So, I keep updating my cover versions mix on 8tracks because I think of new ones. My cover version playlist on iTunes now has 233 songs on it. As you may remember, my criteria for a good cover version are 1) it has to be good in itself, 2) it has to be good in a different way from the original, and 3) it has to see something good or at least salvageable about the original, not just be about mocking or making fun of it. I have also tried to find more obscure items from imports, vinyl only, b-sides, obscure EPs, out-of-print tribute albums, live bootlegs, and free giveaways on obscure blogs (Next to track down: The Party Party Soundtrack).
Favorite cover albums:
- Freedom of Choice: Yesterday's New Wave Hits - My favorite period in music - late 70's to early '80s- interpreted by some great 90s bands like Sonic Youth, Superchunk, The Connells, The Muffs, Yo La Tengo, Shonen Knife, and Matthew Sweet.
- B.E.F. Presents Music Of Quality & Distinction, Volume 1 - A novel idea - a mixture of veterans (Tina Turner, Sandie Shaw, Paul Jones of Manfred Mann) and 80's newcomers like Billy Mackenzie (Associates) and Glenn Gregory (Heaven 17) do 60s - 70s oldies with synthpop backing from Heaven 17. Good choice of songs meet good singers, except for squeaky-voiced TV host Paul Yates.
- Where the Pyramid Meets The Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson - Wins for most diverse group of musicians - you gotta love an album with The Jesus & Mary Chain AND ZZ Top on it, not to mention Butthole Surfers, Richard Lloyd (Television), Sister Double Happiness, Julian Cope, Chris Thomas and Primal Scream. Basically, every possible permutation of psychedelia is represented, from metal to danc-y to garage to R & B-ish. I did delete that one Poi Dog Pondering song.
- Hit Parade - The Wedding Present - Sort of half counts, since it is a bunch of songs originally released as b-sides, then as half of two records. The Weddoes do everything from Julee Cruise to the Monkeys to Neil Young to Elton John in their early 90s chiming-guitar-wall-of-sound-with-vocals-in-the-back style, and it works to give them just enough pop punch to keep them from falling into a continuous river of sound.
- These Foolish Things - Bryan Ferry - An early classic in the field of cover versions that all others bow before, although his best cover was "The In Crowd" from Another Time, Another Place.
- Schoolhouse Rock Rocks - If you are of a certain age, you know these songs are catchy, because YOU ARE HUMMING THEM RIGHT NOW. A 90s all-star cast including Pavement, Moby, Buffalo Tom, Man or Astroman?, Ween, Biz Markie and the Lemonheads do the songs as techno, lo-fi, math rock and rap. I admit I tear up a little during "Mr. Morton".
- If I Were A Carpenter - The Carpenters are perfect for a tribute album- they wrote catchy songs, but covered them in so many layers of production and sentiment that we may feel silly for liking them. The contributors strip them down to their essence and make you think that Ian Curtis really had nothing on Karen Carpenter in the sadness department. An all-star 90s cast featuring Babes In Toyland, Shonen Knife, Sonic Youth, Cracker, American Music Club, and Matthew Sweet.
- Kicking Against The Pricks - Nick Cave - You might think it wouldn't work for the guy from the Birthday Party to sing songs that might have been featured on the Carol Burnett Show, but you would be wrong. He;s got the chops, and he puts his all into each one.
A mixed bag, but still worth it:
Hard To Believe : A Kiss Tribute - too samey (almost all grunge-type acts), but there are some good ones, and a real snapshot of the time period (remember Skin Yard?)
Scott Walker: 30 Century Man - some great songs, but too many sensitive quiet types.
Sing for Your Meat: A Tribute to Guided By Voices - a lot of obscure indie rockers just trying to do GBV and failing. Really, no one can do GBV like GBV. What about some metal, funk, techno, R & B-tinged covers? Robert Pollard writes some damned good songs - you could take the framework and do a lot of different things with them. How about Cheap Trick doing "Pantherz"? That would be awesome. But no. I should've remembered the first rule of tribute albums - if you don't know most of the artists, there's probably a reason why.
Looking forward to:
Everybody Loves Sausages: The Melvins
What are your favorite cover versions?