Friday random ten: Cover me

In last week’s Houston Chronicle, in their Thursday Entertainment section, there was an article about the author’s ten favorite cover songs. I was going to link to that as the basis of my Friday Random Ten, but for some bizarre reason it’s not on their website, and the guy never responded to my email inquiring about it. Feh. It’s still a good idea, so here are my top ten cover songs from my collection:

1. Bridge Over Troubled Water – Johnny Cash. The story had Cash’s version of “Hurt” from the same album, which I also love, but this one speaks to me a little more. When The Man In Black sings “And pain is all around/Like a bridge over troubled water/I will lay me down”, boy howdy you believe him.
2. I Will Survive – CAKE. I can’t adequately express how much I love this song. This is a canonical example of a group taking something and making it their own.
3. Brain Damage – Austin Lounge Lizards. The first Lounge Lizards song I ever heard. I was hooked from the beginning.
4. If I Had A Boat – Eddie From Ohio. Can’t find a video for it, unfortunately. It’s from their “Portable EFO Show” CD.
5. Shine On Harvest Moon – Asylum Street Spankers. The Spankers did a ton of covers, many featured on their “Mercurial” CD. It’s tough to pick just one, but I’d say this classic is my favorite.
6. I Wanna Be Like You – Los Lobos. Sooner or later, everybody does a Disney song cover. Los Lobos apparently did a whole album’s worth. The version in that video is a bit different than what’s on the “Stay Awake” album, which is my favorite song from that record.
7. Uncle John’s Band – Indigo Girls. From the “Deadicated” CD. Any time you take a song I don’t care about singing along to and turn it into a song I simply must sing along to, it’s a winner.
8. September – Pomplamoose. A lot of these songs are different in style or execution or some other obvious way from the original. This one may be the most faithful to it. It just works for me. The dancing grandma in the video kicks it up a notch.
9. Hesitation Blues – Willie and The Wheel. Willie Nelson. Asleep At The Wheel. A few of their favorite old-time western swing songs. Need I say more?
10. Jenny Jenkins – Lisa Loeb. A large proportion of the TV we watch around here is kid-oriented. This video, from “Jack’s Big Music Show”, was one of the better things we’ve seen. The version of the song available through iTunes has two more verses.

Songs I might have included if I still possessed them:

Birdland, by Maynard Ferguson
Silhouettes, by The Nylons
Psycho Killer, by The Bobs

There’s probably more, but that will do. What are your favorite cover songs?

Entire song list report: Started with “Mamma’s Favorite”, by Guy Forsyth. Finished with “Merchant’s Lunch”, by the Austin Lounge Lizards, song #3309, for 91 tunes this week.

Ripping vinyl report: “Perfect Strangers”, the other Deep Purple album that I own. I need to do an inventory and see how many albums I have left to go.

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6 Responses to Friday random ten: Cover me

  1. Linkmeister says:

    Now this is hard. I have huge numbers of songs performed by singers whose entire oeuvre was interpretation of the original, like Sinatra, Ronstadt and Eva Cassidy.

    A Beatles song I always liked: Till There Was You, from “Meet the Beatles.” Paul sings a beautiful version of this song from “The Music Man.”

    Ronstadt: Neil Young’s “After the Gold Rush.”
    We Five: Ian & Sylvia’s “You Were on My Mind.” The cover was the bigger hit.
    Blood Sweat & Tears: Laura Nyro’s “And When I Die.”
    The Dixie Chicks: Stevie Nicks’s “Landslide.”
    Three Dog Night: Nyro’s “Eli’s Coming.”
    James Taylor: Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”
    Jimi Hendrix: Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower.”
    Joan Baez: Dylan’s “I Shall Be Released.”
    The Byrds: Dylan’s “Mr. Tambourine Man” and Pete Seeger’s “Turn Turn Turn.”

  2. Linkmeister says:

    I found YouTube videos for 100% of my selections, which is a lot better than my usual batting average there.

  3. Joe White says:

    Been too busy lately to post, but had to de-lurk to reply to this.

    Istanbul (Not Constantinople) – They Might Be Giants. My brother and I are old enough to have heard The Four Lads’ version before TMBG released theirs.

  4. Greg Wythe says:

    * You Really Got Me – Van Halen (orig. The Kinks)
    The definitive cover song by a hard rock band. Eddie turns the opening chords from attention getting, radio-friendly fare to a life-altering experience.

    * People Get Ready – Rod Stewart/Jeff Beck (orig. Curtis Mayfield)
    * People Get Ready – Oni Logan/George Lynch (orig. Rod Stewart/Jeff Beck)
    The original and Beck/Stewart versions are both classics, of course. But George Lynch adds some nice touches in this version, which was from a Beck tribute CD. I’m fairly certain in my recollection that Logan adds the vocals. Regardless, it’s a nice, hard-rock-friendly homage to Stewart.

    * Reason to Believe – Eddie Money (orig. Rod Stewart)
    From the same CD as the Logan/Lynch effort. I haven’t heard Money’s voice sing that well since the 70s.

    * I Was Only Joking – Jani Lane (orig. Rod Stewart)
    From the same CD as above. If Lane added this to a Warrant CD, he might have resurrected the band from it’s post-Cherry Pie funk.

    * Unconditional Love – The Altar Boys (orig. Donna Summer)
    Christian punk cover of a disco tune. Easily my favorite off this list.

