Cover Freak is now three years old. Blogs grow up so fast. It’s been a weird and challenging year for me as I’m sure it’s been for many of you, but the blog and the conversations I’ve been able to have with my readers have been a consistent source of enjoyment.
Cover Freak is my hobby. It’s a hobby I share with the world without charge but there are expenses involved in maintaining the blog. That’s why I would like to call your attention to the top of the right column. There’s an obnoxious orange button there that says “Make A Donation” and I’d like you to consider doing so. Every year I get lots of messages from people who tell me how much they enjoy the blog. But every year I only get two donations and I’ve never gotten a donation from the U.S, where most of my readers live. That’s why I’m asking all my readers to please donate $1. It’s a modest donation, the cost of buying one song from iTunes and less than the cost of a cup of coffee or a pack of cigarettes. If you’re coming back here regularly I would hope that you’re getting a dollar’s worth of enjoyment out of the blog. If everybody who reads the blog would kick in a buck it would help me tremendously. Thanks in advance for your generosity.
And now the most notable songs from Cover Freak 2009.
Jacqui Naylor “Miss You” (Rolling Stones)
It’s strange how every new Stones album is hailed as their best since Some Girls. That album is just a cynical sellout to the disco that ruled the airwaves at the time. “Miss You” is a great example of a song that would have sunk without a trace if anybody else had recorded it. It’s a song that I have a deep and abiding hatred for. That’s why I love this cover so. Ms. Naylor’s treatment drips with menace and raw sexuality. It’s everything a great cover should be.
Kite “Breakfast In America” (Supertramp)
There aren’t a whole lot of Supertramp covers out there, probably because their songs are so intricately arranged. This version finds a great groove and periodically slaps you upside the head with some unexpected scratching.
The Jimmies “Chevy Van” (Sammy Johns)
I was in grade school when this song was a Top 40 radio hit. It had the kind of inoffensive melody that appealed to my tween sensibilities, even if I didn’t really understand what was going on inside that van. I can’t imagine any other explanation than payola for the widespread airplay of a song about picking up a hitchhiker, screwing her in the back of your van, and kicking her out in some podunk town.
The Bigfellas “Mr. Blue Sky” (Electric Light Orchestra)
The original version is famously cheerful, but every song sounds happy when it’s played on banjo and spoons. There are killer trumpet and harmonium solos in there too.
Kesang Marstrand “Say Say Say” (Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson)
When Michael Jackson died there were endless tributes and retrospectives. But this song was universally ignored. You even started hearing “Ben” on the radio, but not this. It’s like even the most hardcore Michael Jackson fans wish this song had never happened. Paul McCartney probably feels the same way. Which is why this heartfelt acoustic folk version is all the more impressive.
Beck “Leopard-Skin Pill-Box Hat” (Bob Dylan)
There are artists I like, artists I don’t like, and artists I’m indifferent to. Beck is none of the above. Some of his stuff leaves me completely cold and some of it speaks to some primal part of my soul. One Foot In The Grave is one of the greatest albums ever made. This song snapped my head around when I first head it on the Oscars broadcast and I became obsessed with finding out who performed it. I was glad but not surprised to discover it was Beck.
Makrosoft “I Will Survive” (Gloria Gaynor)
This one makes me laugh every time I hear it. It so perfectly emulates the theme song from a 1960s James Bond movie. If I had buckets of money I’d throw some at Sean Connery and get him to make one more Bond movie just so I could use this song in it.
Sleater-Kinney “More Than A Feeling” (Boston)
When I was in high school I owned the first two Boston albums. Eventually I didn’t need to own them anymore because all the songs from them were on the radio. Then I got sick of hearing them. Years later Sleater-Kinney stripped away the arena rock trappings of “More Than A Feeling” and boiled the song down to its essence. And I enjoyed hearing the song for the first time in thirty years or so.
The Magic Numbers “Crazy In Love” (Beyonce)
An acoustic guitar, a harmonium and fragile, earnest harmonies. What else could you possibly want from a pop song?
Dump “1999” (Prince)
Dump is an alias for Yo La Tengo bassist James McNew. This song comes from an album of lo-fi Prince covers that he put out in 2001.