The Five Greatest Cover Albums of the Week: One

The Five Greatest Cover Albums Of The Week
By Devin Bambrick

Incredible Bongo Band- Bongo Rock
At some point, Michael Viner, an enterprising bongo enthusiast, decided that everything sounded better with a whole bunch of additional beats. The result was Bongo Rock. This disc’s a re-release/compilation of Viner’s 70s-era covers of everything from Iron Butterfly’s “In A Gadda Da Vida” [clocking in at a downright brisk 7:43] to the Stones’ “[I Can’t Get No] Satisfaction.” But the crown jewel of the collection is the Band’s reworking of the classic surf guitar standard. Viner’s version stands as one of the most sampled songs in the history of popular music. For a fuller background than I can offer here, check out Will Hermes’s New York Times article, “All Rise For The National Anthem of Hip Hop.” Needless to say, you’ll recognize it.

Easy Star All*Stars- Radiodread
The most popular album in the history of head shops, The New Amsterdam Café, and the front lawn on April 20th, this is exactly what the title suggests: a dub reggae cover album of Radiohead songs. “Paranoid Android” is probably the highlight, with blaring trumpets substituting for Greenwood’s savage guitar solo. Playing this album for a group and cataloging the reactions is an easy way to figure out which of your Radiohead-loving friends are pretentious dickwads and which are slightly less pretentious dickwads.

k.d. lang- Hymns of the 49th Parallel
To continue my personal tradition of pulling the Canadian card, I submit the least cool album on this list. No one clad in American Apparel will stop by KRRC if you blast this out of the windows. In fact, your mom would really dig this. But for once, your mom would totally be right. k.d. is a ludicrously good singer, and she brings some new excitement to a mixed bag of Canadian folk songs. She breaks out Leonard Cohen, Joni Mitchell, and Neil Young, and the effect is so natural, so far from contrived, that the songs feel like hers.

Nouvelle Vague [self-titled]
Just in case you’re the one person left who hasn’t heard this yet. Really, the concept here far outweighs the quality. There isn’t too much replay value in this, but there’s an absolute and untainted joy in hearing this album for the first time. Bossa nova covers of new wave songs. Really, I feel like that’s all I’ve got to say. Either you’re the kind of person who gets all damp and perky at the thought of groovy, sultry renditions of “Love Will Tear Us Apart” and “Too Drunk To Fuck,” or you aren’t. And if you aren’t, hey, go back to your OK Computer.

Harry Nilsson- Nilsson Sings Newman
Before he was that laughable goofball who was responsible for the saccharine soundtracks for Disney movies, Randy Newman was kind of a badass songwriter. If you don’t believe me, check out “Sail Away,” an acerbic satire in which a slave owner attempts to convince a group of Africans to hop on his ship to the promised land of the United States of America. Sample line? “You’ll just sing about Jesus and drink wine all day. It’s great to be an American.” In 1970, Harry Nilsson—himself a hell of a little songwriter [and favorite musician of The Beatles]—threw together this collection of stripped down covers of Newman’s work. Sold today as a part of a double album—Nilsson Sings Newman and Harry—it’s actually Harry that contains the best Newman cover: a sweet version of one of the greatest pop songs ever written, “Simon Smith and The Amazing Dancing Bear.”


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