Under the Covers: Part 1

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Doing a cover of  song can be risky business. There is the constant threat for comparison, and if the cover does not live up to a certain standard in comparison to the original, most people do not even give it a second thought. With that being said, here are some covers/remixes/arrangements that I find do a great job of updating an old idea into a new product. These new renditions are not necessarily better than the original, but they do seamlessly incorporate another person’s work into the new artist’s own style to make an interpretation of the song that is worth our attention.

 Original:

Update:

Nashville’s own Rachael Price provides a stunning cover of the The Jackson 5 classic with her band, Lake Street Dive. I think that this band’s interpretation is the perfect embodiment of how a cover should be done. They didn’t add too many unneccesary changes for the sake of being unique, while at the same time they were able to add their own flavor through the acoustic set to make this unmistakably a Lake Street Dive song. For example, Bridget Kearney is able to do the thumping bass line in the original justice with her upright bass, while Mike Olson adds a totally new flavor into the mix of the song with his smooth trumpet. Covering Michael Jackson is no easy accomplishment, no matter what age he was when the song was released. Not only did Rachael Price face up to such a daunting task, but she was able to excel at it. The instrumentalists did a great job of providing a solid background for Price, but I think ultimately it was up to her to really sell this song, and she did. While on the topic of “instrumentalists”, I almost hesitate to use that term to describe the others in the band. I was lucky enough to see them perform live at 3rd and Lindsley last semester, and every single one of them provided background vocal harmonies, which is quite rare. It is such a breath of fresh air to see people making music who are actually musicians. Jazzy, rich, and soulful, Lake Street Dive was able to take one of the greatest pop tunes of all time and give it new life with new meaning. This is the kind of band that you would drive 5 hours on a weeknight to go see in another state.

Original: “I Want You Back”     &

Update:

I am going to double-dip with the “I Want You Back” remixes just because both are just so good in their own way. Whereas Lake Street Dive took the original and adapted their own style in a completely stripped down and acoustic version of the song, Xaphoon Jones (the other half of Chiddy Band, he produced all the background mixes) takes the original and fuses it through technology with a song from a completely different time and place. Passion Pit’s “Sleepyhead” will probably go down as one of the trailblazers that brought contemporary indie electronic music to the popularity it has reached today, and as discussed before, “I Want You Back” is one of the tenants of great pop music.  Xaphoon Jones is able to conglomerate these two different styles in “The Jackson Pit”, with a little help from them being in the same key and tempo, into a creative fusion that provides the listener with mix of nostalgia, and bewilderment. I mean, how often can you see Passion Pit and The Jackson 5 share the same stage?

Original: 

Update:

This cover is a little different then the ones we have discussed so far because both of these groups are contemporaries, are much closer to one another in terms of genre, and “I Want You Back” is not involved in any way. The story goes that after Manchester Orchestra and Annuals went on a tour together in the late 2000s, they each decided to cover one of the other bands’ songs. Manchester Orchestra decided on covering “Brother” from the 2006 album,  Be He Me, by Annuals. With Manchester Orchestra, it is sometimes hard to tell whether you will get their soft and sentimental side, or the punch-you-in-the-mouth side seen in such hits like “Shake it Out” and “I’ve Got Friends”. Both bands begin with an easy going and relaxed opening, but Annuals breaks out into a driving and stimulating second half of the song, and Manchester Orchestra stays relative docile throughout their rendition. Despite having many similarities by the simple fact that these bands both cater to the indie rock crowd, it is very interesting to see how both bands developed the same song in their own way.

Original:

Update:

Easily one of the most successful covers of all time, Whitney Houston brings so much life and soul into the Dolly Parton classic. Recorded for the 1992 movie, The Bodyguard, “I Will Always Love You” has undeniably etched its place in American pop culture. Dolly Parton provides a sweet and sincere country version, and Whitney Houston transforms it completely with her powerhouse R&B ballad. With saxophone legend Kirk Whalum soloing through the track, the cover revamps the original with a wider palette of emotion, spanning from soft nostalgia to soulful confidence. While on the topics of covers, I guess it wouldn’t hurt to throw this brilliant performance as well.

Original: 

Update:

Rock giants from England, Radiohead has been dominating the alternative scene for over two decades. With their wondrous creativity and constant open-mindedness to staying avant-garde, Thom Yorke and the gang have been able to truly withstand the test of time. Given the context that Radiohead constantly pushes for innovation, it is remarkable to hear a cover of their work in a more antiquated medium: jazz. Bob Washut arranges this piece with great attention to detail, and the Lawrence University Jazz Ensemble does a fantastic job of infusing life and emotion into it. Undeniably a jazz piece, from the Stan Getz-esque fuzzy sax solo to the stratospheric trumpet parts in the thick chords of the chorus, or the simple fact that much of the arrangement is in 7/8 time, this beautiful rendition is such a different listening experience in comparison to the original.  But at the same time, I feel like this cover did a great job in staying away from being a hokey jazz piece of a contemporary song. This is not the kind of jazz that you would hear on the weather channel, and thankfully so.

If you have any other ideas of great covers, feel free to comment them below.