonic-metal supergroup from Finland that almost exclusively covers 80′s and early 90s songs. They were formed by already-famous finnish musicians, most notably Marco Heitala from Nightwish. These guys come across as pretty ridiculous but that is a part of their charm and I absolutely love their stuff (which is duly interesting because I’m not the biggest fan of metal).
Their first song was a cover of Tina Turner’s “We Don’t Need Another Hero.” In and of itself this is a pretty cool cover. However, once you see the music video which consists of the band members in top-hats and tuxedoes singing and over-emoting in an old candlelit library which has been placed at the top of a snowy remote mountain it adds to the effect.. Now throw in the fact that the lyrics which deal specifically with the Thunderdome really don’t make any sense (unless they’re taken in the context of the accompanying 80′s post-apocalyptic Mel Gibson film for which the song was written). Put it all together and it’s a formula for something insanely ridiculous but it’s almost as if they understand that and embrace it. The end result is just something so out there that it reels you in..
But don’t take my word for it. See for yourself:
Do a youtube search for Northern Kings to see what I mean and you’ll come up with their covers of almost everything from Bon Jovi to Lionel Ritchie, to Seal to Ah-Ha to Journey and many more.
So there are some of my favorite covers. Now I want to hear from you! Don’t be shy, leave a comment with some of yours and let’s spurn some earnest discussion!
*** Crossposted to http://www.coverstoriesbook.com ***