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The Quixotic Engineer

Friday, July 6, 2007

A Salute to Daring Covers

Radiohead Graffiti

Cover versions. Most bands try them. The results are usually bland, pedestrian and completely unoriginal. Every once in a while, though, you come across a cover that completely changes the way you look at a song; something daring that makes major changes to the instrumentation, pacing and tone.

I recently stumbled upon one such cover, and it inspired me to write this post. The song "Just", originally by Radiohead, is a great alternative rock track that features terrific wailing electric guitars and plaintive vocals. That is until British artist/producer Mark Ronson decided to inject it with a syringe full of groove.

Ronson's cover, embedded below, is a completely different experience. The wailing guitar has become a horn section and the new drum work is not unlike what you'd hear on a George Clinton record. The whole tone of the song, previously mournful and bitter, is now funky and fresh. Making an alternative rock song danceable is already a noticeable feat, but a quality cover like this is a truly praiseworthy accomplishment.

It is in this spirit that I present to you three of my personal favorite covers by artists who dared to do things differently. If there's a distinctive cover that you love, show it some appreciation by leaving a comment.

  • All Along the Watchtower
    The Jimi Hendrix Experience

    (Original by Bob Dylan)
    Rumour has it that Dylan himself prefers Hendrix's legendary cover. Released just one year after the original, Hendrix turned this classic folk track into an incredibly powerful and soulful rock song.
  • Hurt
    Johnny Cash

    (Original by Nine Inch Nails)
    What other country/folk legend would cover a NIN song? Cash's tragic passing soon after the song's release made his version especially poignant. If you enjoyed this song, I urge you to check out the albums American III: Solitary Man and American IV: The Man Comes Around, they're fantastic.
  • Hallelujah
    Jeff Buckley

    (Original by Leonard Cohen)
    Leonard Cohen is a musical genius, and the original version of Hallelujah is heart-wrenchingly beautiful. The fact that Jeff Buckley could take that song and perform it differently but with equal majesty is a testament to his talent.



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