    * Ballroom Blitz – Krokus (orig. The Sweet)
    It was the 80s.

    * Drugstore Truck Drivin’ Man – Jason & the Scorchers (orig. Gram Parsons)
    There’s a number of worthy songs from the Scorchers to include. I list this one since it has them covering their songwriting soulmate. That and I’d argue the band was far more focused for their work on this reunion effort than some of their earlier material.

    * I Told You So – Carrie Underwood (orig. Randy Travis)
    Song just takes on another dimension when done with a quality female vocal.

    * Moonage Daydream – Racer X (orig. David Bowie)
    * Got the Time – Anthrax (orig. Joe Jackson)
    These are the two definitive songs I like to point to when encouraging a band to add a cover to their mix of songs. They both serve as great reminders that just because it’s a cover, it doesn’t mean you have to be faithful to the spirit of the original.

    * It’s Not the Spotlight – Rod Stewart (orig. Bobby Bland)
    Similar to the above, Stewart’s version is a great stripped-down version of Bland’s more soulful original. Both are great, as is Beth Orton’s more recent cover. All this to show that one of the strengths of a good cover tune is the timelessness of certain songs that are worth covering.

    * Follow You – Geoff Moore (orig. Glen Burtnick)
    Another Christian cover of a non-Christian tune. Both are fairly obscure, but so what.

    * Too Fast for Love – The Donnas (orig. Motley Crue)
    Raw and a little loose, at times. Not without coincidence, I think that shows how sometimes the most meaningful aspect of covering a tune isn’t always about the music as much as it is capturing the spirit of the song.

    * What a Wonderful World – Joey Ramone (orig. Louie Armstrong)
    I got the CD after Joey passed away … how could you not love this song while remembering the guy’s work?

    * Baba O’Riley – Mr. Big (orig. The Who)
    A simple song, really. Easy to play, but hard to maintain the stamina for the guitar parts. Paul Gilbert took the keyboard parts on guitar, while Billy Sheehan took much of the guitar parts on bass. Great live-show closer by the band back in the day.

    * Girl Crazy – Paul Gilbert (orig. Enuff Z’nuff)
    A song way too simple to consider a show-off effort by Paul Gilbert. But the live version includes an homage to Journey at the end that demonstrates part of Gilbert’s genius of mashing songs together.

    * Two Become One – Paul Gilbert (orig. Spice Girls)
    Spice Girls. Zeppelin, Black Sabbath. Like I said … genius.

    * Needles & Pins – The Ramones (orig. Jackie DeShannon)
    The song was written by Sonny Bono back in the day. Johnny & Joey give it a fairly faithful treatment, which is what makes this stand out from all the other thrash & flail music the Ramones are known for.

    * Action – Steve Stevens & the Atomic Playboys (orig. The Sweet)
    Another datapoint indicating how strong 70s British bands were as a source of coverable material.

    * River of Love – T-Bone Burnett (orig. Leslie Phillips)
    This is a bit of a gray area for defining cover tunes. Burnett and Phillips were husband and wife (I believe at the time both recorded their version). Burnett produced Phillips’ album with this song. The song is co-written by both. Phillips (now known as Sam Phillips) recorded it as a Christian tune, while Burnett’s is a whole lot more country, with some killer slide guitar by the legendary Jerry Douglas. As good as Burnett’s verion is all around, it’s the slide guitar that makes this one memorable.

    * I Only Want to Be With You – Volbeat (orig. Dusty Springfield)
    * I Only Want to Be With You – The Tourists (orig. Dusty Springfield)
    As widely covered as the song has been, Volbeat adds the modern, Drop-D metal end of the spectrum, while The Tourists add nothing more than Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart (pre-Eurythmics) adding their magic to the mix.

    * The Tra-La-La Song – Liz Phair (orig. The Banana Splits)
    Note to self: If stuck on an island and you only have one song to play on an endless loop, make it this one.

    Hon. Mention: Anything by Joan Jett, Me First & the Gimme Gimmes

    Note: There’s actually more gray to the definition of “cover” than the Burnett/Phillips tune offers. Country music, in general, has been organized industry-wide to have performers and songwriters in separate boxes. Are the performers “covering” the song? … are they covering it when they’re doing a second version of the song? The Dixie Chicks made millions out of the gate when their first two recordings had reworked songs that Joy Lynn White recorded earlier. Are they covers, or is it just the way that Country music operates?

    Similarly, what to make of Whitesnake? They have collectively covered their own prior recordings as differerent lineups make for different dynamics in old songs. This was most popularly done to “Here I Go Again” which was recorded initially by the Mel Galley version of the band before John Sykes (w/ Adrian Vandenberg adding a new solo) reworked it on the 1987 album. Adding to that, the song even had a radio remix done with Dann Huff doing a completely different version after the album’s release.

    There’s also a whole slew of songs that probably warrant special mention by Chris Tomlin and Lincoln Brewster in the Christian worship genre. In Tomlin’s case, he’s taken songs that were released by independent artists, with little-known releases and and made them into ginormous hits. In his case, I’d argue this is comparable to the Country music model – just that the songwriters are pressing their own indie CDs instead of shopping them to publishing houses in Nashville. In Brewster’s case, he’s a widely recognized re-arranger of other people’s work on top of being a great original artist. This is common among worship leaders, who have to take recognizable music and make it fit within their own church’s. No doubt, his cover work definitely fits more comfortably fit into the “cover” realm.

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