"Music is a higher revelation than philosophy."

-- composer Ludwig van Beethoven

Music reviews


Covers Taking It to a New Level

August 14, 2020

And on a different note ...

Here are some songs you probably know in ways you never imagined. (Give them a listen on Spotify.)

"Let it Be", Bill Withers (from Just as I Am)

All the Liverpool gets wrung out of this Beatles song so it can soak up some revival-tent gospel. Listen closely and you can hear Withers replace "Mother Mary" with "Mother Mattie" -- his own mother's name.

"Swing Down Chariot", Rufus & Chaka Khan (from Rags to Rufus)

Then a traditional gospel song gets treated to a mix of stride piano and funk that kinda works.

"Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)", Sly & the Family Stone (from Fresh)

The poppy jazz standard gets taken into a dark alley and beat up, leaving it as possibly the first and only member of the dark psychedelic gospel genre. My guess is Sly came up with this after someone told him heroin would kill him.

"You Are My Sunshine", Dyke & The Blazers (single)

The much-creepier-than-it-sounds original can barely be heard in this gritty early '70s funk swinger.

"Iron Man", The Cardigans (from First Band on the Moon)

In the opposite direction, a metal classic is turned into lush trip-pop.

"I Heard It Through the Grapevine", Zapp (7" single)

An '80s dance-funk outfit brings the Motown classic back to the future.

"Hard Day's Night", Instant Funk (from Instant Funk V)

If we're talking Eighties dance-funk covers of Sixties hits, we can't leave out this synth-and-drums banger, especially once the chorus kicks in.

"(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction", Otis Redding (from Otis Blue/Otis Redding Sings Soul)

Otis didn't know the words to the song, so a bandmate scribbled what we could make out over the radio. Close enough -- the Stax horns and Otis's swagger are what matter here.

"Whole Lotta Love", King Curtis (single)

Is this contemporary pop-jazz cover a brilliant tribute or an abomination? You decide.

"Jambalaya", Dash Rip Rock (from Boiled Alive!)

The Hank Williams tune that became a Cajun classic becomes a punkabilly blast when New Orleans' seminal and greatly underrated party band gets ahold of it.

"When the Levee Breaks", Buckwheat Zydeco (from Lay Your Burden Down)

Technically, this is a cover of the original old blues song that the Zeppelin version is also a cover of. But it's hard not to hear Zeppelin's presence behind this swampy, earthy zydeco remake.

Well there you have it. Nearly 45 minutes of mind-bending alternate musical universes. There are many more in that vein, some of them well-known on their own, but I wanted to list a few semi-obscure faves.