Covering the Covers

Rivalfish picks their top 50 cover songs of all time.

I like most of these choices, and in particular was surprised to see somebody else who so loves Toots and the Maytalls cover of John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” that it lands at #3 here.

Other songs of note:

  • #38 “My Favorite Things” – by John Coltrane. You could organize a college course in advanced music theory around this song: “Jazz Interpretation and Musical Genius”. It’s more fun than that though. Listen to it about 9 times in a row sometime.
  • #36 “Summer Breeze” – by Jason Mraz. Who? What about the Isley Brothers? Their version makes my hair stand on end every time I hear it. Guess I must now check out this Mraz character.
  • #9 “Midnight Train to Georgia” – by Gladys Knight. Didn’t even realize it was a cover, because she so owns this song. A perfect match of superior material, production, and performance. I turn it up every single time I hear it, and can’t resist singing both lead and backup, in turn. Yeah, I am that talented. In my car. By myself.
  • #8 “Me and Bobby McGee” – by Janis Joplin. Yes, the slow start with just voice and guitar is pleasant, and paints a nice picture. But next time you listen, focus on the jam that kicks in for the last couple of minutes. That band was kicking serious ass, and Janis was keeping right up with them. Sadly, much of the rest of her output was sloppy or inferior. Exhibit A: “Mercedes Benz”. This is your brain on heroin.
  • #2 “Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go?” – by Soft Cell. Mmmmm, no. Made me want to put a bullet in my brain everytime I heard it back in 1981. Age hasn’t improved it.
  • #1 “All Along the Watchtower” – by Jimi Hendrix, and who could really argue? Dylan songs are always better when sung by somebody who can actually sing, and in this case even when sung by Jimi Hendrix, who was not known for vocal chops. He was known, however, for his guitar skills, and this song shows them off very well indeed. This material was the perfect vehicle for Hendrix. A signature song. And it always sounds great, regardless of setting.

I would have included “Absolutely Sweet Marie” by Jason and the Scorchers, from 1986-7. Wow. Turn it up. Another case of taking a Dylan song and owning it.

Someday I should make my own list. And I’d bet CG Hill already has, probably more than once.

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