Showing posts with label covers. Show all posts
Showing posts with label covers. Show all posts

Monday, January 7, 2019

Kennedy Center Honors 2018 Highlights: Adam Lambert and 'Hamilton'

The Kennedy Center Honors is my favorite awards show of the year. The most extraordinary performances happen here. And this year is no exception. Cher was honored for her contribution to the musical and performance world and I was so excited to see that Adam Lambert was going to be part of that tribute. He did not disappoint with this gorgeous, heartfelt rendition of "Believe".

I do love about a good cover. You take a good song, that might have had some era appropriate bells and whistles of the time (hello auto-tune, wow I can't believe you stuck around for as long as you did!) and pull its soul right out. A talented artist can present it in a new way, and viola! 

He starts sweet and gentle, altering the melody here and there. I love the moment when he pulls his ear piece out, he's just that comfortable and confident up there. He makes Cher shed a tear! The emotion builds and he ends in a dramatic Lambert moment of holding out high note. 

The co-creators Lin-Manuel Miranda, Thomas Kail, Andy Blankenbuehler, and Alex Lacamoire he creators of 'Hamilton' were also honored, and we were treated to a live performance of the The Schuyler Sisters" by original cast Renée Elise Goldsberry, Jasmine Cephas Jones, and Phillipa Soo. 

While there are so many memorial tracks in 'Hamilton', there's nothing better than a female three-part harmony number that pretty reminiscent of Destiny's Child. Especially that run at the end! Work!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Happy Birthday Bobby! A playlist of Dylan covers

Happy 70th Birthday Mr. Zimmerman!

I've always been in awe of your songwriting, however, not so much your singing. So here's a very short playlist selection of folks singing your songs (so that you don't have to), and I mean that with all due respect.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Uncoverable songs challenge: "In Your Eyes"

I was chatting with my roommate today when Peter Gabriel's "In Your Eyes" came on the radio. This has always been one of my favorite recordings, it's just perfect. I've often thought how I've never heard a cover of this song that I've really liked, and you KNOW I love me a good cover!

I've heard all sorts of people cover this song including a recent trainwreck of an attempt from opera singer Renée Fleming; and who is Jeffrey Gaines, should I remember? I've heard tons of choral a cappella versions, but I don't know if they count.

What is the key to a good cover? I think it's when an artist takes someone else's song and makes it their own while highlighting the song itself. I especially love it when a crappy pop song is made awesome by an amazing rendition (hello Travis' cover of "Baby One More Time").

I don't really know what it is about "In Your Eyes," It's a quintessential 80s pop tune with those fabulously 80s world music nuances (hells yeah Youssou N'Dour) and there's that repeating reference to churches that seemed like it should bother me, and never did. And come to think of it, I've never heard anyone say that they don't like the song. How can you dislike Peter Gabriel anyway? The man is amazing. (I just saw that he was touring this summer.)

I challenge you to find me a cover of this song that really does this tune justice. One that really ups the ante and shows that "In Your Eyes" is not just one of the 80s best, but a timeless, solid song.

I also challenge you to suggest other uncoverable songs; songs that have been covered, but never in a satisfactory way.

(All that said, I just came across this Sara Bareilles cover of "In Your Eyes." I, um, sort of really like it...still had to post the above anyway.)

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Love of lady covers: UnderCover Presents the Pixies' "Doolittle"

Bevy of beauties: Conspiracy of Venus prepares for their performance of "Monkey Gone to Heaven"
(all photos by Peter Varshavsky)

Last week UnderCover Presents: the Pixies' Doolittle at SF Public Works. The project is an insane logistical balance of getting one band to record and perform one track each of a classic album. This time, Doolittle got the royal treatment.

Read my review of the show and studio album here.

I noticed that the tracks I love the most were sung by women. Surprise surprise. These ladies include, Dina Maccabee, Blue Rabbit (who I'm going to see live tomorrow night at the Hemlock) and Lily Tayor. Of course I also love Conspiracy of Venus (a choir I have rejoined, I couldn't stay away any longer).

Lovely lady UnderCover Executive Director Lyz Luke

Newly found (to me) goddess Lily Taylor

Dina Maccabee's sweet and purdy cover of "La La Love You"

Blue Rabbit sings "Hey"

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

For the love of Doolittle and a new discussion section on

Joyce McBride leads the women of Conspiracy of Venus as they record "Monkey Gone to Heaven" for UnderCover's Doolittle Project at the Convent Collective

I love a good cover song. So I love projects like this. In Austin, Strings Attached does entire shows of albums (Sgt. Peppers, The White Album) or artists (Led Zeppelin, Joni Mitchell) with a full band and string arrangements. Each song featured a different local musician. It is a celebration of a well-love artist/album and a celebration of the local music community.

