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Thursday, 23 December 2010


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I love cover albums. Willie Nelson's Stardust is a classic but sometimes they can backfire.
A few years ago there was a Patsy Cline tribute album. It had great performers and they turned in terrific recordings.
The problem is that I can't get much more than three cuts into the thing before I have to spool up the real deal.
It happens.

Hurt is just about the best cover I've heard in years, and I'm a lover of good covers. Note that there are a LOT of covers in Cash's American albums, and all but Personal Jesus worked very well. His takes on 'Four Strong Winds' and 'I Hung My Head' (on American V and American IV respectively) are brilliant.

A few more to check out:

Aretha Franklin - 'Respect' - originally an Otis Redding song, something few realize

Tori Amos - 'Raining Blood' - It's a signature Slayer song turned into a haunting ballad

Joss Stone - Fell in Love With a Boy' - A gender-flipped and soul-infused cover of the catchy but annoying White Stripes song 'Fell in Love With a Girl'

Gun's 'n' Roses - Live and Let Die - Arguably better than the original as Axel simply sounds the part in a way McCartney never will.

Joan Osborne - 'Son of a Preacher Man' - A classic up with the Dusty Springfield version

Disturbed - 'Land of Confusion' - Another case where a louder, angrier version works better than the original.

Nightwish - 'Over the Hills and Far Away' - A somewhat cheesy Gary Moore song re-rendered as operatic metal.

Nine Inch Nails - 'Get Down, Make Love' - Dirty and grungy take on the Queen song

Hard to Handle - The Commitments - Most think of this as a Black Crowes song but it's not and IMHO the Commitments did it best.

The Corrs - Eevrybody Hurts - Brilliant take on the REM classic

The Headstones - 'Tweeter & The Monkey Man' - This semi-obscure Canadian band did a great take on a good song which wasn't all that well done in the original recording.

White Zombie - 'I'm Your Boogie Man' - Disco turned into Metal. Works surprisingly well and one of Zombie's best known tunes.

The Tea Party - 'Into My Arms' - tear-jerking live-only cover of the Nick Cave song

The Rolling Stones - 'Like a Rolling Stone' - Stripped down acoustic version of the Dylan song, done straight.

R.E.M.'s cover of First We Take Manhattan by Coen is, IMHO, much more driving and much less 80s-pop-ish.

It's relatively unknown since it was only released as a b side, so I can't find any youtube links. Here it is on iTunes preview, though, in the context of the EP it was on: http://itunes.apple.com/us/album/drive-ep/id5131351

I'm glad someone mentioned Cake's cover of "I Will Survive".

I guess my picks are largely a product of my generation and the music I grew up with.

Is it fair to cite blues numbers? Among a few seminal covers on the sole Blues Breakers album with young Eric Clapton, the great cover of Freddy King's "Hideaway" stands out as harbinger of Clapton's later work with Cream. That road culminates in Cream's "Crossroads", which in my mind is not a great cover, and more of an obscuration, but is archetypal British blues.

In 1969, Del Shannon arranged a cover of "Baby It's You" for the band Smith, turning a nice Bacharach love song--originally performed by the Shirelles and also covered fairly straight by the Beatles--into a sexy rock number.

The Pretenders' cover of the Kinks' "Stop Your Sobbing", like all great covers, makes the original sound like a mere demo.

Among the many gems on Nirvana Unplugged is a wonderful--if fairly straight--acoustic cover of Bowie's "The Man Who Sold The World".

Shonen Knife's artful garage punk version of The Carpenters' "Top of the World" is a guilty pleasure.

The Bangles did a great job of polishing and updating Simon and Garfunkel's "Hazy Shade of Winter"--not an easy feat.

UB40 recorded the definitive version of Neil Diamond's "Red Red Wine", while Urge Overkill did the same for his "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon".

I'm sure there's many more that are simply not coming to mind at the moment. Great topic, Mike. Happy Holidays!

"Cover, n., ..." it'll take a while to get through a post for each meaning. I look forward to 'copulate' and also to its relation to cricket.

Seriously though could you throw some light on photographic album covers, perhaps separating those that are band portraits, from those that are not and those that were commissioned directly for the cover.

I seem to like slowed down covers for some reason:

Luna doing Guns n' Rose's "Sweet Child O' Mine" -- very different from the original, quiet and lovely.

Mates of State doing Fleetwood Mac's "Second Hand News" -- again, slower than the original, with the beautiful harmonizing this couple is known for.

To the Johnny Cash fans out there, have you heard Mingo Saldivar's Spanish-language version of Ring of FIre, "Rueda de fuego"? REcommended.

