Saturday, September 19, 2009

Top 10 Cover Songs

For cover songs, I've found the threshold to be slim: it's either right on the money, or a complete disaster, with not much in between.  I think I tend to be more critical because if an artist is going to re-interpret a song that I already admire, there has to be some beautiful quality to it that entirely transforms the song.  On the other hand, there are those wonderful moments of clarity and discovery in listening to a cover song and revisiting the old one.  And sometimes, I'll like the cover better than the original, but this is a rarity--I'd say most of the time covers teeter on the brink of disaster.  Anyway, below is a list compiled (in no particular order) of my favorite cover songs.  Feel free to revise, reform, and totally disembowel.  

1. Jim James- Long Long Long, Tribute To
  From the album "Tribute To" to commemorate the life of George Harrison. Haunting and tender (plus awesome acoustics by recording in a grain silo...Bad-ass.)

2. Nico-These Days, Chelsea Girl
   I heard this rendition while watching the movie "The Royal Tenenbaums."  Nico was the first musician to cover Jackson Browne's song on her album Chelsea Girl.  The guitar tone KILLS in this, and increased tempo and string arrangements make it one of the few covers I enjoy better than the original.  I used to mock Nico's sort of masculine/awkward singing, but it works well with this version, and there is a sparse, raw beauty to it.  

3. John Coltrane-A Few of My Favorite Things, Self Titled  
   A lot of jazz artists during the 60s played popular tunes or standards and simply rearranged the harmonic structure.  Besides A Love Supreme, I think this is his most profound expression (and it ain't too shabby when you're being backed by McCoy Tyner and Elvin Jones!).  

4. Seu Jorge-Rebel Rebel, Life Aquatic Soundtrack
   When talking about cover songs, I feel like Seu Jorge is always included.  A Brazilian folk-expression, saccharine and tender, of an already incredible Rock song.  In this instance, both versions stand out.  

5. Elliott Smith-Thirteen, New Moon
    Off of the New Moon releases, Elliott Smith makes a strong case that his cover is better than Big Star's (yet again, I'm quite partial to Elliott in general...).  Elliott speeds up his guitar playing, and his whispering, almost straining voice works for me more so than the country drawl.  Absolutely beautiful.  

6. Ryan Adams-Wonderwall, Love is Hell Pt. 1
   Brilliant. Plus I have a man-crush on him.  Eerie reverb, melodic guitar picking--simple in appearance, it distracts the profoundness of his reinterpretation.   Really great night-time music.  Also, I'm having a hard time telling if that's a synth I'm hearing, the subtle drone in the background...

   100x better than Bob Dylan's version.  I mean, c'mon...  Jimi's guitar is a voice of its own, one that's better than Dylan's for that matter.  Just the beginning/introduction already moves it ahead of Dylan's.  

8. John Mayer-Human Nature
   Well I hate him because he's everything I would want to be and everything that I'm not.  But I'll give it to him...he can fucking play.  He's not just a pretty face.  I was shocked to see him perform at Michael Jackson's memorial, and I remember feeling skeptical and uneasy.  He proved me wrong, however.  Wonderful phrasing, wonderful tone, wonderful everything. Check it out to see for yourself.

9. Robert Plant and Alison Krauss-Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On), Raising Sand
    Originally performed by the Everly Brothers, Robert Plant stamps a Zeppelin-esque quality to it which complements the soothing vocals of Bluegrass singer Alison Krauss.  Drummer Jay Belaruse (the first guy I've seen use the maraccas to actually hit his drums) is superb.  

10. The Bad Plus-Smells Like Teen Spirit
     After seeing them perform live at Yoshi's a couple of weeks ago, I'd have to rank Dave King as one of the best drummers out there.  So much finesse combined with ferocious power.  

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeb Great Article !! Seu George is one of my favourite.

I'm new to the Blog world so just getting my page up and running as we speak .
i'm gonna check out the Blue note Wu article too.

I came across this Video featuring Nico's These days song very deep!