Thursday, February 24, 2011

Rant: 20 Cover Songs That Are Better Than The Original II

So I wrote the first installment of this article way back in 2008, as one of my first articles, and while I do have a ton of cover songs in my arsenal, it's hard to pick 20 more songs that completely blow away the original versions enough to be made mention of. That is why the long pause (over two years) between articles. I've tried on a couple of occasions to compile a new list, but this is the first time I feel that I have found enough amazing songs to warrant a list of 20.

1. Andrew Clayton - "In My Time of Dying" - Traditional, notably done by Bob Dylan and Led Zeppelin
The fact that I was a direct part of the recording for this song may have something to do with it, but I think the other half is that it is so different from most of the other cover versions out there. It's got a bar room quality to it; a bunch of friends drinking and jamming out. Nice and chill.

2. Black Robot - "Cocaine" - Originally by J.J. Hale, made famous by Eric Clapton
An off-shoot from some of the members of Buckcherry, Black Robot's debut self-titled debut was an alright foray into the world of radio-friendly rock, but their cover of "Cocaine" really does the group some justice. While it's not amazing, it is a completely different direction for the legendary song, and I think the refresher works well.

3. Black NASA - "I Don't Have to Hide" - Originally by Bachman-Turner Overdrive
A song that I had for a while before I even realized it was a cover, and for that it will always shine brighter. The only reason I discovered that "I Don't Have to Hide" was a cover is from the two great editions of the Sucking The 70's collections. When I was jamming through them originally (all 4 discs worth) I came to this Black NASA song and was confused. This was a song I already owned and had heard many times before, it wasn't a cover was it? It was, and a favorite cover was born that day.

4. Blind Guardian - "Spread Your Wings" - Originally by Queen
One of my favorite covers of all time. Hansi Kürsch, the vocalist for Blind Guardian, cites Queen as one of his major inspirations and he knocks this one out of the park. His amazing vocals, coupled with the rest of the band's fluency with their instruments, makes this a song to behold. A lot of emotion is heard on the original, and it is doubled on this new version.

5. Blind Guardian - "The Wizard" - Originally by Uriah Heep
I know, I know, not only two Blind Guardian songs on the list, but two originals by Uriah Heep (see number eighteen for the second), but sometimes it's worth it. The original is great, and Blind Guardian don't stray far from it, but, once again, Hansi Kürsch's vocals make it go the extra mile.

6. Blue Cheer - "Summertime Blues" - Originally by Eddie Cochran
Another cover that I'm sure no one has heard the original of (myself included), but nonetheless it is a great song and worthy of mention. One of the first truly 'metal' songs, predating Led Zeppelin by a year and Black Sabbath by two, this song still carries weight from fans of the genre. Down-tunes, fuzzed-out guitars, overwhelming drumming, and vocals that seem to bleed into the rest of it are this song's calling card. Blue Cheer is still referenced as an insfluencer of modern day stoner, and that is a legacy any band could be proud of.

7. Clutch - "Cross-Eyed Mary" - Originally Jethro Tull 
God damn I love Clutch, and their version of this Jethro Tull classic does not disappoint. Found on one of the Sucking The 70's cover compilations, they play it as their stoner/funk days, full of vim and vigor. While I like the current era of Clutch, it doesn't match up to the years from their self-titled to Robot Hive/Exodus. This song does just that.

8. Dream Theater - "Tenement Funster/Flick of the Wrist/Lily of the Valley" - Originally by Queen
Queen is one of the best early popular progressive rock band, and Dream Theater is one of the best current popular (sort of) progressive metal band, a match made in heaven. Although I had heard the original songs before hearing Dream Theater belt them out, their metallized version brings this triad into a new light. Although not actually following a continual story, the three songs lead directly into each other, which is why I complied all of them for this list.

9. Five Horse Johnson - "It Ain't Easy" - Originally by Ron Davies, made famous by David Bowie
Much like "I Don't Have to Hide" above, I didn't realize that Five Horse Johnson's version of this classic rock song was not an original. When I did first hear it, I thought it sounded familiar, realizing that I picked up the lyrics rather quickly. The true nature of the song hit me much later when I was listening to David Bowie's The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars, when I was blasting out the lyrics like I had heard the song a dozen times before (even though I'd only heard the Bowie album a couple of times). Another spontaneous realization, and another great cover.

