Cover songs

Everyday is Halloween Anthology – Ministry

Release Year: 2010

Rating: 6/10

Every band has a slow period between recording albums and touring. This makes it prime time for random compilation records to keep sales up. Greatest hits, remix, and sometimes rarities albums are what artists turn to hoping fans will eat it up. That must have been the case with this Ministry release. The band wasn’t satisfied with a straightforward compilation with only their singles or only remixes. They decided to do a hybrid release mixing hits with remixes and covers. Now the question is was it worth it?

This album isn’t sure what it wants to be. Is it a retrospective? A cover album? A remix record? The first half is nothing but classic Ministry songs re-recorded and remastered. Why? I don’t know. The songs, “NWO,” “Jesus Built My Hotrod,” and “Stigmata” all sound similar to their original counterparts. Sure, that may be the point, but it makes them unnecessary. It’s not like the band change the tracks drastically. Usually, it’s more distorted vocals that are hard to make out and louder gritty guitars. The remix of “Everyday is Halloween” is pretty good, but since it has more of a heavy metal vibe, it sounds like a Rob Zombie song.

You would think the saving grace would be the covers. Well, they’re not horrible. The band plays it straight with most of the songs, like “Paint it Black” and “Sharp Dressed Man.” They keep the same format and vibe of the track and add in lots of guitars. The same goes for “Thunderstruck” and “Stranglehold.” Whereas the latter track has an industrial groove, the former is pretty true to the original. The only problem is Al Jourgensen’s vocals don’t exactly work with the song. While these covers aren’t terrible, they’re pretty bland and forgettable.

The “Iron Man” cover is actually the best cover on the album. They take the unmistakable riff from the classic Black Sabbath track and integrate it with their fast paced, synth electro madness. Instead of keeping the dark and gloomy mood, they turn it into something chaotic, wild, and destructive. They really make the song their own without shitting all over the original. It’s something both Sabbath and Ministry fans will appreciate.

One of the strangest, yet more entertaining covers is Amy Winehouse’s “Rehab.” As you would expect, it’s the complete opposite of the original. It’s insanity incarnate with Jourgensen screaming “They try to make go to rehab/and I said/No!/No!/No!” It’s kind of an ironic cover since he had his own drug problems over the years. With the hard driving music, brutal nature, and aggressive vocals, the cover is certainly unique. It’s not necessarily good, but it’s so ridiculous and intense it’s hard not to like it.

Even though it’s an interesting idea, the album is unsatisfying. The remastered songs are pointless and most of the covers are bland. It seems like they needed to release something, did some covers, but needed more material to pad out the LP. It would’ve been better off if it was released as a short covers EP. The album is one of those forgettable albums that gets old after the first few tracks. After listening to this, I’m convinced cover albums are never a good idea.

Top 10 Michael Jackson Covers

This Sunday would’ve been Michael Jackson’s 57th birthday. Instead of dwelling over the fact he’s no longer with us, it’s a time to celebrate his wonderful music. No matter what you thought of him it’s clear his music has inspired artists across a span of genres from R&B to rock. Some artists have even taken it upon themselves to cover their favorite Jackson song. Of course no one does it better than Michael, but some artists have come close. There are a ton of terrible ones out there, but here are ten of the best Michael Jackson covers.

10. “The Girl is Mine” – Richard Cheese

Richard Cheese is known for making lounge style covers out of popular songs. He previously covered Jackson’s “Beat It,” but it’s his version of “The Girl is Mine” that’s unique and hilarious. The song starts out like a standard lounge tune and Cheese sounds smooth and silky. Just imagine him snapping his fingers to the beat while listening to it. After the first verse he introduces a special guest, which is supposed to be Stephen Hawking. Yeah, you read that right. Of course it’s not actually him, but hearing an automated voice singing this Jackson duet is weird, but is sure to put a smile on your face. It’s a bit silly, but you gotta admit Jackson’s tunes sound pretty good in lounge style.

9. “Billie Jean” – Nonpoint

This song has been speed up to be a punk rock anthem and tuned down to be a metal nightmare, but Nonpoint puts a different spin on it. They slow things down to make a brooding, melancholy song. Singer Ellias Soriano sounds vulnerable, broken, and hurt as he wails “but the kid is not my son.” Any ounce of happiness or fun is completely stripped away from the track. We’re left with the underlying angst and anger that was masked by the catchy beats. It’s not until you hear the song in this style that you realize how somber it can be.