UnderCover in the Bay Area is about to have its second show, celebrating the Pixies' Doolittle. Each track will be performed by a different band. Two weekends ago I had the opportunity of going to hang with my girls of the women's chorus Conspiracy of Venus as they recorded the track "Monkey Gone to Heaven" for the studio UnderCover Doolittle album, which will before sale at the show at Public Works SF on February 22.


Also, has a new feature for discussions. So CLICK HERE to weigh in on what album you would like UnderCover to celebrate in the years to come!

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Pomplamoose featured in Toyota Avalon commercial with "Mister Sandman" cover

Okay. Soooo, maybe it's about time I tell you all this. Some of you know, some of you probably don't... But I've been working for Pomplamoose for just a few hours a week since the end of December 2009. I've been doing things like helping them with their volumes of fanmail, the t-shirt campaign and getting licenses for their cover songs so that they can actually make money off of them. It's been super super fun. Jack and Nataly are really the terrific and funny people that you see in their videos.

So I'm super excited that they have a commercial out featuring one of their songs. I think that maybe even last year I would have looked down upon this sort of musical business deal, but you know what? How are artists supposed to make money anymore with the internet? They certainly don't do it selling recordings or touring! And it will bring Pomplamoose more fans.

Anyway, here's the first bit of an article I just posted on about it. I hope that it will help loop curious ears into who made this fabulous cover when they hear it during a V commercial break.

Pomplamoose's cover of "Mister Sandman" originally performed by the Chordettes is currently being featured in a commercial for the 2011 Toyota Avalon. The commercial fits the music perfectly with a quirky 1940s vibe in a train station. Watch the original video here. The commercial has been placed in prime time slots.

Nataly Dawn and Jack Conte seem to be everywhere right now coming right off of airing an interview with NPR just last weekend (listen to the interview and read the article here). Their cover of Beyonce's "Single Ladies" has just passed the 4 million views mark and their cover of Lady Gaga's "Telephone" is striding its way through the 2 millions.

Read more here (cause you know I like the clicks)

Friday, April 2, 2010

New artist: Lissie Maurus (she covers Gaga's "Bad Romance")

I totally dig Lissie's I-just-rolled-out-of-bed-and-haven't-gotten-around-to-brushing-my-hair-yet look. You go girl.

For those of you who like Neko Case, listen up! I was playing on the internet this morning and Lissie Maurus, a Southern singer/songwriter caught my eye. She was just at South by Southwest and seems to have caught some folks' attention. There's a little bit of buzz going on about her right now, and rightly so.

She's got quite a voice and I have the feeling that like Neko, the songwriting and production quality (all that wonderful guitar reverb!) of recording will get under my skin and put me in that happy, warm place every time I listen.

Do not underestimate the power of making a good cover. That is how, especially on the internet, people will find you. That's how I found Lissie, watching Lady Gaga covers.

Here's her cover of Gaga's "Bad Romance"

And here's an original called "In Sleep"

What do you think?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Googling myself at 2:45 in the morning

So it's storming outside and I can't sleep. What am I doing? I'm googling myself. Well first I was googling this blog to see if it was mentioned anywhere that I didn't know of, and then I decided to search myself. And what did I find? Well other than this Jamie Freedman who's an M.D. I found that I'm on

Yup. Check it out.

I know the first two entries are indeed me because I was an intern for Smithsonian Folkways the non-profit record label of the U.S. National Museum in Washington D.C. from 2003-2004 between undergrad and grad school. During that time I worked with the archivists of the label. It was pretty awesome. I got to hang with all these old LPs and cassettes. I worked on a couple of commercial archival releases including Classic Folk Music and Classic Maritime Music as a Production Assistant. The folk complication included tunes by Doc Watson, Peggy Seeger, Paul Robeson and even the song "Gallis Pole" by Fred Gerlach which Led Zeppelin later covered. The Maritime compilation has a pre-Beach Boys "Sloop John B" and "All for Me Grog," which was my favorite.

How could I ever forget "All for Me Grog"?

