Cover songs are tricky. They’re either a hit or miss. Some become more popular than the original; some will never come close to the original; some are virtually unknown or have only been performed once.
While many of you may have heard the songs below, I attempt to bring you the latter.
(For that reason, some of the videos below are only audio.)
1) After the Gold Rush- Thom Yorke
This was performed in 2002 in Mountain View, California, for the annual non-profit charity event called the Bridge School Benefit. Neil Young has been running this event since 1986.
This song is a timeless classic. Although I adore Thom and know he would never disrespect an artist like Neil Young, I still couldn’t believe my ears after hearing his version. Thom hits every note and sings the song to perfection. I could not imagine any other artist today being able to pull this off. It’s pure magic.
The song, along with various other live acoustic Radiohead tracks, can be found on the Thom Yorke Acoustic/ Bridge School Benefit 2002 CD; however, good luck trying to find it.
2. Hey Ya- Mat Weddle (of Obadiah Parker)
Although I’ve always considered Outkast one of the few “mainstream” acts of today that don’t annoy me, once this song hit radio stations, I couldn’t stand it.
Mat Weddle’s acoustic, piano-laden version blew me away. The song not only sounds completely different, but the meaning of the song takes a new shape. It becomes a bittersweet love song for those with good taste vs. a meaningless chart-topper for teeny-boppers worldwide.
The song can be found on iTunes or on Obadiah Parker’s recent live album release.
3. Cortez the Killer- Dave Matthews Band
Yes, another Neil Young cover. But let’s face it. His songs are VERY hard to pull off.
Dave and the guys not only cover this song superbly, but do so in front of thousands of people for his live Central Park concert in 2003. Of course, he had the help of legend/guitar-god Warren Haynes to make the song even more extraordinary.
This was definitely a “Damn! Wish I was there!” moment for me.
4. Comfortably Numb- Roger Waters, Van Morrison, The Band
Although this live version still includes Waters, with the absence of David Gilmour, you’d have to consider this a cover.
As a huge Gilmour fan, I expected to hate this song. As a fan of both Van Morrison and The Band, I secretly wanted to like it. After listening to the song in its entirety, I decided that I’m a fan of both.
What won we over personally, was that this version still was able to provoke the same amount of intense emotion as the original, but from a different perspective.
In the original, Gilmour’s voice is soothing; a brilliant clash with the eeriness of Waters’ vocals. In this version, Van’s vocals are strong and distinct, almost angry, making Waters seem like the soft-spoken one.
Call me a trader if you want, but I like what I like.
5. Purple Rain- Martin Sexton
Although I am indeed a Prince fan, with an endless supply of music at my fingertips it is rare that I find the time to play one of his records.
Sexton is a sensation, not only doing the song justice, but giving it multiple layers with his guitar. It’s easy to forget that this is only one man performing and creating all these sounds.
Check out Martin’s live album, Solo, for this and more great songs.