Archive for the ‘Cover Songs’ Category

For the record, I am not now, nor have I ever been, a fan of the Police. I don’t mean the brave men and women in blue, mind you, but the new-wave rock band that consisted of Sting on lead vocals and bass, Andy Summers on guitar, and Stewart Copeland on drums. At some point in late 1979 or early ’80, I did buy the 45 of “Message in a Bottle” – but that was it. Sure, like most radio listeners of the early ’80s, I enjoyed a handful of their other hits – such as “Don’t Stand So Close to Me” and “Every Breath You Take” – but never enough to purchase anything else by them. Music fandom is an odd duck, of course, and – though I didn’t connect with their music – I also didn’t detest it or them. (Which I can’t say for other bands of the era.) They just didn’t speak to or for me.

In fact, my favorite Police song isn’t a Police song, per se, but a cover by Juliana Hatfield. In 2000, she included her spin on “Every Breath You Take” via a bonus CD single (backed by the “Mad Mex Mix” of “When You Loved Me”) as part of the deluxe two-fer package of Beautiful Creature and Juliana’s Pony: Total System Failure. (It was later included on her 2002 Gold Stars best-of.)

I share all that for no other reason than this: Juliana’s next album is slated for release on November 15th. Titled Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police, it will feature her renditions of 12 Police songs. It’s the second entry in a planned series of Sings albums (the first being the ONJ set, obviously). Future entries will hopefully – but likely not – be devoted to the Kinks, Paul Weller and Neil Young. (That’s my wish list.) In a statement posted on the American Laundromat site, where one can pre-order the album on CD, vinyl or cassette, or splurge on the “Synchronicity” bundle, she explains:

“With “Juliana Hatfield Sings The Police” I am continuing the project that I started last year with my “Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John” album. I hope to continue to go deep into covering artists that were important to me in my formative years. The songs I’ve chosen seem to resonate in the present moment. “Rehumanize Yourself”, “Landlord”, and “Murder By Numbers” explore ugly kinds of nationalism, abuses of power, and the mendacity of large swaths of the ruling class. And then there are the timeless, relatable psychodramas: “Every Breath You Take”, “Can’t Stand Losing You”, “Canary In A Coalmine”. In the Police, each player’s style was so distinctive, accomplished and unique that I didn’t even attempt to match any of it; for anyone to try and play drums like Stewart Copeland would be a thankless, pointless task that is bound to fail. Instead, I simplified and deconstructed, playing a lot of the drums myself, in my rudimentary, caveman style. Chris Anzalone (Roomful Of Blues) played the rest of the drums. Ed Valauskas (the Gravel Pit) and I each played about half of the bass parts, while I did all the guitars and keyboards. I listened to a lot of the Police when I was preparing and making this album, and their recordings are as refreshing and exciting as ever. I hope that my interpretations of these songs can inspire people to keep loving the Police like I did, and still do.” 

As a non-Police fan, I can’t and won’t play Monday morning quarterback with the chosen songs. That said, I am surprised by the lack of “Don’t Stand So Close to Me,” which seems like it could be a page out of Juliana’s thematic playbook.

Here’s the first teaser track, “De Do Do Do, De Da Da Da”:

In my Top 5 on Sunday, I mentioned about Weller that “there’s a whole host of covers to be had via the YouTube rabbit hole.” His willingness to share and pay tribute to his inspirations in concert and/or on vinyl is just one of the many cool things about him – and some of those recorded efforts, such as “Stoned out of My Mind” by the Jam, rate among my favorite sides of his.

Anyway, today at work, I began wondering if he’d covered John Lennon’s “Well, Well, Well” – but, if he ever did, it’s not on YouTube. There are tons of Fab-related tunes, however…

1) “Ticket to Ride” –

2) “All You Need Is Love” –

3) “Sexy Sadie” –

4) “Birthday” –

5) “Don’t Let Me Down” (with Stereophonics) –

6) “Come Together” –

And here are his spins on two JL classics…

7) “Instant Karma” –

8) “Love” –

And, just because, here are his takes on two Neil Young songs…

9) “Birds” –

10) “Out on the Weekend” –

And one bonus: Circling back to Sunday’s Top 5, which featured Bob Dylan’s cover of this classic Dion single, here’s Weller’s take…

