New Music Through Old Ears — Uncovered

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It’s time for some new music as entertainment editor John Turnbull checks out the best cover versions released over the last 12 months, including metalheads Stone Sour, the contrary Ryan Adams and the purple one himself, Prince.

Best Cover of an Entire Album

Ryan Adams — 1989

When I heard that alt-country bad boy Ryan Adams was doing a track-by-track cover version of Taylor Swift’s smash hit album 1989, my first thought was: why? This was followed by a vague desire to hear what he made of it, which seems to be more than enough motivation these days… So I gave it a listen.

It’s worth noting that while I am not a Taylor Swift fan (Swiftian?) I don’t hate her music like many older critics seem to. She has a decent voice and the ear for a catchy hook, and while I don’t really like the idea of her trying to trademark specific phrases, this is probably down to her management rather than a personal desire to own the rather inane words ‘this sick beat’. She also seems to be a positive role model for young girls in comparison to most of her contemporaries (at this point). 

Adams interpretation of 1989 reveals that while most of the lyrics tend toward the simplistic, there are some heartfelt emotions and clever couplets to be found. Songs like Bad Blood, Blank Space and Shake It Off benefit from Adams stripped back country style, although nothing can save the painfully repetitive Out Of The Woods.

While this is an interesting experiment, in the long term it seems unlikely to become a favourite of either Ryan Adams or Taylor Swift audiences. Is this a novelty album? Maybe. But it’s better than most of the releases that fit that description.  

Best tracks: Blank Space, Shake It Off, Bad Blood

Sample lyric: ‘Are we out of the woods yet?’ (repeated 60 f’n times)

Verdict: 5/10

Best for Metalheads

Stone Sour — The Burbank Trilogy

Often written off as a Slipknot side project, Stone Sour formed in Iowa in 1992 and have been making melodic heavy rock on and off ever since, receiving Grammy nominations for tracks including Get Inside, Inhale and the blistering 30/30-150 (a reference to firearms rather than a simple maths problem). Following the departure of founding guitarist Jim Root in 2014, singer Corey Taylor announced that the band would release a series of EPs featuring cover versions of songs that meant a lot to the band, a project that had been in the back of his mind since the band formed over 20 years earlier.

The first of these EPs was released back in April 2015, titled Meanwhile in Burbank, and featured covers of songs by Alice in Chains, Black Sabbath, Metallica, Kiss and Judas Priest. The highlight of this release was probably the straight-faced version of the tongue-in-cheek Kiss classic Love Gun, which shows that metal songs work a lot better when they’re not parodies (are you listening, Steel Panther?)

The second EP was titled Straight Outta Burbank, and added songs by Iron Maiden, Bad Brains, Motley Crue and Slayer to their repertoire, as well as a cover of Gimme Shelter, originally sung by the not-really-metal-but-indisputably-awesome Rolling Stones. The final release is titled No Sleep Til Burbank and is set to include the Van Halen track Unchained.

While not quite an original idea (Metallica released Garage Days Re-Revisited back in 1987), this is a nice filler for Stone Sour fans while Corey Taylor tours and records a new album with Slipknot.

Best tracks: Creeping Death, Love Gun, Gimme Shelter

Sample Lyric: ‘No place for hiding, baby, no place to run, you pull the trigger on my love gun.’ (Love Gun)

Verdict: 7/10

Best Cover Version Ever?

Prince — Creep

Recorded at the Coachella music festival back in 2008, Prince’s cover of the Radiohead song Creep became famous because of how difficult it was to find. The story went that every time someone posted a video on youtube or leaked an audio recording online, Prince had his highly paid gang of lawyers jump on the uploader and demand they remove it immediately, which they invariably did.

It’s interesting to note that this wasn’t Prince’s first skirmish with YouTube, after launching legal action against the service (along with eBay and The Pirate Bay) in 2007 for encouraging copyright.

Fortunately, Radiohead singer Thom Yorke stepped in and told Prince to stop being a dick, pointing out that Creep was his intellectual property, not Princes.  The result is a seven minute epic that soars and dives, taking the original song and almost reinventing it from the ground up. While it’s debateable whether this is the best cover ever (All Along the Watchtower by Jimi Hendrix for me) it’s certainly worth checking out for fans of Rock and/or Roll.

Verdict: 8/10

Did you enjoy what you just read? Well, John Turnbull's books are now available on Amazon and Kindle. For about the price of a cup of coffee you can take a journey deep into the disturbed psyche behind columns including Screen Themes, Think For Yourself, New Music Through Old Ears and JT on NXT. There’s supernatural thriller, Damnation’s Flame; action/romance, Reaper; black comedy, City Boy; and travel guidebook, Bar Trek: Europe. Check 'em out! You can also follow John on Twitter @blackmagicjohn.

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