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Friday Five – Covers

December 12, 2008

Art and Scotty have been doing the iPod shuffle.  While I do use iTunes, I don’t have an iPod.  And given that I’m a preacher and it’s Advent, I’ve been one busy dude.  So here I present to you five covers that I think are better than the originals.  Some rules apply – blues and jazz standards don’t count, and the entire careers of interpreters like Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt could go here.

  1. Jimi Hendrix – All Along the Watchtower (Dylan). Okay, this one’s obvious.  According to the liner notes in Biograph Bob agrees.  This is also possibly my favorite guitar solo in rock and roll music – Jimi stretches out from blues-rock into a kind of pure musicality that I have no words to describe.
  2. Dave Edmunds – Girls Talk (Elvis Costello).  Edmunds and Rockpile knew what to do with that chord structure and melody.  Costello struggled with his own tune.
  3. Roy Buchanan – Down By The River (Neil Young).  Roy and Nancy (his 1953 Telecaster) inject blues, white-hot intensity, and pure creepiness into Neil’s classic.
  4. Manfred Mann – The Mighty Quinn (Dylan).  In general I’m not one of those folks who likes Dylan sung by others, but there are rare instances of others hearing something in the melody that Bob didn’t.  This one is a glaring example.  Dylan’s original with The Band (whom I also adore) is just a sonic mess.  Mann’s cover is pop bliss. Okay, technically Mann officially released Quinn before Dylan did, but the Basement Tapes LP was released to compete with the wildly popular bootlegs of those sessions.
  5.  Paul Simon is a certified songwriting genius, and his work with Art Garfunkel in the 60s remains wonderful and timeless.  But I gotta say that the Bangles totally juiced this one up with the perfect electric guitar tone, driving rhythm, and those lush Bangle harmonies.

Just as honorable mentions, there are certain songs that it appears nobody knows what to do with.  I’ve never been satisfied at all with anybody’s versions of Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door.  There are a lot of decent, even good versions but the great version remains elusive – but nobody can deny that it’s a great song at its core.  I’m waiting for a satisfying version of This Wheel’s On Fire as well.

Next week: songs so bad they’re awesome.

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5 Comments leave one →
  1. December 12, 2008 11:40 am

    ah, the bangles. i look forward to next weeks five. that will be ‘awesome’ indeed.

  2. December 12, 2008 1:05 pm

    What man? You think that just because you had time to actually put some thought into your five that it makes you better than us? Is that what you think? Say it dude. SAY IT! I DARE YOU!

    Okay, so your list is good. So what?

    (hopefully you can read the sarcasm above…)

  3. ken carter permalink
    December 13, 2008 6:36 am

    here’s another collection

    1. Ray Charles, Look What They’ve Done To My Song
    2. Joe Cocker, With A Little Help From My Friends
    3. Gregg Allman, These Days
    4. Alison Krauss, Back In Love Again
    5. The Band, Baby Don’t Do It (Don’t Break My Heart)
    6. Willie Nelson, Songbird

  4. December 13, 2008 1:36 pm

    Hey it takes some thought to put together a random iPod shuffle… OK not really.

    I agree with your assessment of Hendrix’ All Along the Watchtower completely. That’s got to be one of the best rock recordings of all time. Cover or not.

  5. December 14, 2008 10:30 pm

    I agree with your opinon of Paul Simon. And I was surprised about the Bangles being on your list. But again, you were right.

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