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Best Cover Songs

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I didn’t see a thread out there on the topic of “Best Cover Songs” so I thought I would start one.


The cover song can be a great but also very tricky thing. Many bands have launched their career by releasing a cover song as their first. This can go one of two ways. In the case of Orgy and “Blue Monday” they took an extremely popular song and tried to spin it’s success into their own. Orgy was never able to really sustain on their own. Then you have the cases where bands cover very old songs or songs from different genres trying to recapture it as new. I think Bow Wow Wow “I Want Candy” is good example of the later. They were able to build a healthy fan base, but “I Want Candy” is still arguably their most popular track. Both were two different takes on the cover, yet neither band ever seemed to get out of the shadow of the cover.


It is not uncommon for bands to throw cover songs on albums when they are trying to fill a record contract and don’t have the material on their own. Take Fear Factory’s cover of U2’s “I will Follow” on the Transgression album. Typically these don’t work out so well. (Footnote, I do love Fear Factory’s cover of Killing Joke’s “Millennium” on the same album. Possibly one of the heaviest songs, period!)


Then there are the bands that get it right. When they do, it is often a special thing where a great song can become two great songs.


To do this I feel a cover needs to do two things. First, it needs to remain true to the original song and pay homage to it. This is not to say that it must sound like a copy of the original. Rather it must maintain some aspect of the original. This could be the emotion, intent, originality…… Take Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails “Hurt”. It contains the same raw emotion of the original, but in a very different sound.


Second, the cover needs to have the cover bands own signature placed upon it. Ministry covered Bob Dylan’s “Lay Lady Lay” as an industrial remix. It has Ministry’s gritty sound and distorted vocals. Somehow through all of this it has that same sense of intimacy and dare I say love.


Here are four cover song’s that I recommend checking out if you get a chance:


Nine Inch Nails – Dead Souls

OK, Joy Division, and Nine Inch Nails. This has to be a recipe for success. This was actually the song that introduced me to Joy Division. I heard the NIN version and then realized it was a cover. It can’t get much better than this.


Johnny Cash – Hurt

OK, it can get better. You take an incredible song, written by an extremely talented artist and then transpose it to one of the greatest artists of all time. If you listen to this song on your hi-fi system in the dark, and don’t have the hair on your arms and neck stand up….. well then I can’t help you.


Ministry – Lay Lady Lay

The acoustical sound of Dylan transformed into an industrial powerhouse. Amidst this, Ministry seems to retain some of the sensuality of the original. I can picture two Goth kids getting married and using this version as a wedding song. Bless Uncle Al for this gem.


Type O Negative – Cinnamon Girl

The folk, country rock of Neil Young covered with Peter Steele’s bass baritone metal vocals, in their vampire Goth style. A dark, yet rich song.


OK – Now it is your turn to post your favorite covers, and tell us why you love it.

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The Bad Plus has done an entire album with very well done Jazz covers of pop songs, including stuff from Nirvana, Pink Floyd, you name it, called for all I care, with Wendy Lewis on vocals.


HUCD3148 The Bad Plus - For All I Care_RGB.jpg


My favorite track on here is "How deep is your love". Not sure any of the Gibbs brothers would approve, but it's really a fun version.



And then, both a vocal and audiophile delight:


Christina Aguilera with Herbie Hancock: "A Song For You", from the album "Possibilities".




I assume many audiophiles will know this fantastic album. If you don't, and mentally put Christina Aguilera with Britney Spears & Co. (as I used to do) you absolutely have to check this out.

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k.d. lang: The Air that I Breathe (the Hollies), Till The Heart Caves In (Roy Orbison), everything on Hymns of the 49th Parallel, especially Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen). That girl could sing the phone book and it would sound great.

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

- Einstein

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k.d. lang: The Air that I Breathe (the Hollies), Till The Heart Caves In (Roy Orbison), everything on Hymns of the 49th Parallel, especially Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen). That girl could sing the phone book and it would sound great.


k.d.'s recording of Roy Orbison's "Crying" is incredible. On her DVD video collection "Harvest of Seven Years - Cropped and Chronicled", she sings it at the songwriter awards and brings down the house. That DVD has several live performances that truly rock.

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Much as I love kd Lang, I still think Jeff Buckley's Hallelujah is the definitive version of that song. Others? How about Hendrix's All Along The Watchtower, Cowboy Junkies' Sweet Jane. I think Marvin Gaye's Grapevine might count as a cover since it isn't the first recording of the song. Also I have a soft spot for Talking Heads' Take Me To The River.


Ask me again in five minutes etc. (nice topic btw)

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Neko Case doing Dylan's "Buckets of Rain"

Hope Waits doing Dylan's "Ring them Bells"

Dave's True Story doing any Dylan


Catch the pattern? I love Dylan's song writing, hate his voice.


Holly Cole doing Waits.


Cat Power covering Nick Cave's "Breathless".


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Manfred Mann's Earth Band : "Spirits in the Night" (Bruce Springsteen ?) I find the Manfred Mann version punchier and prefer the orchestration.

April Wine: "21th century Schizoid Man" (King Crimson) (Good, but I still prefer the KC version)

April Wine: "Sign of the Gypsy Queen" (Lorence Hud -> can't find it in digital format other than mp3). AW more electric, but I would still like to get the original...




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Barb Jungr, Once in a Lifetime (Talking Heads). Who would have dreamed you could take that amazing song and turn it into a ballad with shakuhachi, piano and cello accompaniment.

Graham Bonnet goes in other direction with It's All Over Now Baby Blue (Dylan) and gives it a driving rock beat (and it works).

Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.

- Einstein

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Mine is the late and lamented Eva Cassidy's cover of Sting's "Fields of Gold" in her 'Songbird' LP.



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There a million. Here are a few I can think of:


Joan Baez - The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down (The Band)

Diana Krall - Temptation (Tom Waits)

Holly Cole - I Can See Clearly Now (Johnny Nash)

Van Morrison - Baby Please Don't Go (Bill Williams)

Linda Ronstadt - Back in the U.S.A. (Chuck Berry)

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Lennon doing pretty much anything - Stand By Me for starters. And is there another singer anywhere who could compete favorably with the Smokey Robinson original of You Really Got A Hold On Me? Money? Twist And Shout?

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I cautiously join the club that says Bob Dylan songs, sung by anyone but Dylan himself, deserve many mentions in this topic.


But why so cautious, I hear you ask...


To every rule. There. Is. An Exception.




He also, probably more famously, did an 'interpretation' of Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds



And more recently Common People. Which in fact isn't bad, but lets face it the bar had been set pretty low.


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Jimi Hendrix - All Along the Watchtower (best cover ever??)

Jeff Buckley - Hallelujah

Johnny Cash - Hurt (totally agree with prior post above)

The Sundays - Wild Horses



and finally....if you are into electronic stuff, I found this cover pretty cool

"You Can't Always Get What You Want"

Written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards

Re-Mixed and Re-Edited by Soulwax


very cool thread

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Love Will Tear Us Apart by the Oysterband with June Tabor.

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