And it's all for me grog, me jolly, jolly grog
All for me beer and tobacco
Well I spent all me tin on the lassies drinking gin
Across the western ocean I must wander
And here are two versions of "Gallis Pole"/"Gallows Pole."

Performed by Led Belly:

Led Zeppelin:

My part in the production of these compilations was basically making a big mix tape, which in retrospect is, well, the most perfect job ever. The main archivist gave me a list of songs that he was considering putting on the CD, and I had to scour the archive for all of the different versions of that song that it had. So I pulled recordings off of CDs, LPs, cassettes and actual reel-to-reel. There was a big switchboard thing involved and I remember getting frustrated with all those chords.

Interning for the label was pretty fun even though the interns were sort of treated like nobodies. I had all sorts of random projects to do. One other intern was archiving all these Woody Guthrie lyric sheets and sketches. That's where Billy Bragg and Wilco got the lyrics for their album Mermaid Avenue. Did you know Guthrie sketched erotic images? Yeah, he did. I've seen 'em. He was kind of party animal.

Alright, that's it. I'm going back to bed. Don't be bashful, googling yourself can be fun, you'll never know what you'll find. Have you done it? What have you found?

Monday, August 24, 2009

the Fleet Foxes: covers and originals

Kathryn this is for you.

The Fleet Foxes have exploded in popularity. I must say I like some covers of their tunes more than the originals. But some of the originals are pretty kick ass too.

First Aid Kit of Sweden covers "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" - teenage Swedish sisters

Kina Grannis (and her sisters) covers "White Winter Hymnal"

The Fleet Foxes (original) "Mykonos"

Monday, August 10, 2009

I'm sorta loving this Chris Brown song in all of its incarnations

I was not a fan of Chris Brown until I saw this video of the coolest, cutest, happiest wedding procession ever to exist. I've watched this 6 times or so (youtube viewers have watched if over 18 million times. I love it. It makes me so happy and I have no idea why.

If you love it too, go to the site the couple made in honor of the popularity of this video where they are raising money for Sheila Wellstone Institute, dedicated to ending domestic violence in our communities.

I happened to find this video today while poking around youtube. It's the promo video for Kollaboration: an all Asian American concert that occurred in February in Los Angeles.

I already love Kina Grannis and I've seen David Choi (gorgeously pop perfect voice) performing duets with Kina. BUT WHO ARE THESE OTHER VELVET VOICED WOMEN?? I'm sort of in love. The four sisters are Jazmin, the other lady is Jane Lui (click on their names to hear more). I'm feeling the Asian American love and wished I had known about this show back in February.

So I can't get "Forever" out of my head now. Thanks alot...

Monday, July 27, 2009

Six most interesting Michael Jackson cover songs

"Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery" so goes the saying.

Cover songs are the best way to pay tribute to excellent musicians and songs. Some straight up copy the tune, some take it and tweak it to make it fresh and new.

Since MJ's untimely death, I've noticed folks posting Michael Jackson covers in every style from Mariachi to ballad-esque. Here are some of the most interesting covers I've seen.

Disclaimer: Just because you put on the sequined jacket, it doesn't mean your version of an MJ song is going to be good. Put on the jacket and make it your own. Make it interesting.

Sorry, Fall Out Boy and Alien Ant Farm will not be on this list. This is of course my own personal preference, but I don't find these covers very interesting. This is my criteria for these six:

- Does the artist make the song their own?

- Does the artist keep the integrity of the MJ original?

- Last but not least, is the cover fun to listen to?

Read more of my article here

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Sway Machinery covers "Bille Jean" in Krakow

The Sway Machinery performs a cover of "Billie Jean" at the Festival of Jewish Culture in Kracow on July 4th, 2009

Love the infamous bass line on the baritone saxophone.

Now I'm looking for more interesting MJ covers, send one my way!

Monday, March 9, 2009

Barenaked Ladies: "Lovers at a Dangerous Time" circa 1991, I miss this band

This band is so cute. Some day soon I'll post the photo of when I met them at a meet-and-greet at the Taste of Chicago in 1997. I'd never heard about them, but my boyfriend at the time was a huge fan and insisted on going.

The Ladies cracked me up and signed my new copy of "Rock Spectacle".

We, at Always More to Hear, love Canadians.

This is a cover of "Lovers at a Dangerous Time" by Canadian singer/songwriter Bruce Cockburn. Wow, the early 90s were awesome. Check out the hair and the tapered jeans.

click here:

Thanks for passing this on Dave!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Sergio Mendes & Brasil '66 "Look Around" LP cover collage

Check it out: this Sergio Mendes record didn't have a proper cover (it was living in a Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture jacket) so I decided to collage my own. 

