“In which Nina Simone proves the experts wrong. The Bee Gees peaked long before all that disco foo-furrah of the later mid-70s, probably in 1967 with To Love Somebody which may just be the greatest song of unrequited love ever written, the proof being in the covers, everybody from the Flying Burrito Brothers to Michael Bolton to the Chambers Brothers to Billy Corgan, Roberta Flack, Michael Buble, Janis Joplin, Eric Burdon taking a swing at it … but nobody ever owned it like Ms. Simone, whose pumped up 1969 take removes all adornments, just tells it like it is-was-will-always-be. I lost somebody. I’m broken. I don’t think I’ll ever be fixed. At least I still believe in my soul.” (Philip Random)
“I’ve never been one to buy many singles – something to do with coming of record buying age in the early 1970s, I guess, when albums were the thing. But every now and then, you’ve got to adjust your strategies. Like hearing Dinosaur Jr‘s planet killing version of the Cure’s Just Like Heaven on the radio one sublime summer day and immediately needing to own the record. But all I could find was a 7-inch. Which if I’d been truly cool would’ve triggered a whole new phase for me, 7-inches being all the rage as the 80s turned over into the 90s, particularly if you were into raw sort of proto-grunge indie-rock. But I’ve never really been into just one sound or attitude. It’s always been everything, if possible. Which to my mind (and heart) is what J Mascis and crew accomplish here, the kind of rapturous, all encompassing escape velocity that redefines reality forever … until it suddenly just has to stop.” (Philip Random)
Pin-Ups, the last of the Ziggy-era Bowie albums, was an all covers affair, in which the thin, strange alien paid tribute to the musical heroes of his youth. As a whole, the album’s not his greatest, feeling pretty tossed off overall. But the take on Here Comes The Night is superb. Loud and brash, a full-on show-stopper that at least matches the original. Which is pretty amazing when you consider Van Morrison sang that. How often has he been equaled?
“In which Sonic Youth muck around with drum machines and whatever, take the piss out of a Madonna song, turn it into a zeitgeist-defining masterpiece. At least, that’s what my friend Martin thought. And he was a loud guy, persuasive. Indeed, there was a brief chunk of 1989 when Into The Groovy really was the greatest record ever, in the history of all humankind. Why argue?” (Philip Random)
In which Einsturzende Neubauten, barely four years on from tearing up condemned Berlin real estate and calling it Art (if not music), get traditional, dig up an old folk ditty (written by a Canadian) concerning the last man and woman alive after a nuclear war, and make it their own. Which is to say, they sharpen the edges, darken the shadows, pound some metal, and otherwise call out the banshees.
“It’s 1969 and Nina Simone, one of the great voices (and souls) to ever descend upon music, delivers the closest thing she’ll ever have to a pop album. Artists covered include Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, the Bee Gees, even the Beatles (sort of) with Revolution less of a cover, more of a rousing riff on John Lennon’s call to consciousness (if not arms). Music to change the world either way. Or as a friend once put it, if this is what a political meeting sounded like, I’d join a f***ing party.” (Philip Random)
“In which Jello Biafra hooks up with Vancouver’s own DOA to deliver a surprisingly faithful cover of one of the essential Rock Anthems (speaking of Eric Burdon). Maybe the essential rock anthem. I think I heard Bruce Springsteen say that once. This situation’s killing me. Might be school, might be a job, might be prison, a bad relationship, your family, your own asshole. Doesn’t matter where you are, there’s only one way to go, and that’s OUT. With a vengeance.” (Philip Random)
“In which Echo + The Bunnymen pay homage to Liverpool local heroes of two decades previous by shambling through an at least half-assed, half-cynical, half-brilliant re-imagining of one of the essential summer of love classics. And the thing is, it f***ing works. At least it did for my psychedelic soul one hot summer day, well into the 1990s. What the hell was I even doing tripping well past my thirty-fifth birthday? Why was I alone in that dank hole of an apartment? What was the fucking point of anything in my life beyond mere survival, which is the ultimate losing game anyway? And so on. I was on a slippery slope, pitching fast into a darkstar. But then there was Echo + his BunnyFriends in the background, from a random mixtape … reminding me. You’re never really alone, never truly beaten, or doomed. All you’ve got to do is find something to give.”