I tend to like covers of songs that change or interpret it in some way, and tend not to like to covers that redo a song much in the way of the original. And I don’t mind a little weirdness if it makes you see a song in a new way.

Thus, for example, I’ve enjoyed some strange and wonderful covers of Eleanor Rigby (although many attempts are certainly very weird, and others intentionally awful), but didn’t much like Elton John’s very popular cover of Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds, which I thought was too much like the original without adding anything or even being as good.

These are just tendencies. I’ve loved a number of covers of Al Green’s stunning Take Me to The River. I’m still not sure whether I prefer the original, the Talking Heads’ version, or Bryan Ferry’s even-more strangled-pop cool version. I think I heard the Talking Heads version first, but they each have something great.

All this is preamble and possibly apology for my enthusiasm for this cover of Lorde’s Royals. I like the original — I like the whole album — and I’m prepared to argue that one of the measures of great pop today is that it spawns great covers. Well, as far as I’m concerned, case closed. (Spotted via Crooked Timber; At the risk of undermining myself, I will add I was underwhelmed by the also CT-endorsed Royals cover by Mayer Hawthorne.)

Care to share your favorite cover?

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9 Responses to Covers

  1. Jim Tyre says:

    I have a particular fondness for the Playing For Change cover of Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay, Playing For Change does some really interesting work. This one features (among others), the late Roger Ridley, a fabulous street musician who played just a few miles from me. I was a fan of his before PFC existed, and was seriously happy when PFC gave him some fame.

  2. Lee says:

    “Angel from Montegomery” has been covered by everyone under the sun, and the well known Bonnie Raitt version hardly counts as a cover since it was the first popular one, but among more contemporary artists, I like the Susan Tedeschi version with Grace Potter .

    I’m also a fan of the Alison Kraus version of “Can’t find my way home”.

    But for sheer inspirational value, you can’t beat Jake playing “While my Guitar Gently weeps” on ukulele.

  3. Jaws says:

    Many “iconic” versions of songs are themselves covers

    Bob Dylan, “All Along the Watchtower”
    the obvious J. Marshall Hendrix cover
    the not-so-obvious bluegrass-tinged Paperboys cover

    Nick Lowe, “What’s So Funny ’bout Peace, Love, and Understanding?”
    the obvious Elvis Costello cover
    the not-so-obvious Lucy Kaplansky cover

  4. Kaithe says:

    Here in Australia, Andrew Denton, a popular variety host, asked a number of Australian performers to record Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.”

    As you can see, some were very unique. One of which (I’ll let you guess which) was by someone who had never heard the original.

  5. Margaret Jane Radin says:

    By far and away, my favorite is k.d. lang’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”
    Also like Dylan’s cover of Leonard Cohen’s “Like a Bird on a Wire”

  6. Adam says:

    The “Cars” album by Kris Delmhorst is quite enjoyable on a Sunday morning.

  7. John says:

    The Jimi Hendrix – Hey Joe
    “Hey Joe” tells the story of a man who is on the run and planning to head to Mexico after shooting his wife.

  8. David says:

    my favorite recent discovery is Mark Kozelek’s AC/DC covers; in particular “If you want blood” turns from a searing rock song into an introspective bit of greatness:

    seu jorge’s bowie covers: (I recommend “rebel rebel” and “life on mars?” but it’s all pretty good; this is from the film “the life aquatic”, which is likewise pretty good.

    kt tunsall’s cover of the jackson 5’s “I want you back”:

    the gypsy kings’ version of “hotel california” is actually quite nice:

    cat power’s version of the stones’ “(I can’t get no) satisfaction” — the whole album is great and wholly worthwhile.

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