Chit-chat: best cover songs

15 Mar
buckley.jpgAnyone who enjoys cover songs as much as I do will have a lot of fun with the recent list compiled by the AV Club, not to mention the 300+ comments following. While the list is entirely opinion based (as is everything involving music) and therefore open to arguments, I have to say I agree with most of their selections.
Devo’s “Satisfaction” cover might be a bit of a stretch, though. I played it for my classic rock obsessed roommate in college and he thought it was a joke. And by joke I mean ha-ha, not pathetic. I dig it, but I’d say anyone who definitively claims the Devo version is better than the Stones’ take has pretty much solidified their life membership in the hipster-based I Love It Unless It’s Popular club. I’m just sayin’.

But whatever — discussing music isn’t about coming to conclusions or identifying facts or truths, it’s about sharing. Which is why I’d add the following tracks to my own list of “covers that are better than the originals”:

“Don’t Cry” – Guns N’ Roses
. Sorry, but it’s tough to headbang to an orchestra. No disrespect, Sir Paul, but I’m siding with Axl on this one.

“No Woman No Cry” – The Fugees. A reverent take on a classic, with a bit more attitude.

“Gin and Juice” – The Gourds. You remember this one; it’s the song all your pothead friends in college played because they thought it was Phish. Those poor guys. Anyway, this isn’t a favorite of mine by any means, but it’s a lot more fun to listen to than Snoop-a-loop’s version.

“Come Rain or Come Shine” – Don Henley. I had a difficult time deciding whether to include this in my list – I really love the song, but it’s not easy to admit affection for anything that came from Henley. I’m not sure if the world is going to accept me now that I’ve come clean. If it helps, “Dirty Laundry” is one of my most hated songs ever. Okay? Are we cool?

“It Ain’t Me, Babe” – Joaquin Phoenix & Reese Witherspoon. Sure it’s cheesy and over-the-top, but since I’ve downloaded the Walk the Line soundtrack I haven’t once felt like hearing the original.

“Forever Young” – Youth Group
. I am the first man to publically admit liking this song. It’s okay for you to come forward now, too. Strength in numbers; it’s the only way.

“The End’s Not Near” – Band of Horses
. The best song from The OC’s disappointing album of cover songs. Love these guys.

“Stand By Me” – John Lennon.

jonineilwaltz.jpg“Helpless” – The Band with Neil Young. Sure, Neil Young was involved in the original recording as a member of CSNY, but I’m including it anyway. Young’s performance with The Band on The Last Waltz pretty much rendered the studio version useless and obsolete. One of my favorite songs.

“Sweet Caroline” – Bobby Womack. This selection may have something to do with the played-outness of Neil Diamond’s version, but them’s the breaks. Plus, Womack’s version infuses the Motown sound, which works roughly 100% of the time.

“Sexual Healing” – Soul Asylum
. Have you heard Marvin Gaye’s version of this lately? It’s ridiculously outdated, to an almost comical degree. Holy synthesizer. The cover by Soul Asylum isn’t necessarily groundbreaking, but it’s certainly an improvement.

“For What It’s Worth” – The Candyskins
. Good luck finding this one for yourself. The band’s last album was sometime in the late 90’s and this song ain’t on iTunes. Sorry. (I’ll send it to ya if you ask nicely and promise not to tell the band.)

“I Will Survive” – Cake
. But probably only because it’s easier to sing along to this version. Less vocal range displayed, and since my voice sounds like a cat in heat getting whipped with a cane, this one is simply a better fit.

“Pictures of Matchstick Men”  – Camper Van Beethoven.

“Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Johnny Cash. I hate the original, and sorta dig Cash’s rendition, so I guess it passes the test.

“Sweet Jane” – Cowboy Junkies

“Top of the World” – Shonen Knife. Some Asian chick band takes on the Carpenters classic, only they can’t perfect the pronunciations and therefore end up on the “top of the word.” Lonely place, I’d guess.

“One Man Guy” – Rufus Wainwright. A cover from Rufus’s dad Loudon. Pretty amazing tune.

“Hallelujah” – Jeff Buckley. Best cover song ever recorded.

“All The Young Dudes” – World Party. A close second.

That wraps up the “covers” portion of my iTunes tour. Did I miss anything? Got a tune to recommend? By all means, head to the comments section and sound off. That’s what it’s there for, you know. Due to the topic I’m sensing a heated two-person discussion coming on between “Cool Rut” and me…and that’s just not right. Please, join us.

(PS. local Minnesotans take note: Hookers & Blow plays at least a dozen covers (mostly Motown) that I’d rank above the originals. Go on and check ‘em out next time you get a chance. And you can ignore the lone guy on the dance floor, attempting to perfect his robot in between vigorous chugs of booze. It’s how I blow off steam, okay? Don’t hate.)


2 Responses to “Chit-chat: best cover songs”

  1. A.B. March 16, 2007 at 2:35 pm #

    Dan Wilson covers a Bread song on his upcoming album. I believe it’s “Everything I Own.” It will effin’ blow you away.

  2. Brandon March 19, 2007 at 10:12 pm #

    I’ll be on the lookout for that one. Grammy or no, Dan Wilson is the most underrated songwriter on the planet.

    Thanks for the heads-up, A.B.

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