Ten Cover Versions
Often cover versions are seen as being an easy way to fill an album, a way to make some easy money or even a lack of creativity on behalf of the artiste. However, this is not always the case, and in many cases cover versions can become the version of the song; the very many versions of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah often usurp the original (but not obviously Alexandra Burke’s over produced X Factor travesty of a song.) In this blog I’m going to post ten great cover versions that I hope you enjoy as much as I do.
While My Guitar Gently Weeps – The Jeff Healey Band
Blind Canadian guitarist, Jeff Healey, first came to my attention through his role in the Patrick Swayze film, Roadhouse. Having become blind at an early age due to a cancer that eventually took his life, Jeff had a unique style of playing with his guitar played flat across his lap; legend has it his father left a guitar on a bed which the young Healey started to strum in this fashion. The style of playing gave him a sound that was as different and revolutionary as Jimi Hendrix playing left handed and upside down or Django Reindhart’s playing style. And it is no better demonstrated on the understated but electric shredded crescendo Healey brings to George Harrison’s Beatle’s ballad.
Yellow – Alex Parks
In 2003 Alex entered and subsequently won the BBC talent show, Fame Academy, before recording two albums, Introduction in 2003 and Honesty in 2005. The first album was a mixture of self-penned songs and those by some of her favourite artists. While many of the songs could never live up to the originals (Imagine, Mad World and Everybody Hurts) her version of Coldplay’s Yellow is a fabulous one, mainly, for me, because I believe her, something I can never get with Chris Martin.
Angel Eyes – The Czars
One of, if not the, stand out artist of the last ten years is John Grant. Grant brings an emotion and depth to his songs that can cut your heart in two. Along with Bowie’s Blackstar, his second solo album, Pale Green Ghosts, is the album of the 21st century. Before Grant went solo he worked with the band, The Czars, who put a spin on Abba’s song Angel Eyes, taking it from a simple love song into something more perhaps creepy, even perhaps sinister whilst still retaining the element of love albeit from the point of view of an older gay guy. To see Grant perform this live is an experience that can never be forgotten.
When The Levee Breaks – Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin were at the forefront of the British Blues explosion of the late 1960’s developing as they did from Jimmy Page’s former band The Yardbirds. In their early albums they had plunged into the songbooks of such great bluesmen as Willie Dixon. But by 1971 and the release of their third and fourth albums Zeppelin had begun to experiment with elements of world music and traditional folk to create a new sound. However, they still were looking at old Blues songs including as the last track a magnificent hard blues rock treatment of the 1927 song by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie, When The Levee Breaks. With John Bonham’s relentless and tireless drum rolls holding together the whole song allowing Page, Plant and Jones to build this song to a tumultuous crescendo making it probably the greatest ever end track on any album.
Solo – Fish
One of my favourite artists, who I’ve followed since my early teens, is Fish, who since leaving Marillion in the late 1980’s has recorded a number of albums including one, Songs From The Mirror, his third and final one for Polydor, in 1993. Heavily influenced by David Bowie’s Pin Ups the songs featured were ones that had made their mark on Fish including his version of a song written and recorded by Sandy Denny on her 1974 solo album Like An Old Fashioned Waltz. Having subsequently seen Fish perform this song on the stage at the Cropredy festival with members of Sandy’s former band, Fairport Convention, has added an extra level of poignancy to his version.