Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Top Ten Cover Songs

Today we'll be looking at great cover songs. Keep in mind, these are the best cover songs according to my opinion. As with my other Top Tens, I already know there will be debates with my choices, but feel free to leave omissions in the comment section. I went through the majority of of my 11,000 iPod songs and beyond to come up with a list that I like. I started with about 30 songs and eliminated them one by one to come up with this solid group. A songs qualifies as a cover when it is originally recorded, and then re-recorded by someone else. So for example, all the country artists who record songs written by other people do not qualify as cover songs unless they were NOT the first person to record and release the song to the general public. That being understood- here is the list:

10. Stand By Me by John Lennon (Ben E. King) - John Lennon does an outstanding version of Ben E. King's classic on the album "Rock & Roll." The slightly faster tempo and upbeat acoustic guitar helps give this version it's own distinct sound from the original. The horns in the background are used very effectively as well, and it is hard to argue that Lennon does a great version of this song.

9. Thirteen by Wilco (Big Star) - Elliott Smith also does a great version of this song, but I prefer the Wilco version. Now, most of the songs on this list are there because they do something different from the original, while still successfully capturing the original song's emotion. This version is not all that different from the Big Star version overall, but the subtle vocal phrasing that Jeff Tweedy uses and the slide in the background really pull this version together. I thought it was a pretty rare song to come across, but I just looked it up on iTunes and it is there waiting for you- check it out!

8. There Is A Light That Never Goes Out by Neil Finn & Friends (The Smiths) - This song borders on not being able to be included because Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr does play on the tune. It's from a live 2001 concert. This version is successful because a less whiny Neil Finn takes the lead vocals (compared to The Smiths' Morrisey, whom I do like, but he is pretty whiny.) It also is important because I did not listen to The Smiths before hearing this song- now I love them. I literally cut out two other Smith cover songs (Joshua Radin's Girlfriend in a Coma and Muse's Please Please Please Give Me What I Want) before making this list which tells me that the source material is very, very strong.

7. Got My Mind Set On You by George Harrison (James Ray) - Originally done by James Ray in 1962, George Harrison took and made it into the poppy 80's hit you remember (and can't get out of your head.) This could be corniest song on the list, but I admit, I do like it. A quick piece of trivia: Who was the last Beatle to have a #1 hit on the US Billboard Charts? A: George Harrison for "Got My Mind Set On You." Crazy, huh? You'd have thought that you could give Paul McCartney 21 years and he'd come up with another #1, but alas, it is not to be. Speaking of Paul McCartney, better luck next time. You're a legend, but you're not on this list.

6. Mad World by Gary Jules (Tears For Fears) - This song ranks very high because the original is actually not very good. I like a few Tears For Fears songs, but this is not one of them. Gary Jules slowed the tempo down, made the backbone of the song light piano rather than over the top synthesizers, and BAM! The song becomes amazing. This might be the best example every of songs succeeding based on arrangement rather whether it is "good" or "bad." I'm still waiting for someone rearrange "The Safety Dance" but I'm not sure that would help much.

Top Five will be coming tomorrow- stay tuned...

5 comments:

Rae said...

nice topic ;)

I haven't heard most of these, but now I have (yet another) project...

Tony B. said...

Yes, I believe I did get the idea yesterday when you sent me the Cartel version of Wonderwall. I wanted to reward the folks who do a good job with cover songs because there are so many bad ones out there that we need recognize who does it right. Hope you enjoy them.

GMoney said...

If you want the worst cover ever, listen to Lonestar's version of Walking in Memphis.

Tony B. said...

G$, I'll put that on my To-Do List right after "Go to the Ohio State spring game." See- I even worked your blog in there today.

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