Better covers

Most of the time, a cover version of a song is bound to fail or fall flat on its face. Songs are made famous by their authors, carefully finetuned over an extended period of time and carved in stone through definitive live performances.

Once in a blue moon, however, another artist takes a shot at an established song and - for whatever reason - actually improves upon the original. These are the so-called "better covers". These are a rare occurence, make no mistake.

Here are some cover recommendations. You might write them off, just because the performing artist didn't write them. Take the plunge and discover some gems.

Cry Me A River by Joe Cocker
Joe Cocker is a performer in the true sense of the word. He has written his fair share of songs, but his main claim to fame is interpreting the songs of others. That's fine. Elvis Presley, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones (etc) followed the same career path. Cocker's With A Little Help From My Friends is better than the original Beatles cut (that's no blasphemy, McCartney agrees) ... but his quintessential cover is Arthur Hamilton's Cry Me A River. Julie London and Ella Fitzgerald tried admirably, but Cocker's screeching, razor-esque, hoarse shouting coupled with a choir is downright brilliant. You'll never tire of his rendition; it's supremely addictive and excellent all-around.

The Shoop Shoop Song by Cher
Recorded for the soundtrack of her movie Mermaids, Cher tried to top Betty Everett's delivery of Rudy Clark's ditty and succeeded big time. She's belting it out, clearly having a great time showing off her full vocal range. The Shoop Shoop Song makes for a effective sing-along, too!

Hold The Line by Blue Blot
Toto is a fine band. Africa is a classic and I will always remain thankful for their session work on Michael Jackson's Thriller. Belgium's finest blues/funk band Blue Blot took their Hold The Line and turned the sappy lovesong in a powerbalad. Add the late, great Luke Walter Jr. earthshaking vocals and you've got a hit recipe. Blue Blot isn't world famous, but they deserve to be. Legally download their cover version today.

Hero by Tabitha Cycon
I can't claim to be a major Mariah Carey connoisseur. Her Heartbreaker is a fine and dandy popsong, but I don't know her body of work (apart from the obvious hits). Her Hero was covered by Tabitha Cycon, who made an infinitely better version of the so-so ballad.

All Along The Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix
Definitely the pick of the cover litter. There's no use denying Dylan's everlasting influence - Le Bob is a major living legend - but his original All Along The Watchtower can't be called a dynamite song. Jimi Hendrix took the lyrics, upped the ante, added killer hooks and riffs and created this massive floorfiller. Try not to move during his version of said song. It has been put to good use in motion pictures as well, most notably during the Vietnam flashback in Robert Zemeckis's Forrest Gump. Hendrix lived a short life, but left a great legacy. What a guy!

More to come!

Julian De Backer, 1 August 2011