The Top Ten Covers of All Time
A blizzard-induced Internet outage and various snow-related activities forced the cover selection committee (read: me) to delay its final decision over the weekend. Now, however, we’re back on track. Thanks to everyone for their excellent submissions – I ended up wading through nearly 100 songs to come up with the finalists (the master list is here).
Any list is bound to be pretty subjective, but I tried to reward innovative reinterpretations and fidelity to the intent (if not the form) of the original artist. I also steered clear of a few obvious choices, which is why Hendrix’s “All Along the Watchtower” or Cash’s “Hurt” didn’t make the cut.
Full list after the jump:
1) Otis Redding sings “Satisfaction” and “My Girl.”(Originally submitted by me. Credit goes to Clint for the YouTube link)
I’m sure this list will provoke plenty of spirited disagreement, but Otis absolutely kills this version of “Satisfaction.” His up-tempo cover substitutes horns for the Stones’ iconic guitar riff, and his live performance (backing band included) is just incredible. At the end of the day, Keith Richards said it best: “At least Otis got it right. Our version was a demo for Otis.”
His take on “My Girl” isn’t half-bad, either.
2) The Afghan Whigs play TLC’s “Creep.” (Originally submitted by Jonathan)
Too many pop covers wink at the audience instead of paying homage to the song they’re appropriating. The Afghan Whigs play TLC’s R&B hit absolutely straight, incorporating grungy vocals and plenty of guitar without losing the original’s catchy tune.
3) Donny Hathaway sings “Jealous Guy.” (Originally submitted by Klein)
A soulful take on Lennon that substitutes atmospherics for the original’s sparse piano balladry. Hathaway’s got a great set of pipes, too, which certainly doesn’t hurt.
4) Man Man plays Etta James’ “I Would Rather Go Blind.” (Originally submitted by Trizzlor)
It’s tough to sing from another gender’s perspective, but Man Man pulls it off with aplomb. The contrast between the lead singer’s ragged delivery and the smooth backing vocals is pretty great.
5) Rachid Taha covers “Rock the Casbah.” (Originally submitted by me)
This over-the-top version heavily embellishes the original’s orchestral flourishes. Taha’s vocals are also pretty fantastic, even if you can’t understand a word outside the chorus.
6) Nouvelle Vague plays “The Guns of Brixton.” (Originally submitted by db)
This time, the Clash get the full Bossa Nova treatment. The spare, slow-moving tempo makes this version even more ominous than the original.
7) Dinosaur Jr. cover Frampton’s “Show Me The Way.’ (Originally submitted by Joey)
The original indie guitar gods turn up the reverb and add wailing vocals to a soft rock mainstay. John Cusack said he never liked Frampton until he heard that girl from “The Cosby Show” sing “Baby I Love Your Way”; I never liked Frampton until I heard this cover.
8) Stars cover The Smiths’ “This Charming Man” (Originally submitted by me. Honorable mention goes to Barry, who sent in another excellent Smiths cover, this time from Radiohead)
It’s tough to reinvent a classic, but this cover successfully replaces Morrissey’s croon with little more than a drum machine and some icy vocals. Romantic minimalism at its absolute best.
9) Faye Wong sings The Cranberries’ “Dreams” (Originally submitted by me. Seconded by William Brafford)
Other than some amazing vocals, this song really doesn’t add much to the original. Fortunately, Faye Wong sounds absolutely brilliant.
10) Tie – Wilco and Spiritualized cover Daniel Johnston’s “True Love Will Find You In The End” (Submitted by Scott Payne and Aaron)
Two covers, two different interpretations: Wilco flesh the song out with a full backing band, Spiritualized opt for a stripped-down acoustic take. Both versions succeed admirably.
Finally, a few honorable mentions:
Aguirre submitted The Scissor Sisters’ delightfully weird version of Pink Floyd’s “Comfortably Numb.”
Ian M. suggested Built to Spill’s epic cover of “Freebird,” which ended up being a bit too close to the original to make the top ten.
Mike D. nominated Glee’s gloriously uplifting version of “Don’t Stop Believin’,” which deserves credit for reviving Journey’s chronically over-played hit.
Complaints, accusations of bias, and the occasional compliment are all welcome in comments.