I'm surprised no one has mentioned Cash's cover of "One" by U2. Better than "Hurt" IMO.

Fantastic thread! Here are a few that I find just fantastic:

Calexico's rendition of "All the Pretty Horses" (Wow)

The Best Dylan cover album: "I Shall be Unreleased" (just awesomeness in every track -- no longer produced I think, but all the covers are just magnificent) -- check it out in Amazon.

Karrin Allyson: "Here, There, and Everywhere" (nice light vocal jazz version). Also "Say it, Over and Over Again" (in her CD Ballads: Remembering John Coltrane). Smoooooooth voice!

Rickie Lee Jones "Second Time Around" (glorious, awesome, gotta love that voice, This is such a nice simple version.)

Sinead O'Connor also sings a mean "The Foggy Dew" in the Chieftain's The Long Black Veil CD (a bit atmospheric, but the voicing I think is quite nice) (and by the way, she does a good job of Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered -- although not my favorite, I was pleasantly surprised by her skill with that classic)

Susana McCorkle did a great job with Waters of March (although for me Astrud Gilberto is the pre-eminent voice here)

Eva Cassidy did an awesome job with Time after Time (fabulous rendition -- my preferred version quite relaxing, sentimental)

Bruce Springsteen, "I Ain't got no Home" (beautifully done)

Cowboy Junkies (Blue Moon)

Blue Cheer "Summertime Blues".
Nuff said.

Great call on "Hurt".

My vote: "Sweet Jane" by Cowboy Junkies (originally by Lou Reed)

Fun topic; good list. Bound to be subjective. Commenting on the comments, I actually didn't know that "I don't want to grow up" was a Tom Waits tune but I have to agree concerning his "cover" of Judy is a Punk. Almost makes the Ramones sound tame.

A few of my favourites...

Johnny Cash - The Mercy Seat (Nick Cave)


Billy Bragg & Lisa Miller - Reason to Believe (Tim Hardin)


The Clash - Police and Thieves (Lee Perry/Junior Murvin)


The Specials - A Message to You, Rudy (Dandy Livingstone)


Roy Orbison - The Comedians (Elvis Costello)


Joe Cocker - Never Tear us Apart (INXS)


Dave Edmunds and Rockpile - Girls Talk (Elvis Costello)


Indigo Girls - Clampdown (The Clash)
Paul Kelly - Khe Sanh (Cold Chisel)

Couldn't find anything on You Tube for those last two. I'm sure to think of plenty of others as soon as I've posted this comment :-)

I have a nit to pick--to me, a cover is a new version of a song made *famous* by another artist. It isn't simply a new version of a song written by another artist. So songs like "nothing compares 2 u" or "because the night" on't really qualify.

I had soured on Johnny Cash after seeing the movie about him, but his version of Hurt---which I had missed---sorta reversed that. I have now listened to and watched it about a zillion times in the last 2 days.

Eamon mentioned Luna, which reminded me how much I like their cover of The Velvet Underground's Ride Into The Sun (which was also covered by Throwing Muses): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IH99Oeps-_U

And speaking of album covers, my vote goes to Anders Petersen's photograph used for Tom Waits' Rain Dogs.

Its a very old cover but I always thought it was much much better than the original by the Everleys in fact its hard to imagine there version as being the same song.

Is Springsteen a favourite? Do you like massive horn sections then Southside Johnny's cover of The Fever is something you ought to hear. You might never listen to Springsteen's version again .

Anita O'Day performing "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Tea for Two" during the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival.


A truly stunning performance by Miss O'Day.

Oh, yes, Hurt. Absolutely brilliant.

I wouldn't agree about Little Wing, though. I think that this version by Derek and the Dominos functions much better as a song. That is, it doesn't sound like "mama, look what I can do with a guitar". But then, I've been off guitar gurus for a long time. :) Which is funny. For those who don't know, Derek and the Dominos was Eric Clapton and other people.

Dear Prudence by Siouxsie and the Banshees might not be as good as the original, but their version of The Passenger is still better than Iggy Pop's.

Metallica. Yep. Turn the Page is terrific. But Garage Inc. has two more excellent covers. One is, of course, Whiskey in the Jar. (The video shot with a wide angle lens. :)) Sheer exuberance and power. Accidentally, the cover is of the Thin Lizzy version, not The Dubliners' one. And Loverman is simply better than Cave's original, for all they sound quite similar. Hetfield invests more feeling into the song, plus the band sounds more apocalyptic than Cave, more appropriately for the song.

And then, The Commitments and Try a Little Tenderness. Leaves Redding behind. And the singer, Andrew Strong, had 16 at the time.

Pity that Because the Night doesn't really satisfy the cover requirements. It would certainly be in Top 10.

