Monday, January 27, 2014


 File:Cover Songs-melvins.jpg - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Emma asked us to think of our favourite cover versions; covers that take a song in an entirely different direction, place a totally different interpretation on the original, or those covers that you think are superior to the original.


For this theme, I suspect like all the other participants, I struggled with choosing two stand-out representatives. I wrestled with whether to choose humourous, slightly silly versions, or classy, arguably superior versions, and weather to have a commonality between the tracks or not. I was still juggling with my selection until I went to hit the play button. In the end I leant more towards the humourous, slightly silly end, but the tracks are of such high production and are performed by artists of such high quality that I was compelled to choose them.

First up is the world's best Belgian women's choir, Scala & Kolacny Brothers. They have made five studio albums covering well-known musicians and bands such as Oasis, Bj√∂rk, Radiohead, U2, Nirvana, Depeche Mode, Muse and The Foo Fighters. They have arranged and performed so many great covers (of the two albums I have it's hard to find a bad track), it was very difficult to choose one, but I eventually settled on Everyday I Love You Less and Less by Kaiser Chiefs due to the contrast between the cheeky, haunting and quick lyrics and the angelic, innocent vocals.

Not the first time in Music Club I picked a Metallica track. This time it's possibly their most well known one, Enter Sandman, and is covered by the bluegrass group Iron Horse. I could have picked a hundred Metallica covers; I went with this one because of the joyful playing feel of bluegrass, my secret love of banjos (and more recently banjoleles), and how simply damn good the track is. The band are super talented and despite the disparity between metal and bluegrass, like my previous choice, the track is arranged beautifully. Yee harr, mother-truckers!


It was also a struggle to whittle my list. Over excitement, followed by confusion, followed by desperation, followed by anxiety, followed by....

First up: Loved the original from the overlords of metal, and am continually amused with the tropical transmogrification.

The Iron Man was initially a mind bending book of formative years - a giant metal munching, yet misunderstood saviour of the human race. Sabbath's iron man (unrelated to Ted's) sounded like its most appropriate soundtrack and was my first step into the realms of steel. Who could resist the jaunty riff of doom, anthemic chorus  and wobbly hammer house of horror introduction? Ondatropica took this monster to the Caribbean, fed him rum and coke, red beans and rice, then played him full volume from a crap stereo in a torn leatherette, petrol fume filled taxi in a Bogota traffic jam. The tune is unmistakable, lyrics deemed excessive and the lope of fearful purpose replaced with some cumbia bump and grind.

Second up: Couldn't care less for the original but find the re-working a frustratingly catchy journey through passion, pathos and pity.

Billie Jean is a pop classic in it's own right and I'm never going to dispute that the king of pop didn't have a penchant for a nifty tune - although I refuse, on many principles, to have any of his original material on my ipod. However, the living legend that is Chris Cornell transformed the melancholy yet up-beat ode to more accurately reflect the embarrassing social situation Jacko found himself in (which he later trumped but couldn't write songs about). Not only did he take MJs verses and set them to a slow blues sonic brew, he also dug extra gravel from his already deep, sonorous quarry of a larynx and gave it both barrels.


All Along the Watchtower - Jimi Hendrix
This is of course a cover of a Bob Dylan song and an example of one of those covers which (in my view) completely overshadows the original because it takes the song to entirely new and exciting places that are not even hinted at in Bob's original. What was folky and earnest is transformed into
a spaced out electrified sexual howl. Apart from being an entirely awesome song and a bone fide classic it is significant for me personally as Jimi was my first true (musical) love and he introduced me to the world of possibilities as I explored the music that inspired him i.e. Blues and Jazz.

Watch the (emphatically pre MTV) original music video here;

My Favorite Things - John Coltrane
A nice symmetry here as John Coltrane is for me the other giant in my personal musical history. Like Jimi he is that rarest of things, a true genius. I have lost count of how many different versions and formats of 'A Love Supreme' I have purchased over the years and I suspect there are further re-mixed and re-mastered high resolution versions in my future. This particular track is a cover of the 1959 show tune written by Rogers and Hammerstein and sung by Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music. It is a simple and clever little tune and it is precisely that which makes this cover so interesting to me because it is a really great example of how Jazz works.

It takes this simple song and turns it inside out and back to front without ever losing sight of the simple structures at the centre. The listener can always hear the original but it is presented from entirely new angles.

Here is the track in all its full 13:40 glory.


Covers, they’re tricky [you did pick the fricken' theme! - Ed]. A friend of mine in a band refuses to play covers, as he thinks they signify a lack creative originality. I’d like to think these two covers might just make him reconsider that statement.....

The deft, skilled and totally original interpretation of (I can’t get no) Satisfaction by Cat Power takes a song that is now so entrenched in modern culture for it’s swaggering three note guitar riff, and Jagger’s hollering vocals and strips it all back to create a sense of beautiful futility. 

Woodie Guthrie’s This Land is your Land, recorded in 1944, has been described as one of the United States greatest folk songs. This cover takes the classic folk song and ramps it up to create a funky soulful anthem. The Dap Kings signature smooth brass sound, a great arrangement by Binky Griptite (what a name!) and Sharon Jones’ powerful vocal make me want to get up and dance, whilst simultaneously go on a protest march. I can honestly say no other song has had quite that effect on me.  Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings own this song, whilst staying true to its original political intent. I don’t think Woodie could, or would fault this cover. 



Earthling – Because the Night

Originally a Patti Smith/Springsteen love song, 90s Bristolian outfit Earthling turned Because the Night  into a haunting dirge with help from Geoff Barrow of Portishead fame. With mogadon vocals and a metronomic trip hop beat this version sucked out all the energy and replaced it with menace. For all that, it’s oddly uplifting.

Sid Vicious – My Way

Sid Vicious sneers his way through his cover with such triumphant sarcasm, it’s as if he’s taking the piss out of the very act of singing. It’s fair to say that ol’ Blue Eyes would not have appreciated it, even if it is better than the original.