I enjoyed writing about music covers and felt I should go do it again. Shall we?
Cake – I will Survive
I really enjoy this kind of cover song. First and foremost because it’s not in the same genre of music and because they are using different instruments. I feel this frees the listener to simply enjoy. You can compare and contrast all you like but the versions have enough that separates them (having a male singer in the cover being a noticeable difference) that I find it easy to enjoy both for what they are.
Probably the song that introduced most of us to (that or The Distance) Cake for the first time, I am pleased that the cover holds up. This band always seemed to have a good time making music and they certainly figured out how to cover songs (I did not include War Pigs but I easily could have, their version is great).
Guns and Roses – Live and Let Die
I recognize that my take on all things Beatles is provocative, it isn’t meant to be. The original is a good song, the beginning with the piano is quite pretty. It’s interesting because I feel that Gun’s N Roses handled integrating all of the other instruments better and created a better song. Clearly McCartney was trying to create a disjointed, stylistically complicated song. I’m not sure his entirely works.
Guns N Roses figured out a way to make this song more cohesive and frankly better. For this band to do this kind of cover, at that time, what something else. I was too young to appreciate how special they were but looking back it’s quite extraordinary.
Eric Clapton – I Shot The Sheriff
No big surprises here, I feel like this a better known cover. The styles are quite different, Clapton put his mark on the song by moving it into a different genre and showcasing his guitar playing. The feeling to both songs is similar, it’s the sign of a great cover, I think, that they can be somewhat similar but also not feel the same. I dig it.
Nine Inch Nails -Physical (Adam and The Ants)
Never, ever would I have guessed that Closer is a cover. Perhaps my opinion of NIN is too high, perhaps they came into my life at that perfect, impressionable time where I simply trusted. I do not know. Hearing the original of this song is funny, the vocals are really the only element that are radically different. It certainly has made me rethink NIN and all that they did. For possibly their best known song to be a pretty straightforward cover is unexpected.
Manfred Mann’s Earth Band – Blinded By The Light (Bruce Springsteen)
I am writing this about nearly every song on this list but – I didn’t know this was a cover. The fact that the original is a Bruce Springsteen song is truly impressive. As someone who has long tried to “get into” Springsteen with minimal success I am not surprised to find that I prefer the cover. It has a such a different sound, good vocals and powerful drums. What else can you say about this song, it rocks!
Stevie Wonder – Superstition (Jeff Beck)
I learned a lot with this post. In particular, that songs like Superstitious are “covers”. From what I gleaned this is a bad example, given that Stevie Wonder wrote the song but then gave/sold it to Jeff Beck to then have it on his own album (which came out before Jeff Beck’s). It’s weird. But now we have two great versions and that’s a blessing. I don’t have much to say, this song is amazing and I am too busy bouncing around in my chair to type much else.
Nina Simone – Feelin’ Good (The Roar of The Greasepaint, The Smell of The Crowd)
I was not aware Nina Simone was covering anyone until this post. To be honest it was only about twenty years ago that I became aware of Feelin’ Good and that was because a friend covered it on a demo tape. It’s a great song and I appreciate the original, it’s powerful. But this is it for me. She brings something else to the music, despite a faster tempo, that you cannot help but feel. When the band comes in you come to life, it’s something new and bigger and engrossing.
Take Me To The River – Talking Heads (Al Green)
Listening to Al Green’s version and then this I am first struck by the drums and bass and keys. They’re huge! Both versions of the song are good (and obviously Al Green is a better singer) but I’d be lying if I said The Talking Head’s version doesn’t make my toes tap. I like parts of both but the cover is more…soulful. It feels wrong saying that but it’s true.
Bittersweet Symphony – The Verve (The Rolling Stones)
If you are close to me in age chances are you know this song. If you know this song chances are you enjoy it. One of the first things I published on this site concerns music reworked for film, this technically does not qualify for that category but I believe the idea I had (someone fiddling with someone else’s music and improving it) applies. When I started this post I could not have named the song they “borrowed” from (I am putting that in quote because of the debate and because this isn’t a straight cover) and upon listening to it again I am not sure how many times I have heard it before.
All that being said this is a great song, I think they took parts from The Last Time and reworked them to make something different and better. Whereas with some covers (and reworkings) I can imagine bad feelings due to the improvements, this truly is a different song and I would hope everyone could be happy with both existing.
Tori Amos – I’m Not in Love (10cc)
When I bought Strange Little Girls I was not aware it was an album of experimental covers. At the time I was enamored with everything Ms. Amos did and bought the album because it was new. Sadly I never could find a way to like most of these songs. A few of the covers, I’m Not In Love in particular, brought me a great deal of joy. I appreciate this album more than I enjoy it, which is strange for popular music.
Van Halen – Ice Cream Man
Although their most famous cover is probably “Dancing in The Streets”, “Ice Cream Man” holds a special place in my heart. It’s light, it’s fun and not at all like most of their music. I had no idea it was a cover when I first heard it but since finding out I like it even more. To have a band as technically proficient as this put out such a simple cover speaks to their confidence. So many people compensate by doing more, adding more and they trusted themselves enough to record this simple cover and share it with the world.
Gun’s ‘N Roses – Knockin’ On Heavens Door
I get it, another GNR cover on the same list – it’s a lot but they are so different and so interesting!
I’ve made some disparaging comments about Bob Dylan in these posts about covers and if there is one song where I can redeem myself it is this one. I think this version is the best I’ve heard (and looking it up I just encountered five I had not heard before). While Dylan’s version is soulful and melancholy Gun’s N’ Roses went a different route. The guitar carries the song but the other instruments swell and and excite only to then fade away. I’m not sure how many different versions of Axl we have signing on this track but it feels like a lot. Not to mention the backup singers who come in over halfway through the song (and the phone call). This cover has a great energy that separates it from the original.
This is a great example of how multiple versions of a song benefit the listener. What kind of mood are you in? Plaintive? Or do you need some anger that needs to be vented? There’s a version for that.
Wylcef Jean – Wish You Were Here
I’m trying to think of great Pink Floyd covers and I have to admit I am stumped. For a band with so many great songs it is interesting that so few people have attempted to cover their work (or that these covers have avoided my ears). Finding this version led me to see how many people have covered this song. It is an interesting mix of artists and I have to say I’ve heard almost none of them.
I like this version for a number of reasons. I like the beginning where one of the guitars is tinny-sounding and then everything switches to a fuller sound. I like the beat Wyclef uses and that his version is faster. It’s not a straight-up cover, he alters the lyrics and has sections where he inserts original material. That being said I like this. He does his own thing with the song and creates something quite different, which honestly, I think is the only way to go with Pink Floyd.