On Saturday I went to a brilliant gig featuring New Riot, The Skints, Suburban Legends and Reel Big Fish. Before The Skints' set, a song came on the sound system which I recognised; it was Us And Them by Pink Floyd. But it wasn't. It was Us And Them by Easy Star All-Stars featuring Frankie Paul, as I found out when I got back by googling "Us And Them reggae cover". Because that's what it was. A reggae cover of Pink Floyd's Us And Them. And it was so good that it got me thinking about other cover versions that I love. So here's my Top 5 Cover Versions. Well, its some of my favourite covers that I can think of.
5. Pedorazu - Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra: There are ska covers of practically every song you can think of, and as you probably know I love ska, so I could easily fill this list with ska cover after ska cover. But I wont, which some of you (Simon) will be pleased to hear. But this cover of the Tetris music (I know!) as performed by these Japanese ska legends had to go in. The tune lends itself perfectly to a great horn riff, and this cover is both fun and clever. Plus there's brass solos, and everyone loves brass solos. Everyone. Brass solos.
4. I Feel Love - Blue Man Group: Venus Hum's Annette Strean simultaneously sounds better than Donna Summer and wears the coolest dress in the world. The three blue men and their band speed the song up, turn it into rock and introduce their unique percussion instruments, most notably the PVC Pipes, which always sound distinctive and awesome. For want of a better word. But I don't want a better word. Awesome is exactly how it sounds.
3. Águas de Março - Bossacucanova: The original, by Antonio Carlos Jobim, was recently voted the best Brazilian song ever, and it has been covered by about 50 different artists. (Seriously.) Bossacucanova do what they do best, and create a chilled, relaxing version of the bossa nova classic, the ambient lounge sound mingling perfectly with Cris Delanno's beautiful vocals, bringing to life the picture that Jobim paints with his lyrics. It always makes me smile at 1:08 when the drums and bass come in, completing the latin-lounge feel of the song. I love all of Bossacucanova's work, they are the masters of fusing classic samba with their own cool electronic sound.
2. September - Nettai Tropical Jazz Big Band: Yes, another Japanese band with an unwieldy name, this time dramatically improving the Earth, Wind & Fire song by giving it their own flavour of latin infused jazz, making it tighter but at the same time more fluid, and taking out the fucking annoying vocals. Oh, and of course by adding brass solos. Which everyone loves. Brass solos.
1. Us And Them - Easy Star All-Stars: And so, like a man with one leg shorter than the other trying to navigate a straight line in the arctic, we have come full circle. (Spot the Mighty Boosh reference.) Easy Star All-Stars, who, as I said, I hadn't heard of until Saturday, do reggae covers of loads of popular music, including The Beatles and Radiohead, and as a reggae fan, I now love them. Their dub cover of Us And Them, from their album Dub Side Of The Moon (a reggae cover of the entire Dark Side Of The Moon album!) is better than the original. And I love Pink Floyd, particularly that album. But this dub version feels deeper, spacier, trippier and other made up words, than the original. Like all good dub music, it strips down to drums and bass but loses nothing in the process. In fact it seems to grow. I also love the close vocal harmonies.
So there were 5 of my favourite ever cover versions. Comment with yours! Or something else. Anything. Anything's better than the empty, hollow loneliness. This blog is named after a song by The King Blues, but it isn't a cover, so instead I will leave you with a ska-punk cover as a reward to myself for being so disciplined in excluding the genre from my list. Reel Big Fish have done tonnes of ska-punk covers, most famously A-ha's Take On Me, but I'll leave you with their take on (haha) Brown Eyed Girl by Van Morrison. Again, the riff lends itself perfectly to horns, and with the ska-punk beat it becomes even more danceable and uplifting. Enjoy!