I thought I’d go ahead and make my Favorite Covers from last year an annual event. I have a vacation coming up next week, so I wanted to do something quick. So here’s Volume 2. Before I begin, let me list the rules I’m following again:
- No songs featuring the original artist. I believe a cover should stand on its own, and if the original artist is featured on the cover, I feel the artists aren’t making the song their own.
- One song per artist per post. I feel that I should have a variety of artists and songs. So I don’t want to have a bunch of songs by the same artist, nor do I want more than one version of the same song. I might revisit the song or artist in a future list, though.
- Any genre will work. Last time, I stuck mainly to rock and pop. I’ve got a couple country covers in this list because I feel I should branch out.
- No public domain songs. Public domain songs do not require someone to ask permission, so I don’t feel I should include them. And some, like “Amazing Grace”, have been recorded way too many times.
And here we go.
1. “Hurt”–Johnny Cash (original: Nine Inch Nails)
As much as I like the original, Cash’s cover strikes a different cord. At this point in Johnny Cash’s life, he knew the Reaper was coming for him. He changed the song, almost making it seem like it was about atonement, rather than self-inflicted pain.
2. “The Man Who Sold the World”–Nirvana (original: David Bowie)
When Nirvana performed their MTV Unplugged concert, I didn’t expect them to cover songs. In fact, Bowie didn’t seem like the kind of artist Kurt Cobain would be inspired by. But this proves just how much of a visionary Bowie is, even those who make music that doesn’t sound like Bowie respect him. In fact, Nirvana’s version is so famous, at a concert when Bowie performed his original, a fan thought he was covering a Nirvana song.
3. “Stop Dragging My Heart Around”–Sharon Van Etten & Sweetwater (original: Stevie Nicks featuring Tom Petty)
Every year, The AV Club’s YouTube channel has a show called “Undercover”, which recruits indie artists to cover songs suggested by the main site’s members. For the 2012, edition, Sharon Van Etten and Sweetwater got together to record this great song. When Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty collaborated on the original, it was something magical. So is this version.
4. “Come Together”–Aerosmith (original: The Beatles)
This comes from the 1970’s movie Sgt. Peppers’ Lonely Hearts Club Band, a musical based on several songs from The Beatles. It’s not a good movie at all, especially since the Bee Gees replace the Beatles (don’t get me wrong, I like the Bee Gees, but they can’t even come close to the Beatles). In fact, to me the only good part of the movie is seeing Aerosmith’s take on this tune. It has tight production that rivals the original so much, there is still argument over which version is better. I’ll let you decide for yourself.
5. “Honky Tonk Blues”–Huey Lewis and The News (original: Hank Williams)
Cover: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqznTJspA9Y)
Original: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3pHlSX_zbwY
This song comes from Huey Lewis and The News’s third album, Sports. By this time, they’d shown themselves not to be in the same vogue as the New Wave acts that were popular of the day. They took this song and gave it a more modern feel, while still keeping close to the original.
6. “Smells Like Teen Spirit”–Tori Amos (original: Nirvana)
Cover: ( https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaAI3jI7uCc)
I am forever baffled that this is how Tori Amos started out after she broke from Why Kan’t Tori Read. Usually, starting out with a cover is the kiss of death. Can you think of any non-covers by Soft Cell, Alien Ant Farm, Pseudo Echo, or Taco? And yet Tori still has a career today.
7. “Mad World”–Gary Jules (original: Tears For Fears)
This is what usually happens if you start with a cover. Once the cover’s shelf life fades, so does the artist’s career. It’s a shame too, because Gary Jules’s version manages to be even more haunting than Tears For Fears’ original, mostly because it’s slower and has less instruments. I still like the original, but Gary Jules took the song and made it his own.
8. “Heart Full of Soul”–Rush (original: The Yardbirds)
For their 30th anniversary, Rush recorded a cover album called Feedback, featuring covers of artists who influenced the band. I believe it’s one of Rush’s best albums. (But then, I’m biased. I love Rush)
9. “Higher Ground”–Red Hot Chili Peppers (original: Stevie Wonder)
One of the main reasons I love the Red Hot Chili Peppers’s Mother’s Milk CD so much is that it has so many great covers as well as the original material. The Chili Peppers’s version of this song has nearly overshadowed Stevie Wonder’s original, but takes nothing away from in.
10. “Danger Zone”–Protomen (original: Kenny Loggins)
How do you take an already awesome song like “Danger Zone”, one of the best songs from 80’s cinema, and make it 20% cooler? Get the Protomen to record the cover. The Protomen, for those who don’t know, are an act that’s sort of like Queen and Daft Punk rolled into one awesome band. They’re most famous for their debut album that was a concept album inspired by the original Mega Man NES game (no, I didn’t make that up).
Well, that’s it for this year. I’ll be back next year with another installment. I don’t think I’ll ever run out of covers.