Top 5 Dream Covers (by Claire)

I’ve been thinking about dream covers ever since this post, in which I requested that Joshua get a band together and start doing filthy funk interpretations of saccharine James Taylor jams. I stand by the fact that “You’ve Got a Friend in Me” could be downright dirty, if given the appropriate timing and musical accoutrements.

Until that cover gets made (oh please? someone? I can’t really sing, but I’ll play the hell out of a triangle if it means making this cover happen), here are five more dream covers. Leave yours in the comments!

“Birdhouse in Your Soul,” by They Might be Giants, covered by Alison Krauss and Emmylou Harris

Only the honeyed voices of Emmylou Harris and Alison Krauss will do when it comes to a reimagining of “Flood.” Picture the quiet loveliness of Emmylou’s voice on “Road Movie to Berlin” or Krauss crooning “Sapphire Bullets of Pure Love.” And what sweet magic would they lend to quirky classics like “Whistling in the Dark” and “Particle Man”? Ralph Stanley could sit in on “They Might Be Giants,” and I want Lucinda Williams in the studio getting rowdy on “Twisting.” “Birdhouse in Your Soul” would be stripped down to just short of a capella, their voices paired with a lone fiddle, and a banjo making brief, rapidly plucked cameos.

“Radio,” by Lana Del Rey, covered by Andrew Luttrell and Rosie Thomas

Lana Del Rey got caught in a mean spirited game of SEO one upmanship several months ago. Music bloggers battled it out to see who could make her sound the most like a harbinger of the apocalypse. This SNL skit really sums up my feelings on this.

Del Rey is no Carol King, but she makes decent, sometimes interesting pop music and I don’t think she’s a sign of the end times for humanity or modern music (and if you think that, you haven’t been paying attention to pop music. You have so many other things to be horrified about)  “Radio” is one of those sometimes interesting songs. The lyrics and tune are kind of fun, and the whole song could be more interesting if it was divided into a duet and outfitted with different singers.

The duet concept? A couple is tested by the newfound musical fame of one partner. They banter and flirt, but the whole dialogue is edged in genuine worry that all this radio fame will have an impact on the relationship.

A: Now my life is sweet like cinnamon/ Like a fucking dream I’m living in/Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio/How do you like me now?

B: Pick me up and take me like a vitamin/ Cause my body’s sweet like sugar venom oh yeah

A: Baby love me cause I’m playing on the radio

B: How do you like me now?

The singers: Andrew Luttrell, who has the guitar chops and straightforward, slightly gruff delivery one half of this duet requires.  His musical sparring partner is Rosie Thomas, who sounds like honey and rosewater and is adept at revealing layered, complicated forms of sadness through her voice.

“She’s Got You,” by Patsy Cline, covered by Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill and Patsy Cline share an aptness for keeping slow, slightly mournful numbers entertaining. They also don’t require much in the way of backup: A stripped down Lauryn Hill track is riveting, and Patsy Cline’s voice fills and carries each song. When I think about Hill covering this song, I can hear her cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off of You,” or her song “Selah.” I know this would be equally haunting and beautiful. Much like my “Allison Krauss and Emmylou Harris Take on They Might Be Giants” scheme, I would be a happy girl if I found a whole album of Patsy Cline covers by Lauryn Hill (Although I would be a happy girl if I found a whole album of just about anything by Lauryn Hill.)

“Marionette,” by the 5 Chinese Brothers, covered by Warren Haynes

I became so obsessed with this cover idea about six or seven years ago that I briefly considered pitching it in a letter to Warren Haynes. I had Let’s Kill Saturday Night on heavy repeat around the time I saw Warren Haynes do a solo show in Philadelphia. It was one of the best shows I’d ever seen. Warren was charming, the acoustics were insane, and his versions of well known songs made you feel like you hadn’t known those songs very well after all. I rarely walk out of a show starry eyed and thoroughly pleased, ready to pledge allegiance and endless fan-ship to the artist. This was one of those shows.

I heard “Marionette” for probably the 100th time a few days later and could hear how Warren Haynes voice would sound on it. He would amplify the sadness and anger. He would lend some gravel voiced magic to it. “Marionette” is already great, and his version could be sublime.

