[MUSIC] Cover Heaven

For me, most cover versions are more miss than they are hit. They usually elicit a “WTF HAVE YOU DONE TO THAT WONDERFUL TUNE?” and “MURDERERERER!!11!1!” reaction from me. But every so often, one surprises me. I believe it’s hard to capture and repackage the feel and genius of the original to the extent that the cover not only equals, but sometimes even bests its predecessor. It’s a rare thing but when it happens it can be wonderful. I’ve compiled a list of a few cover versions of excellent songs that I believe manage to do so convincingly. I hope you enjoy the oncoming eargasm, I know I certainly did!

Let’s kick this off with an absolute favourite of mine. Originally penned by R&B artist Mack Rice in 1965 and subsequently gaining popularity when Wilson Pickett covered it a year later, Mustang Sally is a classic. Covered by a plethora of noted artists including John Lee Hooker, BB King and Eric Clapton, it is Andrew Strong’s soulful and powerful version that I have always championed. It was recorded for the film The Commitments and if you haven’t seen it then I highly recommend it. The music is fantastic, it’s hilarious and it’s Irish (I’m not biased at all).

For me, nothing says ‘guitar genius’ quite like Jimi Hendrix (notable exception being, of course, Rory Gallagher). It was his cover of Bob Dylan’s All Along The Watchtower that made me yearn to pick up a guitar and replicate the amazing sounds to make it sing.

Johnny Cash’s cover of Nine Inch Nails’ song Hurt never fails to hit me in the feels. Not only because it’s a wonderfully crafted song, with Cash’s voice lending a certain despair and finality to the lyrics, but also because it is rumoured that this is the last song he recorded before he died.

I’m not exactly a fan of Jason Mraz. He had that one catchy tune that every poser at a party strums on a guitar to impress the ladies and involve them in a sing-song. I’ll admit, when I first heard his version of Seals and Crofts’ Summer Breeze I was pleasantly surprised and happy to be proven wrong about his talents. This is a lovely, laid-back version, and I’d be much more receptive to someone rocking this particular treat over I’m Yours any day of the week.

When it comes to Michael Bublé we have a wide range of covers available to us to choose from, and he does justice to most of them. I’m a big Dean Martin fan (thanks Dad) so I love Bublé’s version of Sway. He does a wonderful rendition of Feelin’ Good (though nobody can compare to Nina) too. However, my all-time favourite would probably have to be Moondance, a Van “The Man” Morrison classic. Here’s the velvet-voiced crooner Michael Bublé singing the very same live on an episode of Parkinson.

Nobody can match David Bowie in my eyes. He is iconic and his music will last throughout many more ages to come. Even with that in mind though, Nirvana surprised many of us with a fine version of The Man Who Sold The World. During their 1993 MTV Unplugged show they recorded a live performance of Bowie’s song that would later prove to be one of the most watched covers on YouTube.

I just love Chris Cornell’s voice. I was a very young Soundgarden fan, and later an adult Audioslave fan. You Know My Name is even one of my top Bond film themes. But when I first heard his live, purely acoustic cover of the late, great Michael Jackson’s Billie Jean, I fought an overwhelming urge to arrange to have Cornell kidnapped so I could tie him up at the end of my bed and make him sing me to sleep every night.

 American R&B group Blackstreet’s 1996 massive number one hit single No Diggity was an instant favourite for me. Its funky beat proved to be a dance-floor filler and prompted booty-shaking ladies world-wide to squeal and declare “OMG IT’S MY SONG!” Recently I came across an interesting version from a perviously unknown to me electronica musician by the name of Chet Faker. The video was passed on to me via Facebook from my super-hip Aussie cousin. It’s a very sexy version (despite the awesome lumberjack beard), give it a whirl.

Who doesn’t enjoy a slice of the Prince of Soul, Marvin Gaye? So many of his songs have been covered with varying success. I Heard It Through The Grapevine was actually originally a Smokey Robinson & The Miracles song but it was this delicious delight that catapulted Marvin into fame. Notable versions include Gladys Knight & The Pips (fantastic, definitely worth a listen – or ten!) and Creedence Clearwater Revival. I’ve posted the CCR version here, all eleven minutes of it. And holy crap, the first time I heard it I grooved on every single second.