The Sugarcubes did an incredible job of Motorcycle Mama, a song originally done by the Sailcats (or so google says, I haven't heard it) on the Rubaiyat - Elektra's 40th Anniversary album.

The White Stripes version of Jolene, a Dolly Parton cover is amazing.

And, I am not sure if it exactly counts, but there is an R.E.M. version of "One", where U2 actually play back up, but Michael Stipe sings that is wonderful. I think it was done at a benefit concert in San Francisco.

The Kronos Quartet does a pretty cool cover of Television's Marquee Moon, it is on some CD I have, can't remember exactly which.

These pop into my head, though there are hundreds more.

Thanks, Mike for this OT column...alot of great suggestions to follow up on here.

I discovered 2 great covers through American Idol (ouch!). Chris Cornell's (Soundgarden, Audioslave)slowed-down version of "Billy Jean". No moonwalking here but a much darker feel to the story. The second cover is from Eva Cassidy, already mentioned here for Sting's "Fields of Gold". I think (with apologies to Yip Harburg) her arrangement of "Over the Rainbow" is amazing, and seems to be the "de facto" version for all young singers when doing this song nowadays.

BTW, there is a CD series (3 releases, each 99 covers) from the UK called Best Covers Ever I, II , III (or something like that) which is worth looking for as there are some truly bizarre takes on well known songs (and some rewards as well.


I like Southside Johnny but not Springsteen. And I like J. J. Cale but not Clapton...and Nirvana but not Pearl Jam...and I could go on here....[g]


That is just stunning footage. Love it. The audience shots, the photographers, that surreal woman with the ice cream on a stick. Really captures the feel of that time. Wonderful. Thanks for that.

Do you know who did the footage or where it comes from?


Great list. I think your comment about the inevitability of O'Connor's cover of Nothing Compares 2 U applies with equal force to the Cowboy Junkies' cover of Sweet Jane (Velvet Underground).

I'd like to add two of my favourites: Queenadreena/Katie Jane Garside's cover of "Jolene" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xSx5IWSjL_0 ), and The Birthday Massacre's version of "I Think We're Alone Now" ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3eMyAbg6CWQ ).


Sound judgement.

I just watched a doc on Springsteen and his approach to making his 2nd or 3rd LP was very revealing. He is a perfectionist on the wrong side of perfection. Not dissimilar from some photographers who have no limits to what they will do (not always apparent from their photos iykwim).

Similar to Jacques Tati who bankrupted himself making Playtime. His camera man asked him at the end of the first year of filming "How much have we got (to keep..)" Tati replied "That they were "getting close"! There was nothing Tati was yet happy with, the camera man left the film as he didn't want to commit to several more years (a life choice)!

I'm surprised not to see any love here for Peter Gabriel's Scratch My Back CD, which is nothing but covers. I especially like how he reconstituted the rock songs for a chamber orchestra. IMO, his versions of Bowie's "Heroes" and Paul Simon's "Boy In The Bubble" are worth the price alone!

The Beatles tearing up "Red Sails in the Sunset", on the amateur recorded "Live at the Star Club". It rocks hard.

Big Joe Turner doing the same song with Roomful of Blues (that album produced by Doc Pomus).


How strange. I heard both the Johnny Cash version and the original version of "Hurt" on the way from New York to New Hampshire today, on the radio.

wow, this is a very fecund topic. but i have to add one more:

first, if you don't remember "my humps" by the black eyed peas, watch the video here:
or just watch the first minute or so if you can't get beyond that--it doesn't change much, though it helps to appreciate the full effect of the 'cover' by alanis morissette:
this is a rare example where the cover absolutely slams the original, ruthlessly exposing all of its faults, makes no sense except in satiric reference to the first performance, and yet still manages to be an almost transcendently lovely original work in its own right. quite a trick.

I can't believe we've overlooked Israel Kamakawiwo'ole's celebrated, angelic medley of "Over The Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World".

For "standards", for me The Clash's recording of "I Fought The Law" is the definitive one, like the Robert Gordon/Link Wray version of "Sea Cruise", or Cheap Trick's rendition of "Ain't That A Shame".

Also, I dig Jeff Beck's instrumental cover of "She's A Woman" more than The Beatles' original.

coming late ... but maybe of interest.

the cover of "sweet jane" (lou reed) that i know is by 'two nice girls', appeared on the first rough trade sampler.

"tomorrow never knows" (the beatles) was nicely covered by '801', phil manzanera's band after h eleft roxy music.

and finally, something rarely heard of in the western world: "lotus in the snow" 雪中蓮 (original by deng li jun alias teresa teng), covered by wang fei (aka faye wong). both available on youtube.