“You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket,” by The White Stripes, covered by Mavis Staples

More Mavis Staples, guys. The world needs more Mavis Staples. Her album with Jeff Tweedy was great. Her 2011 version of “The Weight” with Wilco and Nick Lowe  haunts my dreams. “You’ve Got Her in Your Pocket” would sound amazing with her voice, and could be such a different song without Jack White’s high pitched musical stylings. Ideal situation: Jack White produces the cover, maybe even plays guitar on the track. They strike up a friendship and make an album together. And we get a great cover, another great album, and most importantly, more Mavis Staples.

 

First Show/Worst Show: Andrew Luttrell

(Claire: Andrew Luttrell—friend, co-worker from my music memorabilia days, and most importantly, Baltimore born and based musician with a new album, “Paint By Numbers.” Click here to check out the short film on the making of “Paint by Numbers,” and pick up your copy of the album here.)

First Show: In April of 1986, my older brother took me to see Rush at the Baltimore Civic Center. I hadn’t quite turned 13 yet, so my parents thought I was a little young to be going to an arena rock concert downtown without adult supervision, but I begged. I think Blue Oyster Cult opened. I don’t remember if we even caught any of the opening band because we were late.

I heard a lot of Rush music through the early & mid 80’s because my brother Bill was a huge fan – one of the only things we had in common – but it was a major thing. Years of hearing “2112”, “All The World’s A Stage”, “Permanent Waves”, and “Exit Stage Left” pouring out of Bill’s little Sanyo boom-box in my family’s very small two bedroom apartment had prepared me for this show. Having not yet been bitten by the Zeppelin bug till the following year, the jury was still out for me on Geddy’s voice – but I was so mesmerized by the tight, intricate, complex compositions those three guys were playing & writing, I quickly dismissed any uncertainties I had about the singing.

I also loved the narrative quality to Neil’s lyrics, especially in their late 70’s albums. Musically, I found their diverse and inventive time-signature changes to be extremely creative. I’d never heard anything like it. They had just released the “Power Windows” album, and the petite Civic Center seemed like a 70,000 seat stadium to me. The Three Stooges theme song into “The Spirit of Radio,” ” The Big Money,” a theatrical drum solo, a “2112” encore in the company of 8,000 other nerds, and I was hooked. I saw them again every tour for the next 4 years, including once with my friend and bandmate Flynn – the other guitar player from my first rock band in high school. That 1986 concert opened my eyes to a whole new world of composed music. At the time, it made Rush my favorite band. However, they opened the door to so much other music for me – by 1987 they were no longer my favorite band, and for that, I owe them a great deal of gratitude. I still have a warm place in my heart for Rush and their music to this day.

Worst Show: The Spin Doctors. How I sat through that set without throwing up remains a mystery to me. This thing came to Merriweather summer of 1992 called the HORDE tour. It was a bunch of jam bands lumped together into a show. The Spin Doctors were in the lineup.

Here’s the deal: I had seen the Grateful Dead many times already since 1989, and I had just seen Phish for the first time in ’91 and again twice in ’92, so I guess I figured a concert at Merriweather called the HORDE featuring a bunch of jam bands I’d never heard of would be a good thing to do. I was wrong.

Here was the problem: Phish was really, really, really good back then. They wrote imaginative lyrics and very interesting musical compositions which intrigued me. So, naturally, I thought the whole wave of these new jam bands would be good too. Nope. That’s what happens when you assume. When the Spin Doctors hit the stage, I quickly learned the difference between a good show and a bad show. Sure, we could all say: “Ok, yeah, maybe the Spin Doctors had an off night”, but you know damn well we’d be lying to one another. Every now and then, I’ll be in a supermarket or somewhere and that awful pocket fulla kryptonite tune will play through the speakers. Ugh. It makes me itch.

It seemed like a ton of new, young, jam bands were coming out of the woodwork around that time, and many of them were just pop-bubble gum trash with no substance or depth to their music or songwriting, but people were “supposed” to like them because they thought they sounded like the Dead or something. That Spin Doctors Merriweather set actually made me question if ALL jam bands were that bad. A month after that show, I went back and saw Phish again just to make sure they were still good. And they were. They were still good.

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