11) “Abraham, Martin & John” –

The past week has found me excavating the Ruins of First Aid Kit. In addition to their U.S. tour, which just kicked off, they’ve been out in force promoting the release, appearing on CBS This Morning and The Ellen DeGeneres Show, among other TV venues, and stopping by the always cool KCRW “Morning Becomes Eclectic” radio show in L.A. on January 23rd. The latter, which I watched this morning, is an informative and fun session that finds the Sisters Söderberg performing an eight-song set and fielding some good questions –

If you don’t have 45 minutes to spare, however, fast forward to the 32-minute mark and enjoy their rollicking take of Heart’s classic “Crazy on You”…or watch this clip, from the next night in Oakland:

Hopefully they keep it in the set.

Of course, one cool cover leads to another…in this case, a taste of a much-anticipated (by me) LP: Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John. I’m sure some folks will scratch their heads over the project, which is slated for release on April 13th, but I’m thrilled that JH is letting her geek flag fly. (Of note, the video is shot in Bensonhurst, the Brooklyn neighborhood home to Tony Manero in Saturday Night Fever.)

(Juliana Hatfield Sings Olivia Newton-John, I should mention, is available for preorder over at the American Laundromat one-stop web shop.)

Here’s an oddity that I stumbled over the other night: Bob Dylan with Clydie King, from 1980, covering the Dick Holler-penned Dion hit, “Abraham, Martin & John.”

Speaking of Dylan, here’s Paul Weller’s take on “All Along the Watchtower” (from 2004):

With Weller, there’s a whole host of covers to be had via the YouTube rabbit hole. Here’s one of my favorites: performing CSNY’s classic “Ohio” at Glastonbury 1994. (For what it’s worth, he also released a live version of it on the 1993 The Weaver EP.)

And two bonuses…

One of my favorite covers of all time is the Jam’s take on the Chi-Lites’ “Stoned Out of My Mind.” I featured it recently, however, so here’s another take on the classic tune…by  Joss Stone (from 2012). It’s great.

And since every time I listen to Joss, I wind up listening to her a lot – here’s her take on the Impressions’ 1965 hit “People Get Ready” at the Melbourne Festival in 2011:

It’s early morn on Thanksgiving Day as I write and, all through the house, not a creature is stirring – aside from the feline who’s stalked me since his breakfast at dawn. Just now, he poked his head up beside me and bellowed a mew. It’s his version of “please, sir, may I have some more?” but instead of “sir” it’s “serf,” and he’s added and subtracted a few other words, too. “Serf, I want seconds. Now!”

I jest, of course.

Thanksgiving is, as its name makes clear, a time for giving thanks, and there’s much to be thankful for this year, as there is every year, even though – as a whole – 2017 will go down in the history books as one of the all-time worst. It sometimes feels as if horrors from a parallel universe are bleeding into ours.

But here’s one reason (of many) to give thanks: Tomorrow, sisters Jessica, Camilla and Emily Staveley-Taylor, aka the Staves, release a new album, a collaboration with the chamber sextet yMusic titled The Way Is Read. The three tracks they’ve released to promote the project are breathtaking. “Silent Side,” which they shared last week, is aural beauty personified:

Their show at the World Cafe Live in March, I should mention, was a highlight not just of this year’s concert slate, but of all my years’ concerts. It was akin to stepping through a portal to a magical, mystical land where everything’s groovy and everything’s alright. In other words, it’s in the running for the Old Grey Cat’s esteemed Concert of the Year Honors.

One of the things I like about them, aside from their songs and vocals, is their knowledge of music past, which they obviously use to inform their music present. One can hear it in the borrowed tunes they sometimes sing – as I’ve written before, a well-chosen cover song is like a glimpse into the soul of the singer(s); and the sisters’ picks, which range from the sublime to silly, are illuminating.

Here’s today’s Top 5: The Staves – Borrowed Tunes.

1) “After the Gold Rush” (Neil Young)

2) “These Days” (Jackson Browne)

3) “A Case of You” (Joni Mitchell)

4) “I’m on Fire” (Bruce Springsteen)

5) “Long Time Gone” (Dixie Chicks)

And two bonuses…

6) “Helplessly Hoping” (Crosby, Stills & Nash)

7) “Afternoon Delight” (Starland Vocal Band)