Sunday, July 23, 2017


Bowie's cover of Lennon's "Across the Universe" was John's favorite version of the song. Mine though, is Fiona Apple's reboot from 1999. This breathless, sultry arrangement brings a nuance to the song never before realized. The single is a sexy thing that gives me chills; it's "Criminal" all over again. It's not often that cover versions extend beyond that of the original, but when they do, it's something sweet and savory. Some of the best in no particular order:

The Tubes' "My Head is My Only House Unless it Rains" is an obscure cover of the Captain Beefheart tune that is hands down superior to the original and proof The Tubes are the most underrated band of the 70s. Fe Waybill's interpretation is ridden with angst and its conversational stylings grounded 1977's Now

"Nothing Compares 2U" catapulted Sinead O'Connor into a stardom that only tearing up a photo of Jean Paul II could undo. The Prince giveaway (so technically not a cover) is imbued with enough Irish brouhaha to make it personally and vividly intense. Few musical styles are more emotionally impactive than traditional Irish folk and O'Connor has never in her long career lost sight of that impact. Sinead moves from a soothing whisper to a hair raising howl in a minute calling forth the spirit of the banshee.

Never could quite place my finger on Talking Heads' pulse; dweebs or artists? Ah, both! You're right. The band's cover of Al Green's "Take Me to the River," More Songs About Buildings and Food's penultimate track, is friggin' great, if only for the novelty value of finding out what a regular, solid soul groove sounds like when filtered through art school geeks. My first exposure to the band. Always loved those songs that could make it all the way up to No. 29!

I always wanted to like Tori Amos more than I do, but I don't get very far past Under the Pink, yet on the Leonard Cohen Tower of Song tribute album, there are two sublime standouts, Peter Gabriel's "Suzanne" and Tori's "Famous Blue Raincoat," which works so effortlessly that Tori can even sign his name at the bottom: "Sincerely, L. Cohen."