8. “Dirty Diana” – Bruno Mars/Christina Aguilera

Both of these artists covered the sexy song during live performances and they’re both excellent. Mars’ version is very faithful to the original. In the clip, he plays the dirty riff while the synth soars behind him. He didn’t go too far from the source material, but he at least sounds really good while singing it. I’m sure he could release this as a single and it would sell well. The same goes for Aguilera’s version, which she sang at a Jackson tribute concert. But her impressive vocals matched with the steamy lyrics will give you chills.

7. “Speed Demon” – Xerath

It may come as a surprise to learn how many metal bands love covering Michael Jackson songs. “Beat It” seems to be the favorite track, but this British band went for one of the underrated tracks from Bad. Everything about this version kicks ass from the riff given a dirty make over to the intense vocals screaming “Speed demon!” that sounds like singer Richard Thomson is ripping his vocal cords. This track captures the dangerous and edginess Jackson tried to give off on the original. This track has the same spirit of the original, yet has its own flavor that makes it unique.

6. “P.Y.T.” – The Wood Brothers

There’s a good chance you may not have heard of this Americana blues band, but they know what makes a good cover song. As part of the A.V. Club’s project where artists choose a song to cover from a list, these guys choose this tune from Michael Jackson’s Thriller. It starts out a little wonky with the jarring vocals and silly music, but it all falls into place by the time they reach the hook. They turn the song from an R&B dance track to a smooth, folksy tune that sounds just as silky as the original. The coolest part is during the refrain where instead of singing “Pretty young things/repeat after me” they freestyle riffs instead, but that doesn’t stop a chorus of people from responding with “Na-na-na-na.”

5. “D.D.” – The Weeknd

With comparisons to the late pop star, it’s no surprise that The Weeknd covered this sultry track from Bad. It starts out pretty faithful to the original, but once it gets to the chorus hard electronic beats take over creating a lush soundscape of pulsating rhythm. This version takes the grittiness and edge out of the song, but turns it into more of an atmospheric track that ends up sounding more sad than angry. It’s a subtle tweak to the song, but it’s effective at giving it a completely different vibe.

4. “Billie Jean” – The Bates

This German punk band, known for their cover tunes oddly enough, turns the R&B filled track into a raucous punk anthem made for moshing. Their version is pretty faithful to the original except when it comes to the music. Their gritty guitars and energetic vibe punches up the song and brings it into the rock realm. The best part is the chorus where you can picture them pogo dancing while singing “Billie Jean is not my lover.” Something about it is fun, upbeat, vibrant, and just really inviting. Whether you like Michael Jackson or not this song is sure to get you in the pit. They’re cover songs are pretty spectacular. Check out their version of The Cure’s “Wailing Wall.”

3. “I’ll Be There” – Mariah Carey

This Jackson 5 track was always kind of mushy and definitely got the feels going, especially when Michael performed it in concert. Carey does a very faithful rendition of the song that doesn’t hold back on the emotions. Her soft soaring vocals that made her a household name in the 90s, work perfectly with this slow track and turns it into something beautiful. She did such an amazing job with it that it became a regular in her catalog and many believe it surpasses the original. She was even nominated for a Grammy for the song in 1993. Of course it took on new meaning when she performed it at Jackson’s memorial service in 2009. Say what you want about Mariah now, but back in the day her voice was something out of this world.

2. “Smooth Criminal” – Alien Ant Farm

These guys proved it was possible to make a kick ass MJ cover without royally fucking it up. Jackson has always incorporated rock influences into his music and this proves how well his songs work when you replace the synth with gritty guitars. It turns this classic Jackson jam into a headbanger. What’s even better is the video filled with references to the singer’s videos from Bubbles to the “Thriller” ending. How many can you spot? Alien Ant Farm may not be remembered for anything else, but at least they gave us this awesome cover that shows how universal Jackson’s music is.