It's pretty groovy, don't you think? And very much in spirit with the original (shown at the top).

This LP includes covers of "The Look of Love," "With a Little Help from my Friends," "Like a Lover" and originals.  It's straight up smooth 1960s Brazilian bossa nova; good for a Sunday morning.

I just read on wikipedia that this version of "Look of Love" was more popular than Dusty Springfield's.  Also, Mendes performed the same song at the 1968 Oscars, which skyrocketed his popularity in the United States. He's still making records today with American artists like, Erykah Badu, Chali 2na, India.Arie, John Legend, Justin Timberlake and Stevie Wonder.  Not bad for a guy that's been around for 40 years.

I've added some Mendes, old and new, to the playlist.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Young @ Heart: the sweetest movie I've seen in a long time

It is possible to age gracefully.
It is possible to grow old without growing boring.
You'll laugh at how adorable these people are. You'll cry at how full of life they are. Please add Young @ Heart to your netflix queue.  I feel like calling my Grandmother and telling her how much I love her.

Founded in 1982, The Young @ Heart Chorus is a group of elderly folks (average age of 81) who have toured the world singing rock'n'roll songs from Sonic Youth to Jimi Hendrix. The film follows chorus members and director Bob Cilman through rehearsals, performances, illnesses and deaths.  One of the performances is at a Massachusetts prison and the other is at a sold out theater as final send off before traveling to Europe.

Yes, yes; we know the movie is celebration of life, music and spirit. These people have the most amazing energy and love of singing.  But I am moved by the originality of musical interpretation and how when these folks sing, you know they really, really, really mean it.

It's amazing how well-written songs can take on completely different meanings depending on who's singing them and how they are being sung.  When you hear a 80-year-old full of aching bones and muscles sing James Brown's  "I Feel Good," it takes on a brand new meaning. What about when a 83-year-old in a nursing home wheel chair sings the Ramone's "I Wanna Be Sedated"?  (This is a video you cannot miss, there are no words to describe it.) Here you'll get a certain perspective, wisdom and humor that missing from the original. This is not a bad-boy punk song anymore, but an old man who needs his pills!

Watch this video of "Fix You" by Coldplay.  This is Fred Knittle.  He passed away in early January 2009, but in the film, he's been asked to return to the chorus after a prolonged illness.  This song was supposed to be a duet, but his partner Bob Salvini died several weeks before.  Forget how much you hate Coldplay and leave your expectations at the door. In a voice reminiscent of Johnny Cash, Knittle sings of friendship, life, death, redemption, and brings me to tears in a way Chris Martin can't.  It's gorgeous.

These are some of the most unique cover songs I have ever heard.   Many of the vocals are rough and off-key, the blend is mostly non-existent, but the vocal phrasing is exquisite and the arrangements are terrific. The soloists make up their own melodies and rhythm and sing from life experience and age. These people don't have a personal history with the songs (born in the 20s and 30s, they are too old to identify the songs with their youth) but can identify with the words. Cilman has chosen each song carefully (You'll never listen to "I Will Survive" the same again).

One thing thing that Cilman says at the beginning of the film is that "you can always understand the words when this group sings them." As some of you might know, making the words understandable is one of the hardest things to do with a choir. Getting clear diction is very difficult.

The film doesn't really address how the songs change meaning because of who is singing them. Mortality, of course, comes up in many different ways like when the chorus members express their desire to continue singing after the death of Joe Benoit, a fellow chiorister. 

It's like working in an elderly home, death is a common visitor to this group and they keep on singing in celebration of life.  And as the founder of this group, Cilman never comments on how it affects him personally, he just keeps trying to get these fabulous people to learn and remember their words.  I'm so grateful for people like him who make it their business to bring joy to the elderly, it's incredible. (Shout out to Music Therapist Froman!)

As one of the audience members says after seeing a performance of the Young @ Heart Choir, "I'm never going to complain about being too old or too tired again!" 

Here's the trailer:

Here's the official film website and chorus website. And an interview with Cilman. 

Please, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. It's terrific.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Radiohead goes with everything

What more can I say? This band is awesome, no matter how served.

