For starters, since this is my version of a blog post originally done by Nettiemac, would this qualify as a "cover post"?
You all knew there was no way I was going to let this one get away without putting my two tarnished Lincoln pieces into the mix. This will be in three (3) parts: first, my top ten remakes that, in my opinion (this IS my blog, after all!), either matched or outright topped the original. Second will be my top five list of the weirest and funniest covers, and I'll save the worst for last - the five WTFWTT??!! covers (I'll spot you the last three: Were They Thinking)
Whoooookay, here we go with our first list, which I call:
THEY DID MORE THAN COVER THE SONG,
THEY ALSO COVERED THE SONG!
1) LUCY IN THE SKY WITH DIAMONDS / Elton John
The first two songs on the list are Beatles remakes ... and while I claim the Fabsters as my so-called "favorite group", these are far from desecrations of the Lennon/McCartney songbook. This one, for instance. You know what? I like Elton's version WAY better than I do the original! But don't flame me here - Mr. Dwight gave this song instant credibility in the form of "reggae guitarist Dr. Winston O'Boogie." That's right, gang, John Lennon helped out.
2) WE CAN WORK IT OUT / Stevie Wonder
I like The Beatles' original a lot. But I love Stevie's 1971 remake. He took this song and, by gawd, made it his own. Ooooh, the funky keyboard intro alone makes it a classic. And at the end, you'll probably agree with me: SW's version is a pop/funk masterpiece.
3) WOODSTOCK / Matthews' Southern Comfort
It came from the pen of Joni Mitchell, but the best-known version is the one recorded by Crosby Stills Nash & Young and becoming a smash in 1970. The following year, a country-flavored pop group led by Ian Matthews (remember the 1978 light-disco'ey pop song "Shake It"? That's him) took the song back into the top 40, going as high as #24. I dare say this is my favorite version of the standard.
And honorable mention must go to Joni Mitchell for covering herself -- on her 2002 record Travelogue, she turned her classic into a slow thing of beauty, a lush rendition that never fails to bring me to tears. The album has its detractors, but one must give Joni credit for not succumbing to the "remake the old classics on MTV Unplugged, and release an album of it faster than you can say Eric Clapton." I love it, and if you don't, I'll gladly like it for you.
4) THE MIGHTY QUINN (QUINN THE ESKIMO) / Manfred Mann
File this one under Nettiemac's comparison of "All Along the Watchtower"; to borrow her phrase, I can't make a cerebral embrace of Dylan's version ... it sounds, well, weak; especially after many plays of Manfred Mann's bubblegummy remake. It did quite well for itself in 1968, thank you.
5) ALL I REALLY WANT TO DO / The Byrds
More Dylan Downloading: I can't say I'm that fond of their cover of BD's "Mr. Tambourine Man", but listening to the original version of this, that yodel Dylan does with Dooo--OOOOH makes the puppy come across as a parody. And probably funnier to listen to than Sebastian Cabot's immortal-but-wish-it-could-die-already recitation of this and other Bob Dylan standards.
Face it, "All" was meant to be heard with the Byrds' trademark guitar sound and harmony.
6) (I'M A) ROAD RUNNER/SIGNED, SEALED, DELIVERED / Peter Frampton
From his I'm In You record (1977). "Signed Sealed Delivered" was a hit single, and a fantastic cover of the 1971 Stevie Wonder original. But stations like WLS/Chicago played "Road Runner", another Motown remake, which appears immediately before SSD, and made it a natural 'twin spin', a la "We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions." And since WLS was a big part of my nighttime radio listening at that point (three words: John Records Landecker!), it's the way I always hear it in my mind.
7) (I KNOW) I'M LOSING YOU / Rare Earth
One of the few white acts to be signed to MOTOWN, these guys were unsung rock gods. As I came of age and discovered top-40 (age 4-5, much younger than your average bear), Rare Earth was crankin' out the hits: "Get Ready", "Hey Big Brother", "Born to Wander", "I Just Want to Celebrate" (my favorite RE song), and .... this, where this Detroit rock band turns the Temptations' angst into scorching anger. The opening by itself earns it a place on my list: YOUR LOVE IS FADIN-FADIN-FADIN-FADING....
8) (I KNOW) I'M LOSING YOU / The Faces (Rod Stewart)
Rare Earth's version (above) nudges this one, but barely. Today, Rod the Mod has turned into Golden Throats From Hell, with his recent album of cover tunes, where he murders some of the greatest adult standards ever written. Back in 1970, however, Rod put his heart and soul into remakes; emphasis on "soul" because this has soul. Almost as much as The Temps. Almost.
9) THAT'S ALL RIGHT MAMA/AMAZING GRACE / Rod Stewart
Also appearing on the same album (Every Picture Tells a Story) is the Rodster's take on Elvis himselvis. And it's followed by a beautiful coda of "Amazing Grace." If you don't think Rod Stewart has a heart, listen to this. Wow.
While "Maggie May" has been burnt to a crisp on classic rock radio, Every Picture is otherwise one of those every-song-is-a-classic LPs, where there's not a single wasted note within the grooves.
10) JAILHOUSE ROCK / The Residents
A nice segue to go into the next segment, The Residents are an anonymous Bay Area band that have been around since the '60s, making beyond-the-lunatic-fringe albums. One, called The King And I, is a disc full of weeeeeeird covers of Elvis classics. But not this one. It's from Residue of The Residents, a 1984 album full of outtakes ... stuff which didn't make the cut for even their warped sensibilities! I love this version, though -- the music completely makes the song.
Next time: my take on the funniest covers of all time ... and those not-so-funny.
Meanwhile, you can have the covers back. I'm awake now.
Ciao for niao.
--Talmadge "Pat, you moron, it ain't ISN'T THAT A SHAME!!" Gleck
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