10. Fu Manchu - "Godzilla" - Originally by Blue Oyster Cult
A favorite of mine sense childhood, Blue Oyster Cult's "Godzilla" is properly 'Manchu'd,' turning into a stoner/doom fan's wet dream. The Fu make the song evolve from the classic rock/radio friendly riffs into some growing monster of sound.

11. Helloween - "The Hellion/Electric Eye" - Originally by Judas Priest
Really a great song (or pair of songs), and I believe that anyone who at least keeps them sort of in the realm of the original could pull it off with ease. A very Orwellian subject, about 'Electric Eyes' that watch everything that happens, Helloween stays true to the Priest origin, but adding to the guitars and vocals. They turn this NWOBHM/proto-power song into a full-fledged power metal anthem.

12. Humble Pie - "I Don't Need No Doctor" - Originally by Ray Charles
Rock covers of soul/blues songs always rock... well mostly. This rendition of "I Don't Need No Doctor" is no different. Peter Framption's band before going solo, Humble Pie is an acquired taste for the modern rock fan, but if you make it over the first hurdle you will be rewarded.

13. Jimi Hendrix - "All Along The Watchtower" - Originally by Bob Dylan
Fellow blogger/reader Bufftbone pointed this one out to me, and honestly I don't know how I missed it. When it comes to stellar Bob Dylan covers, along with "Knocking On Heaven's Door," "All Along The Watchtower" is the song people mention. The song itself is great, an odd poem written/told backwards, but with Hendrix at the helm it becomes legendary. Amazing guitar work and epic vocals make this song a hit with almost every crowd. It still is a fan favorite that pops up on rock radio today!

14. Johnny Cash - "I've Been Everywhere" - Originally by Lucky Starr Cover
This song I thought was a Johnny Cash original, I'm not even sure I've heard the Lucky Starr cover, but I know I don't need to. The Man In Black does his thing again with the American Recordings, bringing his soulful voice to a travelin' song.

15. Johnny Cash - "Personal Jesus" - Originally by Depeche Mode 
I hate to use Mr. Cash twice on one list, but this song is worth mentioning. Depeche Mode has always been an 'eh' band for me, their singles are ok but other then that, who cares? The Man In Black totally revolutionizes the song, changing pretty much every aspect except the lyrics themselves. The original tune is there, but other then that, it's stripped down and carried miles on the man's booming baritone. 

16. Luca Turilli - "I'm Alive" - Originally by Helloween 
This cover is more of a tribute, as it doesn't strive too far from the original. It's still power metal, still sung in the higher octave, still has some shredding guitars, but Luca Turilli's version has a little bit more. It's got a bit more 'umph,' a little more 'pizazz' then the original. And while it's not a huge shift, I do prefer the cover to the original (although they both are great). Decide for yourself.

17. Melvins - "My Generation" - Originally by The Who
Really great transition from a beloved punk song into a doom and sludgy nightmare. The original is barely over two minutes, but the Melvins stretch it all out for over seven, and you really don't get bored or want for more. Best song off of Bride Screams Murder if you ask me...

18. Serpentcult - "Rainbow Demon" - Uriah Heep
While nothing could truly top the amzingness that is Uriah Heep's Demons & Wizards, Serpentcult really do the song justice, in their own way. Turning it into a stoner/doom anthem, it starts out straight-doom and progresses into a more powerful stoner direction, with the first chorus. They pick up the melody, the vocals and the tempo and run with it. Really well done.

19. Tesla - "Make It Last" - Originally by Montrose
Besides being Sammy Hagar's claim to fame, Montrose doesn't have that much more to their name. After hearing Tesla rock out "Make It Last," I acquired the band's discography and gave a couple of their albums a spin. It seemed like an uninspired 80s hair band, which is probably why Hagar left for Van Halen. Regardless of the previous band's ability, Tesla really knocks this one out of the park, turning a so-so song into something to be remembered. Totally worth it to get their Real To Reel albums, I love the three disc collection.

20. Turisas - "Supernaut" - Originally by Black Sabbath
Turisas' new album is the number one new release I am looking forward to this year. To time fans like me over, they released the single "Supernaut" to (what should have been) fanfare and procession. The song is great, turning the proto-metal/hard rock song into a complete power/folk/viking metal extravaganza. I am really psyched for the Stand Up And Fight, and until I get my hands on a copy, I will have "Supernaut" on repeat.

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