Too much tertiary education... Former performer/wrestler, teacher, scientist; Published author & Father... Want to be a writer if I grow up...
Published January 4th 2020
2019 covered wonderfully
As I said in my songs of 2019 column, there were a reasonably large chunk of quite good cover songs in 2019 (with many coming courtesy of Triple J's Like A Version). I then promised to follow up with a list of cover songs of the year.
Now, I think I will say not for the first time that a year in which a lot of good cover versions outshine original music shows a deficit in the music. Well, I think my Songs of 2019 column shows that might not be the case, but if you look at the chart songs of 2019… yeah. It most definitely is the case, then.
The charts were appalling. And looking at the Triple J Hottest 100 voting list… man. Appalling spreads its tentacles like some sort of Cthulhu monstrosity, doesn't it?
Look, there were awesome songs released in 2019. I wrote a whole column about them. But I also know that most people may not have heard more than 2 or 3 of them. So, in my attempts to bring great music to the masses, I will continue my look at 2019 by considering the best of the cover versions I heard that year.
This is a straight forward list of 12. That's all. Enjoy!
'Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night' by Iggy Pop
I was in two minds about including this track from Pop's Free album. It is not a cover version of another artist's song, but is instead the Dylan Thomas poem spoken over music. But because the poem is a classic and this track is so incredible, I have decided to put it in this list. The way he delivers the piece sends shivers up my spine. His voice… this is world-weariness as an art-form.
'Want You Back' by Flint Eastwood
A cover of the Haim track, I had not heard of Flint Eastwood before hearing this on the Triple J Like A Version website (yes, I'm a subscriber to their emails… sorry). I do like the original track (it was a close-run thing for my list of best songs of 2017. She sings it well, and her use of her electronica is really well done. Truth be told, I prefer the original. Still, a really good cover version here.
'Working Class Hero' by Jimmy Barnes
From the My Criminal Record album, it was a toss up between this and his cover of 'Tougher Than The Rest' from the same album, but I went for this one because of how well it stacks up against the John Lennon original – very well. Barnes singing it makes you feel like he really does mean it. And, for a cover version, you cannot ask for anything more than that.
'Keep On' by Courtney Barnett
The original was by Australian band Loose Tooth. Who? I hear you ask. Well, they are a pretty good indy band in Australia. See, I am a fan of a company called Milk! Records, and I tend to buy all of their compilation albums, so I hear a few artists I would not otherwise have been exposed to, and Loose Tooth are one of those. Courtney Barnett, on the other hand, is an amazing Australian singer-songwriter who has had some mainstream success. And then on one of the compilation albums I bought this year was her cover of this song. I enjoy both versions, but this is about the cover version. Very nice.
'Sister Anne' by Alice Cooper No Video Available! From the Breadcrumbs EP, this cover of an MC5 song is one I actually prefer to the original. Tighter and cleaner and with a pretty sweet harmonica piece, I really like what Cooper did with it.
'Whiskey In The Jar' by Bryan Adams
How many versions of this song have I got? I first remember hearing it by Thin Lizzy; Metallica did a good version; I didn't realise it was traditional until I heard The Borderers do it. But on Adams' Shine A Light album he had a go, and damn if he did not do a very fine version of it. Very fine indeed. One of the better versions I've heard, in fact.
'Green Light' by Holy Holy
Another Like A Version cover, Holy Holy do a really strong version of the Lorde hit single, another song that almost made my list of best songs of 2017. They actually make it different enough that it almost sounds like one of their own. I really enjoy it, as much as the original. It does not surpass Lorde, but it is really close.
'Blackfella/Whitefella' by Bad//Dreems feat. Peter Garrett, Mambali & Emily Wurramara
Yes, another Like A Version song. The Warumpi Band original is an Australian classic, one of the first songs by Indigenous artists to make an impact on the charts and a song about everyone living in harmony, regardless of race. It is truly a great song. And Bad//Dreems with a bunch of friends do a fine job covering it. They not only treat the song with respect but do it very well.
'She Caught The Katy' by Peter Frampton
Peter Frampton released an album of covers of blues songs and I was close to including two from it, but in the end went for my favourite, the old Taj Mahal classic (that people of my generation know from the film The Blues Brothers). His guitar playing is superb and he sings it magnificently. I put this on a par with the original. Yes, it is that good.
'Welcome To The Black Parade' by Alex Lahey
Hey, an Alex Lahey song in one of these "best of" lists! The fact she took the 2006 My Chemical Romance song and did this to it can be described in one word: Magnificent. I really like the original; it is my favourite MCR track (along with their cover of Dylan's 'Desolation Row' from the Watchmen soundtrack). Lahey does not perform it better, but she is so close to being on a par, and does such a good version she is this far along the list.
'Yesterday' by Himesh Patel
The film Yesterday was a 2019 movie that I managed to enjoy despite an initial misgiving. One reason was that its soundtrack was just, essentially, a bunch of Beatles' songs covered by the stars of the film. Of these, the best of the bunch was the title track, done in the film by Patel on an acoustic guitar, and done so magnificently. I love this version of the song. It is sort of hard to mess this song up (I say sort of because I have heard a cringe-worthy disco version and a nauseating hip-hop version), but if you treat it properly, it is so well-written, that… Well, Patel nails it.
'The Unguarded Moment' by Ruby Fields
This was a hard call for me. From Like A Version, this is a magnificent version of the song. Fields' voice is so awesome, I really want to hear her live. But here's the problem – the original by The Church (from 1981) is one of my very favourite songs of all time ever. Hearing a cover only makes me want to hear the original. So… Fields takes the song and tackles it well. Really well. Superbly well. She does not match the original (no-one could), but she still recorded the best cover version of the year with her version of this classic song.
And there you have it – 12 cover versions from 2019 that show you just how magnificent some artists are at interpreting other people's songs.
And, like I said, many of these have come from the Like A Version programme on Australia's Triple J radio station, part of the national broadcaster ABC. I thoroughly recommend giving it a listen to hear many acts (usually Australian, though some international acts as well) cover some great songs their way. Enjoy!