Recently we asked some of our contributors for their favourite pieces of album artwork, this time we wanted to know their favourite covers. Some hard decisions inevitably had to be made, but here are some of the best that came back:
Indigo Girls – Romeo & Juliet
I think I once said that I hated covers, then promptly remembered that the Indigo Girls cover of Dire Straits’ Romeo And Juliet is up there as one of my all time favourite songs. How can you beat a bit of Shakespeare set to music, with far more emotion than the original which seems lacklustre by comparison? The line ‘Hey Julie, I’d do the stars with you, any time’ is by far one of the greatest ever written, but this version brings it to life in a way the Dire Straits seem to fail. I would make some pun on the word Dire, but instead I’ll just challenge you to compare the two and disagree.
Cyndi Lauper – When You Were Mine
Cyndi Lauper’s cover of Prince’s When You Were Mine gets a vote purely for its kookiness. Nowadays no one would bat an eyelid about a boyfriend cheating on you with a guy, but in its heyday I’m sure Cyndi managed to raise a few eyebrows. Mind you, it’s only two tracks before She Bop on the album so perhaps it seemed tame by comparison. Anyway I digress, politics aside it’s a great track which could only be improved if both Prince and Cyndi recorded it as a duet. A million quid for anyone who can make that happen.
Placebo – Running Up That Hill
There’s something deeply haunting about Placebo’s version of Kate Bush’s Running Up That Hill. Whilst Bush’s version is epic in its own right there’s something deeply engaging about the cover, which always leaves me lusting for more. Whether it’s Moloko’s vocals, or simply that Q were right when they described it as ‘sound[ing] more like a pact with the Devil’ than the original ‘deal with God’ it’s a gem of a cover that seems to truly capture a darker side of the song.
Mary Gauthier – Sugar Cane
I’ve been a Catie Curtis fan since I was a teenager, so when we went to see Mary Gauthier live last year I instantly sat up in my seat to hear her covering this song. She’s played with the lyrics slightly and really owns this version. I love both, but this one’s admittedly on repeat far more often.
Nanci Griffith – Speed of the Sound of Loneliness
I had to include Nanci somewhere in this, because everything she touches she makes entirely her own. Both she and John Prine will be performing at Cambridge Folk Festival over the Summer, so here’s willing them to throw in a duet.
Aretha Franklin – Respect
Respect is such an iconic Aretha hit that many people forget that it’s actually an Otis Redding cover. It kicked either Christy Moore’s Ordinary Man or Sarah Jarosz doing Tom Waits/Bob Dylan out of my number 3 spot on that basis.
Fiona Apple – Across The Universe
My favourite cover song ever, this is a flawless take on a classic Beatles track that Fiona did for the Pleasantville soundtrack. I’ve heard many covers of this song, but nothing comes close to Apple’s version in my opinion – I think it even beats the original!
Tori Amos – Smells Like Teen Spirit
I love how Tori gives this track a completely different take, highlighting the sadness and hopelessness contained amongst the anger of the song. Apparently even Kurt Cobain approved of this cover, so that says something!
K.D. Lang – Hallelujah
This song has been covered so many times I’ve lost count, and this is probably one of the lesser known covers – however it’s one of the best and my personal favourite. In fact, the album it’s featured on – Lang’s album of covers of Canadian songs, Hymns of the 49th Parallel – is well worth checking out; her version of Neil Young’s Helpless is another favourite cover of mine.
The Maccabees – I Drove All Night
Orlando Weeks’ voice sounds like it was made for this song. A beautifully understated cover by The Maccabees that is unique but also true to the original.
Deftones – No Ordinary Love
I love how this shouldn’t work but it really does. The Deftones’ version includes Sade’s original vocal, but it is given a darker twist in a way that only the Deftones can.
Arctic Monkeys – Love Machine
This always makes me laugh when it pops up on shuffle. Just sounds like a group of lads having a laugh, and Alex Turner’s northern accent makes it even funnier!
Amy Winehouse – Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
Originally by the Shirelles, Amy Winehouse first recorded the song for the film Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason. A completely stripped-down and slowed down track, it’s both haunting and captivating. I love it because it showcases just how good Winehouse was. Before the drugs and tabloid soap-opera that became her life, Amy was just a girl with a beautiful, soulful voice that could captivate an audience with her lungs and a guitar. And with her trademark jazzy arrangement, it’s just so moving. (NB A completely different cover appears on the Lioness: Hidden Treasures album)
Arctic Monkeys – Love Machine
The Arctics took on Girls Aloud’s poptastic hit for Radio 1′s live lounge and absolutely nailed it. In the arrangement and effort stakes anyway, it goes a bit Pete Tong at the end. Which only adds to it’s brilliance if you ask me. It’s essentially a mix of Turner and Helders vocals, a drum machine and four lads taking the piss. But it actually works. So far from anything Arctic Monkeys have ever released themselves, it’s a welcome change and refreshing to hear.
Nerina Pallot – Love Will Tear Us Apart
So many people take on this classic song and fail. Not Nerina. Another stripped-bare cover (I think a pattern may be emerging), which is piano-led rather than the guitars and synth which made it such an iconic 80′s hit. Another haunting, acoustic piece. Although the song was always depressing and bleak, Nerina throws it further into darkness. And dare I say it, Nerina’s vocal is better than Ian Curtis’. Both are full of emotion, but as for the actual melody I think Pallot blows Curtis out the water. Beautifully melancholy.
Florence + The Machine – You’ve Got The Love
I remember reading a review of Florence’s debut album Lungs shortly before its release where she was heavily criticised for including her version of this Candi Station classic and thinking what?!!
Florence’s powerhouse vocal breathes new life into this classic track and her version has an undeniable euphoric vibe that never fails to lift or inspire me, each and every time I hear it.
Paolo Nutini – Time To Pretend
One of my favourite things about watching Paolo play live is that he always throws an unexpected cover version into the mix! I first heard his version of MGMT’s Time To Pretend on Radio 1′s Live Lounge in 2009 and fell even more in love with a track that I didn’t think I could possibly love anymore.
Paolo makes Time To Pretend completely his own without taking away the anthemic feel of the track and when I eventually saw him play it live in 2011 at T In The Park, it was worth the wait!
The Killers – Romeo & Juliet
I was completely unfamiliar with this song until The Killers Abbey Road special in 2007 where they included their version of it as part of their set. Romeo & Juliet is for me one of the most romantic songs ever written and I fell in love with it instantly. Brandon Flower’s voice is like butter when he sings about the longing felt by Romeo for Juliet. I have since heard the original Dire Straits version but being (slightly) biased, I prefer The Killers version.