Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published April 1st 2021
As some readers have pointed out to me, I have a little thing for cover songs and different versions of classic tracks and things like that. As a writer, I find it intriguing that works can be so well written that they can be interpreted in a number of different ways and remain successful.
Not all versions are successful, however… no matter how cute the artist.(Image by ThePixelman from Pixabay)
Now, this column was inspired by two albums I bought recently, and a few other columns where albums appeared. What it made me realise was that there are some great covers albums out there. Not just songs, but entire albums. And that inspired this!
Now, before I hit the list, there are a bunch of rules for this one. 1) Single artist albums only; no various artist albums of cover songs of a specific artist (and I have a large number of these) or of an individual album. 2) No single artist covering another artist (e.g. Chet Atkins' album of Beatles' songs); this includes albums of rock versions (or symphonic rock versions) of classical music. 3) No albums of covers of an artist's own songs. 4) I will let the album have one original (non-cover) song on it. (This still excludes Johnny Cash's American Recordings series.) 5) The album cannot be a compilation of various songs culled from other albums – it had to have been recorded as a covers album.
6) They need to have been released as an actual album, not just a YouTube or Spotify playlist. 7) One album per artist (sorry, Brian Setzer and Jimmy Barnes fans!); however if a band released a covers album and the lead singer released one separate from the band, I'll let that pass (and did in the list). 8) No covers bands (like Chunky Custard); this includes bands who cover songs in different styles (e.g. Richard Cheese).
9) No live albums.
10) I need to like the album.
I would like to mention Bedhed's 2006 EP Half-Assed Covers because it is awesome, but there is nothing online available, and, really, it is a 5-track EP, not a full album. Still, if you can track it down, grab it.
This was actually a fun list to compile, and I have been listening to some awesome albums lately. Hope you enjoy these! (In chronological order.)
Pin Ups by David Bowie (1973)
Starting with one of the best of these albums, from David Bowie, songs from which I have mentioned a few times already. The way Bowie sings these tracks makes them feel like his, not just cover versions. This is a truly wonderful album.
Favourite tracks: 'Friday On My Mind', 'Sorrow', 'Shapes Of Things'
Rock'n'Roll by John Lennon (1975)
The birth of this album was one involving lawsuits, a cheap rip-off version (called Roots) which featured unfinished versions of the tracks and Lennon going back to rediscover the songs of his youth with the help of producer Phil Spector. And yet, despite its painful gestation, it works.
Favourite tracks: 'Stand By Me', 'Rip It Up/Ready Teddy', 'Peggy Sue'
It's Rock'n'Good Fun by Darryl Cotton (1984)
This was an album I bought when it came out because it was sort of a modern album filled with the songs I grew up on and still loved. Darryl Cotton does a good job here and delivers some fun tracks.
Favourite tracks: 'Little Town Flirt', 'Goodbye Cruel World', 'Calendar Girl'
Reflections by Doug Parkinson (1986)
The first Doug Parkinson album I bought features cover songs, including re-recordings of cover tracks he had recorded earlier in his career. His voice carries this to heights few others can match. Love this.
Favourite tracks: 'The Sun Ain't Ginna Shine Anymore', 'A Whiter Shade Of Pale', 'You Are So Beautiful'
Choba B CCCP by Paul McCartney (1988/1991)
Released in the USSR in 1988, the rest of the world 3 years later, this, much like his former band-mate Lennon's covers album, catalogues some of the songs that shaped McCartney's development. He delivers these so well, and it is one of my favourite of his solo albums.
Favourite tracks: 'Twenty Flight Rock', 'Lucille', 'That's All Right'
Soul Deep by Jimmy Barnes (1991)
This album has come up before because it is so good. In fact, its follow-up is also really good as well, but there is just something about this album that makes it stick in my mind. I think Barnesy nails it here.
Favourite tracks: 'I Gotcha', 'When Something Is Wrong With My Baby' (with John Farnham), 'Reflections'
Garage Inc. by Metallica (1998)
Yes, I know it was packaged with a second album of B-sides, but that officially had a different name, and this is just the first disk. Metallica doing a covers album might seem odd, but they do it justice. Considering the album that follows this in their discography, I will take this any day of the week.
Favourite tracks: 'Turn The Page', 'Whiskey In The Jar', 'Tuesday's Gone'
At Last by Cyndi Lauper (2003)
This is an interesting album – Lauper took some classic songs and re-recorded them with jazz stylings. When I heard of the project, I was dubious, but when I was given a copy of the CD, it works. It works really well.
