Cover Songs: Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday


mixtape-jenkehl-200

This week’s theme for Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday is cover songs.

For this incredibly large category I needed to set some parameters, and so I did. A good cover, in my opinion, should be either very different from the original or it should blow the original out of the water. For purposes of this post, I also concentrated on songs that did not feature obscure originals. Sure, “Because the Night” and “Blinded by the Light” have both been recorded by (and, incidentally, were written by) Bruce Springsteen, but his are not the versions anyone but a diehard fan would be familiar with — the same can be said for Jackson Browne’s “Take It Easy”, which he recorded first on his debut album, but the version most folks are familiar with is the one that put a little band called The Eagles on the map.

Having set some rules, here are five cover songs that I believe outshine the originals.

I love Jeff Buckley’s version of the Leonard Cohen song, “Hallelulah”. Rufus Wainwright’s interpretation isn’t that much different from the Jeff Buckley version — piano-driven and a little too “AM radio” for me, though — and so I’m going with Mr. Buckley’s cover of the classic Cohen song.

Admittedly, I’m not a big Leonard Cohen fan — I find him a bit, well, morose. Still, I knew this song. Jeff Buckley’s take on it immediately wiped the original from my memory — I honestly had to go back and listen to the original before I wrote this post, you know, just in case I had gotten it wrong. I hadn’t.

Aside from the fact that Jeff Buckley had a better voice than Mr. Cohen is reason enough to enjoy his cover more than the original, but there is also the sparse, guitar-driven arrangement that Mr. Buckley relies upon that makes this version soar. Buckley’s version is also far more spiritual — I couldn’t help but think that the original was taking a little poke at religion — something not wholly unexpected from Leonard Cohen. I’m not religious, so that was fine with me, but Mr. Buckley’s interpretation, his phrasing, the way he picks at the guitar, never suggests that he’s anything but sincere.

No disrespect to Lou Reed, but I really do think The Cowboy Junkies blew The Velvet Underground version of “Sweet Jane” out of the water when they recorded it (their version was subsequently used in the movie “Natural Born Killers”) for their groundbreaking album, The Trinity Sessions (an album that contains a few other great cover tunes, in case anyone’s interested).

I know I’m going to take a lot of flack from my generation when I tell you that I prefer The Dixie Chicks take on The Fleetwood Mac classic “Landslide” over the original. I know. I know. It’s sacrilege. Still, I love it. I think Natalie Mains brings a plaintiveness that suggests a vulnerability that Stevie Nicks just can’t pull off.

I love the Muppets and Kermit is, hands down, my favorite. Kermit is cute. Kermit is kind. He puts up with the amorous advances of that tart, Miss Piggy. Surrounded as he often is by lunatics, he’s the voice of reason. Kermit is stable. While Kermit is many things, what he is not is a great singer. He does the best he can with “The Rainbow Connection”, but really, there is a better, more kick-ass version of the song that I just love, love, love! Now, when I think of the song, I think of the Ska-infused cover offered up by Me First and the Gimme Gimmes.

This band has covered and put their twist on other classics, most notably “Somewhere Over the Rainbow”. The problem with “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” is that the original cannot really be usurped, etched in our collective consciousness as it is. And, frankly, if I was going to choose a cover of that song, I’d pick Livingston Taylor’s version. I like that one. Still, no cover will ever replace the original.

Whitney Houston became so associated with Dolly Parton’s “I Will Always Love You” that it became, for lack of a better description, her theme song. There’s not much to say that hasn’t already been said about this song. Just go ahead and enjoy it. It’s a gem.

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22 thoughts on “Cover Songs: Twisted Mix Tape Tuesday

  1. SAM says:

    Whitney’s cover is one of my favorites, too, but I had already used her version of that song in another mixtape. I went with a different theme for mine anyway, so it wouldn’t have worked. Nice mix!

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  2. Finally some Springsteen here. What about his version of Trapped and Jersey Girl?
    Landslide is a beautiful song. I think I’ll take Fleetwood Mac’s version.
    For all of Whitney’s issues, she had an amazing voice at one point.

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  3. Louise says:

    Ah! I have loved the Cowboy Junkies Sweet Jane cover ever since I first heard it in Natural Born Killers. I actually can’t hear it without the voice track from the movie playing in my head….

    I also think Hallelujah is one of the most beautiful songs ever written. And this was a great cover. I do have a soft spot for Leonard Cohen generally though….

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    • javaj240 says:

      Soft spot aside, Jeff Buckley slays this song!

      I’ve never seen “Natural Born Killers”, I just loved “The Trinity Sessions” — the whole album is great!

      Thanks so much for reading, listening, and for commenting!

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  4. diannegray says:

    I told hubby I loved Leonard Cohen so he bought me a CD – we listened to it and he said it was the most depressing thing he’d ever heard! 🙂 I kinda had to agree with him because I hadn’t heard the music in about 20 years. I totally agree that Jeff Buckley’s version blasts Cohen out of the water.

    I also love Dixie Chicks version of Landslide (much to my daughter’s horror) 😉

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    • javaj240 says:

      Personally, I don’t think that Leonard Cohen has stood the test of time — not in terms of performance, anyway. His lyrics are, of course, another story. Frankly, I often feel the same way about Dylan.

      It’s nice to hear that someone of my generation agrees with me about “Landslide”! 🙂

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  5. Jen says:

    Oh my gosh I am so with you! I LOVE THE COWBOY JUNKIES version of Sweet Jane, sorry…got tired of yelling because I was holding down shift instead of caps lock.
    Also so totally, totally The Dixie Chicks and Landslide!
    This could have been my list!

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  6. Dream says:

    I both agree and disagree on some of your selections and the personal subjectivity brought by each of us each week is one of the main reasons I love this blog hop. I also used I Will Always Love You, but a completely different version.

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    • javaj240 says:

      I haven’t gotten blog hopping yet, but you have piqued my curiosity… I h it “Publish” and scurried off to work this morning 🙂

      I agree that the reason this blog hop works week in and week out is that we all bring our own sensibilities to the themes 🙂

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  7. You and I are so on the same musical wavelength. Totally agree with you about Sweet Jane and Hallelujah. Love the Dixie Chicks’ version of Landslide but am a huge Stevie Nicks fan and will always love her original!

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  8. Miriam says:

    Totally agree with you about Hallelujah. I really think Jeff Buckley’s version is the most beautiful song ever.
    And I also prefer the Cowboy Junkies version of Sweet Jane.

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  9. CaptCruncher says:

    You did exactly what you set out to do — not your run of the mill cover tunes– well done!! I loved this list but good as that version of Rainbow Connection is, I will remain a Muppet’s purist :)! I guess I have to have at least one rule in life — don’t mess with Kermit songs! Thanks for introducing a great variety!

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    • javaj240 says:

      A “Muppet Purist”, LOL! You’re certainly entitled to that! Thanks so much for reading, listening, and for commenting! I’m happy that you enjoyed my list!

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  10. Am enjoying the cover of Rainbow Connection now!

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