This is Radiohead with the USC Marching band performing "In Step" at the 2009 Grammys. I've always thought marching bands were cool, but they don't get much cooler than this:

This *might* almost as cool: Gnarls Barkley performing a cover of Radiohead's "Reckoner," another mightly musical pairing.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

"Be My Husband": Nina Simone & My Brightest Diamond

I've been a Nina Simone fan for a long time now.  I'm not ashamed to say that I first noticed her in this Six Feet Under promo (the best tv show there ever was) and thought "WHO ON EARTH WAS THAT???"  That cadence (the bit at the end) is the most amazing few seconds of deep feeling vocal virtuosity I have ever heard. I still rewind it to hear it again and again.

Nina Simone was an African-American woman who was way before her time and never got the recognition that she should have.  I think this just makes her music more attractive to audiences and artists today.  She was more edgy than Carole King, Judy Collins and Carly Simon put together.  She was also socially relevant in her thematic material and as a classically trained pianist, she brought an elegance not really ever heard in blues or soul. 

Please watch her performance of "Be My Husband" at the Harlem Festival in 1969. Check out here amazing head-dress hairdo and her "percussion section."  Please also take note of the last couple verses, you know, the ones that mentions "cooking and sewing", "meanest man I've ever seen" and "sudden death" (you can even her the audience show surprise).

This is typical Nina: the deepest passion and pain all rolled up into one.

Now, this is Shara Worden, a.k.a. My Brightest Diamond. I've heard about here (she's performed at South by Southwest for the last few years), but not taken the time to really listen until friend played her for me last weekend while packing books for a move. I think I was seeing Ozomatli at the Fillmore the same night she performed in San Francisco.  Too bad for me.

New York based Shara is a classically trained vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. She has studied string quartet arranging and has just an adorable presence (She's tiny!) and funky look.

Watch HER cover of "Be My Husband."  Shara, as you might notice, has changed up the last couple verses making it a little less of a downer. (Check out HER hairdo!)

Now let me throw an original at you.  This is a live performance of "My Brightest Star." Just Shara and her guitar. (The open tuning gives the guitar that moody feel.)

If you're intrigued by her voice, check a clip of her singing Whitney Houston's/Dolly Parton's "I Will Always Love You" at Karaoke (the dude is her husband, and no, he's not a giant, she's just tiny). And a funky little interview clip

I've also added Nina Simone's "Feelin' Good" and some other of Shara's tunes to my playlist.

Happy Wednesday!

Friday, November 21, 2008

First Aid Kit: "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" Cover

Since I'm on a kick of showing you guys awesome covers, here's Sweden's First Aid Kit forrest version of "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" by the Fleet Foxes.  Thanks to Liz for showing this to me a few months ago.

I don't know what is up with the forests in Sweden, but those are some crazy acoustics they're getting!  I was thinking that maybe there is a large rock wall behind the camera that the sound is bouncing off of.

See the Fleet Foxx original here (psst, when I listen to their version, I just wanna listen to those two Swedish girls sing it again) But it really is a gorgeous song.

I really dig this 60s folk rock thing that is going on right now.

Here First Aid Kit's original music here.

I added a couple Fleet Foxes songs I dig on the playlist and First Aid Kit's "Tiger Mountain Peasant Song" cover.  

Enjoy the gorgeousness.

Friday, November 14, 2008

"Distubia" cover by Kina Grannis

I'm sort of obsessed with this today.  This is Kina Grannis, she's a singer/songwriter in LA. She's got three albums of original music out, all of which you can buy on itunes, imeem, myspace and every other music distribution method out there. (I should check out imeem)

She's cute as a button, a good guitarist and has a lovely voice. I'm sure she's a decent songwriter, but that's not what interests me about her.

Like many folks out there, Kina posts video blogs on youtube.  Every Monday she records covers on garageband and makes her own videos with her Mac (I assume).  Before and/or after she performs she talks about random stuff, it's very youtube celebrity (and gives shout outs to all of her fans that have birthdays that week).  She's got over 33 THOUSAND subscribers presumably from all over the world.  In the world of modern day technology you can be famous from your bedroom.  And then maybe you tour,  but you might not. It's amazing.

This is Kina's cover of Rihanna's "Disturbia," wonderful pop schlock, that gets into your brain and won't go away.   I really enjoy watching and listening to Kina's video.  I think I just like that it's good and homemade.  It's hard for me to knock the songwriting skills of professional songwriters.  They are very good at what they do.  And when you hear an INTERESTING version of the song, you'll know why.

This is the wonder of the internet and home technology. 

I love covers.  Stay tuned for more.