Mike, Wiki and ye shall know.


The cameraman is none other than photographer Bert Stern.

It's truly wonderful to see high quality color documentary footage from the 1950s, as opposed to the almost de rigeur black and white.

Smartly dressed folks, back then, by the way.

Chris -- I like Alanis Morissette's version of "My Humps," but I don't think the original version is quite as shallow as she's suggesting. I've always thought that the original is meant to be satirical and a commentary on the culture it's describing. (But maybe I'm giving the BEPs too much credit.)

Thank you Robert E.! I have seen the Hubble IMAX documentary at the Rose Center of Earth and Space in the American Natural History Museum half a dozen times with my son. They play Kamakawiwo'ole's cover during the credits and I cry every time. The photos and renderings from the telescope are beyond awe. So much so that I never remember to look for that beautiful, bittersweet song. It is now safe and sound in my iTunes library thanks to you (and Mike's wonderful blog, of course!)


Go with you on Hendrix. Of course, he also did a killer cover of "Like A Rolling Stone"--and then there's his cover of the The Seeds' "Hey Joe." Their version was good, but with HIS version, Hendrix OWNED that song....

"Little Wing": yes, SRV was the only one who got close the capturing the feeling of that song. Never liked Clapton's version--too stiff and slow.

And while we're at it-- SRV's version of "Voodoo Chile" has all the stratospheric power of the original. It was his version of this song that made me sit up and take notice of Mr. Vaughn...

And yes, did like Tricky's version of "Black Steel." Has a kind of loopy edge to it which makes it interesting...

I don't know this guy's name but his Nick Drake covers are nothing short of amazing. Here's Black Eyed Dog:


All of his Drake covers are great though. Check 'em out.


As Mani pointed out, the footage is from Bert Stern's 1960 documentary "Jazz on a Summer's Day".

I still remember watching a brief part of this performance on TV when I was a kid, now perhaps forty years ago.

Apart from the remarkable musical performances, the film offers a fascinating glimpse of life in the fifties.

Highly recommended.


I swear I left a comment days ago but...

The Feelie's version of The Stones Painted Black, Neil Young's Sedan Delivery, The Velvet Underground's What Goes On, The Beatles' She Said, She Said, and The Stooges Real Cool Time are some of my favorites.

I think they stand as wonderful versions of songs they love, not so much better or worse.

Brilliant stuff IMO.

Nice list we have going here...

For me it has to be Janis
Power - Passion & Pain
She could break your heart with one tender


Original by The Chantels was brilliant but
Janis takes it to another place.
Love the way she rubs her hands together at the beginning , like she can't wait to tear into it.

Amazing topic. Especially since I love music even more than I love photography. Of course a hundred different favorite covers popped into my head a second after I read the name of the post, but I'm only going to mention a couple.

Of course, I have to agree with the first commenter about Eva Cassidy - she was amazing. Basically everything she did was great. Like Ain't no sunshine or People get ready. May she R.I.P.

But the one that I really want to point out is the one that not too many people know but I really love. And since you mentioned the cover already I will give you another version:

I'm talking about The Electric Light Orchestra (or The Orchestra) doing a cover of Twist and Shout: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6NNdET4d-XU

I love it because of its cello solo and its minor arrangement (instead of the positive "original").

I just had one of those North Dakota palm slap on the forehead moments.
The Ella Fitzgerald Songbooks. By definition all are covers. Except that Cole Porter called her recording of his work "definitive".
I haven't read all 143 posts so someone may have already thought of this.
In any case of you have a few hundred bucks laying around you could do a lot worse.

Brel Amsterdam -Bowie
Brel Au Suivant - NEXT = Sensational Alex Harvey Band
Brel - Le Chanson de Jacky - Jackie - Scott Walker

Bowie and Scott Walker are almost as good as Brel but Harvey transcends the original (for the English speaking world at least) as does the SAHB version of Delilah

"The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game" - The Marvelettes original (?) version is superb, but so are the covers by Blinky, Ella Fitzgerald, Grace Jones, and Blondie. (All on Spotify)

Miles Fisher's cover of Talking Heads' This Must be the Place is great, and best appreciated in tandem with the video (if you've seen American Psycho).

More proof that I should never go on vacation ever, is: missing that post.

I am a cover version freak, for some reason. There are dozens of titles I actually like better as covers than I do the originals. So I won't even try to list my fave, but I'll just submit one that hit me in the face hard when I first heard it last year, and still does: Roots Manuva's cover of "Yellow Submarine".

Sounds absolutely nothing like the original. Gets played three times in a row whenever my shuffle feature brings it up.

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