Wonderwall. The Oasis classic sung at some stage by every drunken crooner, in every karaoke bar and is possibly one of the greatest songs of the last twenty years. While I completely agree that this song is a force itself, the over-saturation and overplaying of it rendered me liable to want to stab myself in the ears every time someone at a party began a rendition that would consist of the first verse and chorus repeated over and over for at least ten minutes. Then Ryan Adams came along with his take on the song and I fell in love with it again. It was simple, lovely, and it cemented my growing appreciation for Adams. To this day it still remains the only version that songwriter Noel Gallagher approves of.

There are so many more I’m sure I have missed. What is your favourite cover version? Share them with me! One can never have too much epic tunage in one’s playlists.

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Categories: List ALL The Things!, Music, Review

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13 replies

  1. Good shout with Chris Cornell. It’s one of my favorite covers too.

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  2. I met a girl at a Fourth of July party in the summer of my seventeenth year. She was a few years older than I was and I think she took pity on the young, naive boy who knew nothing of the world outside his little town.

    We spent the afternoon together, playing volley ball with the others in the sand and swimming in the lake. When evening came, we sat on a large rock by the beach watching the fireworks and listening to a local radio station. As each song played, she entertained me with a commentary on the song and tidbits about the band or singer.

    I can’t remember very many of the songs we heard; I was too lost in her eyes and mesmerized by the sound of her voice. But, I do remember that one of them was “Someday Never Comes” and the group that played it was CCR. That was one of the last songs they recorded before they broke up.

    If we’re lucky, each of us is blessed with a few perfect days and a few perfect nights. That was one of mine and every time I hear that song I go back in time for a few minutes.

    After that night, I never saw the girl again and I’ve often wondered what happened to her. I think I know now. Her light was so intense and burned so bright that I think she must have burned out like a shooting star and when she did her musical soul fell in Ireland.

    Thanks for taking me back again to a simpler time where all I needed to make me smile was a song on the radio and the sound of a pretty girl’s voice.

    See ya

    P.S. If it ever comes up in conversation, it probably wouldn’t be a good idea to mention that girl to my wife. They never met and I didn’t know Linda at the time, but well…you know how girls can be sometimes.

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    • What a fantastic story and what a fantastic comment. Thank you for sharing it. It never ceases to amaze me the power music can have over a person; the power to trigger memories and the feelings associated with them. I do so love and enjoy hearing stories like yours. Plus it is always a major added bonus when the stories involve great pieces of music and perfect nights. ;)

      And P.S. Your 4th of July CCR secret is very safe with me.

      Go raibh míle maith agat, mo chara.

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  3. Sweet concept for a review. Didn’t know about a lot of these, and I especially enjoyed the “No Diggity” cover. I always loved that song too, and the Chet Faker version is really interesting.

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  4. I love covers, a lot, probably because I used to make mashups out of everything I could get my hands on, so I’ve always enjoyed reinterpretations of favorite songs. Here are a few favorites off the top of my head.

    “I Go to Sleep” (The Kinks… or is it The Pretenders?) by Sia
    “White Rabbit” (Jefferson Airplane) by Blue Man Group
    “Valerie” (The Zutons) by Amy Winehouse
    “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (The Shirelles) by Amy Winehouse
    “Diamond Dogs” (David Bowie) by Beck (from the Moulin Rouge soundtrack)
    “Careless Whisper” (George Michael) by Gossip

    Honorable Mention:
    “Oh Father” (Madonna) by Sia
    “The Phantom of the Opera” by Nightwish (I’m a sucker for metal covers of anything, really.)

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    • Some great recs there Ant, thanks a mill. Really liking Sia, I’d only ever heard her in the charts with Titanium. Her covers are fantastic.

      On Moulin Rouge I really did love what they did with Roxanne.

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  5. Not many there I’d call for their birthday but then, we’re all allowed our own taste… ;-)

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