Youtube is now the world’s jukebox and one thing I like to do is search for cover versions of songs that, for one reason or another, fell short of the mark. Often-times I can find a cover version that actually improves the original. These covers are usually done by acts I’ve never heard of, so it’s sometimes a gateway to new music.
So onto some music.
When Chris Cornell died, the tributes started pouring in. Ann Wilson from Heart played an impromptu cover that people tore to shreds on Youtube, but a while back an obscure artist known as Nouela delivered this amazing version as part of a movie soundtrack to the film A Walk Among the Tombstones. I really think I prefer this one because it amps the angst up to 11.
Misunderstood by the Animals is one of the most heavily covered songs ever. The 70s cover in Kill Bill re-popularized the song, giving it a dance beat. This one by european singer Aga Zaryan goes in the opposite direction, with similar quiet dread as Black Hole Sun.
Black Sabbath’s final Ozzy album, Never Say Die, doesn’t rate very highly. Part of the reason is the increasingly “brittle” production as the band kept shifting away from its doom-metal roots. The poppy “A Hard Road” is probably my favorite from the album, mostly thanks to its uncharacteristic vocal harmonies and Beatles-like vibe. The modern production values of this cover help add back more of the missing tonal spectrum.
I’m a fan of David Bowie’s As the World Falls Down from Labyrinth but it suffers from typical 1980s cheese production, especially the nursery-room keyboard patch that was popular at the time everywhere from Doogie Howser to Star Trek: The Next Generation. However appropriate the tone may have felt for a kid’s movie, it’s just cringe-inducing, spoiling Bowie’s otherwise quality singing. Like most sappy love-ballads, it’s fodder for cover versions, typically done by woman. I haven’t found what I’d consider the “perfect” cover, but I’ll share two that come close.
This one is a space-lounge version.
This one adds a little needed “oomph” to it.
Bowie himself performed his share of covers. The obvious choice for his best would be Wild is the Wind, originally by Nina Simone, but I’m going to embed Sorrow from Pinups as it has a swing to it that is infectuous. The original is more of a jangly country-western beat. The mid-60s version has more of a driving rocking groove but Bowie’s is more sultry/sexy.
The Who were never known as a heavy metal band, but The Real Me was probably their most “metal-like” song. So it was only a matter of time before a metal band covered it. This cover from W.A.S.P. takes the song’s DNA and pushes it to 11 the way it probably already deserved.
Even though I don’t have a heck of a lot of respect for Miley Cyrus as a person, underneath it all she has technical singing chops. Mated with the right songwriter/producer and she can do great stuff, if you can get beyond the hot-mess aspect. Her Hannah Montanah movie was sort of the swan-song of her at least trying to act normal, and The Climb is a great song. This cover with a male acapela group makes it even better, though.
On the other end of the sentimentality scale, Fiona Apple’s version of Across the Universe will want to make you jump off a bridge. If you want a song that epitomizes today’s fatalistic dysfunctionality, this is it, both the cover version AND the visuals of the video itself.
Queen’s music has always had an operatic streak. Katherine Jenkins is part of the genre of “popera”, crossover singers who sing in concert halls in an operatic style but tend to do a lot of well-known standards. Her version, although overwrought, does the song justice.
The last entry doesn’t sound like a cover-song, but it is. The original was from an obscure band called The Korgis, but this song sounds like an out-take from Beck’s best album (Sea Change) with its amazingly intimate close-miked vocals. One of my personal favorites.