Favourite track: 'Walk On By', 'Stay', 'Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood'
Heroes by Icehouse (2004)
This album had a strange life. It started as the music for a ballet, which Icehouse would play live as the dancers did their thing. So that music was released as an album (The Berlin Tapes). And then they re-released it to coincide with a television broadcast of the ballet, now with this title and some track changes. It does not matter – the orchestral versions with Iva Davies' voice works so well.
Favourite tracks: 'Heroes', 'Loving The Alien', 'All Tomorrow's Parties'
Rockabilly Riot Vol. 1: A Tribute To Sun Records by Brian Setzer (2005)
The Stray Cats front-man, but not with his Orchestra. This is a bunch of songs originally released on the Sun Records label. You can't get much more simple than that, really. And he nails the style, the sound and the singing.
favourite tracks: 'Real Wild Child', 'Rockhouse', 'Blue Suede Shoes'
I Remember When I Was Young by John Farnham (2005)
Not just a covers album, but an album of covers of Australian music, all of it contemporaneous with Farnham's own career. He gives the songs the make-over his smooth voice can deliver, and yet this is an under-regarded album in his discography.
Favourite tracks: 'One Perfect Day', 'Forever Now', 'No Aphrodisiac'
Yeah! by Def Leppard (2006)
This album was not highly regarded upon its release, which I was confused by, because I really enjoyed it. I don't know how it did chart-wise or anything like that, but it is just a great collection.
Favourite tracks: 'Rock On', 'Hell Raiser', 'He's Gonna Step On You Again'
Last Man Standing by Jerry Lee Lewis (2006)
This is an interesting album – it's a duets album celebrating the fact that of the Suns Records originals, he was the last one. I bought it because I felt like I wanted to support an elder statesman, but this ended up being one of the best JLL albums in my collection. This is so good, and those he sings with seem to be having as much fun as he is.
Favourite tracks: 'Pink Cadillac' (with Bruce Springsteen), 'Sweet Little Sixteen' (with Ringo Starr), 'I Saw Her Standing There' (with Little Richard)
Jukebox by Randy Bachman and Burton Cummings (2007)
Bachman and Cummings were bandmates in The Guess Who, and they came back together after some years and released a few albums, of which this is the only one I own. They do cover one of their old tracks, but I said one was allowed.
Favourite tracks: 'Baby Come Back', 'Don't Talk To Him', 'Like A Rolling Stone'
My Regeneration by Joe Elliott's Down 'n' Outz (2010)
Yes, Joe Elliott is the lead singer of Def Leppard, but this album (a freebie I got with a Classic Rock magazine) is with a different band, and it is one of my favourite covers albums. Full stop. I listen to this a lot. It is just so very good.
Favourite tracks: 'England Rocks', 'Who Do You Love', 'Good Times'
Snapshots by Kim Wilde (2011)
Kim Wilde is one of my favourite female singers and I think I have almost all of her studio albums. When I found this one in a second-hand shop, I had never heard of it, so I bought it and it was just so good and very listenable. She is under-rated, but her career longevity indicates she never lost it.
Favourite tracks: 'In Between Days', 'To France', 'Ever Fallen In Love (With Someone You Shouldn't've)'
Blue And Lonesome by The Rolling Stones (2016)
After a long time of just churning out albums that felt like they were going through the paces, suddenly this album came out, with covers of classic and forgotten blues classics, and… they're back. They sound great, and it took going back to their roots to do it, because the single they released last year (2020) was excellent.
Favourite tracks: 'Just Your Fool', 'All Of Your Love', 'I Can't Quit You Baby'
Weezer (The Teal Album) by Weezer (2019)
Apparently, this album is not really liked by Weezer fans. I am not a fan – I know very little about them – but bought the album based on the track 'Africa'. Glad I did, because this is a bit of fun as well.
Favourite tracks: 'Africa', 'Take On Me', 'Happy Together'
You've Always Been Here by The Jaded Hearts Club (2020)
One of the two albums that started this, recommended to me by Vanessa here at WeekendNotes, and such a magnificent album from this sort of makeshift group. The whole album is so good and one of those you can listen to again and again and not get bored.
Favourite tracks: 'Reach Out I'll Be There', 'I Put A Spell On You', 'Fever'
Lockdown 2020 by Sammy Hagar And The Circle (2021)
And we finish with an album I wrote an entire column about, the second album to inspire this column. I said it all in that review – this is awesome. Great. An album of the year. Simple.
Favourite tracks: 'Won't Get Fooled Again', 'Keep A-Knockin'', 'Heroes'
Whew! 20 albums of cover songs! There are some truly wonderful albums here. I was going to try to cull this down to 10 or 15, having already culled it down from 30-odd, even after applying my self-imposed list of rules, but couldn't do it. Now, I know there would have been a large number I've missed out, but these just come from my own collection, so, please, feel free to add your own to the comments section below.