1. “Thriller” – Imogen Heap

Ever think the creep-tacular filled “Thriller” would work as a soft ballad? Somehow Imogen Heap makes it work. With a stark, beautiful piano accompanying her she sounds haunting, yet beautiful as she sings Jackson’s iconic tune. She sounds breathy and airy as she whispers “Cause this is thriller/thriller night.” It really catches you by surprise with how awesome it is. Who would’ve thought the song would work well at a slower speed and without Vincent Price’s eerie laugh? This is everything a good cover is supposed to be: a hint of the original, but different enough to grab your attention.

Which Michael Jackson cover is your favorite? Is there another great one I missed? Let me know in the comments!

Nine Cover Songs That Launched Careers

Everyone loves a good cover song and there are countless amazing ones out there that outshine the original. But the thing that makes a cover memorable is when it’s the first song that an artist does or is largely responsible for their new found success. Whether they did it out of pressure from a record company or just because they wanted to put a spin on one of their favorite songs, these are nine artists who got their big break with a cover song. I know there are a lot more I’m missing, but these are the ones that stick out most in my mind.

9. “Wicked Game”- HIM

This hit for Chris Issaks was already hot, but Finnish rock band HIM tossed in some electric guitars and picked up the pace to give it a hard rock edge. It’s not really the song that got them popular in America, but the cover is responsible for the band being discovered in their native homeland. It first appeared on their debut Greatest Lovesongs Vol. 666 and it went over so well they re-recorded for their second album Razorblade Romance, which was responsible for their popularity in the US. Overtime, it has become one of their well known tracks all because they thought it was a great song.

8. “Torn” – Natalie Imbruglia

This was a hot song for a while during the late 90’s from a then unknown Aussie singer Natalie Imbruglia. This 1995 Endaswap song (I haven’t heard of them either) was covered by the singer for her debut album Left of the Middle. It was a huge success with Imbruglia hitting it big in America. It was catchy, sweet, and Imbrugalia somehow made it adorable. She even received a Grammy nomination for the track. Unfortunately, this was the only hit she had in the states, but the song launched her career and allowed her to keep up her success overseas.

7. “I Fought the Law”- The Clash

Though this song has been covered numerous times from the likes of Green Day and Johnny Cash, the most notable version comes from The Clash. The band was just establishing their career when they recorded the song. It first appeared on their EP The Cost of Living in the UK. When it came time for their debut, which for some reason was their second album in the US, it was added as a track for the states. This small decision helped them cross over to US audiences and helped sealed their place in punk rock history. Aside from the classic “Should I Stay or Should I Go” it’s still one of their most notable songs.

6. “Tainted Love” – Soft Cell

This English duo would probably be forgotten if it weren’t for their cover of this 1964 Gloria Jones song. By slowing down the pace and adding in irresistible synthesizers the duo really made the song their own. It’s one of those tracks where you’re surprised to learn it’s actually a cover. Soft Cell succeeded in having one of the best and most memorable songs of the 80’s that is still well loved today. Since then it’s been covered numerous times by Marilyn Manson and The Pussycat Dolls, but Soft Cell’s version remains the best.

  1. “Girls Just Want To Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper

To be honest I had no idea this was a cover until I started this list. This just shows how Lauper successfully made the song her own. The track was originally written and performed by Robert Hazard in 1979. Cyndi wanted to do it for her debut album and with some minor changes to the lyrics, she made the song all about girl power. It’s still one of her most recognizable songs today and is single handily responsible for launching her career in the 80’s. There have been countless covers of this track, but Cyndi does it best. Besides, no one can sound as bubbly as she does while singing “Oh, girls just want to have fun.”

  1. “I Love Rock n Roll” – Joan Jett & the Blackhearts

When Joan Jett decided to leave punk group The Runaways for a solo career she couldn’t have picked a better song to cover than this one. It has all the attitude and sass you expect from her. It’s like the song was made for her. it was originally performed in 1975 by Arrows before Jett made everyone forget this fact when her version was released in 1982. Even though she already had an established career with The Runaways, this song helped her launch her solo career, which is still going strong to this day.

  1. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)” – Marilyn Manson

Back in 1983, this was a wonderfully, catchy, synth filled song by British duo The Eurythmics fronted by the lovely Annie Lennox. Fast forward to 1995 and suddenly the song was darker, scarier, and an absolute nightmare thanks to Marilyn Manson. Even though it comes from their remix EP Smells Like Children, their creepy take on the tune was enough to get them the recognition of MTV who put the accompanying bizarre video in rotation on the station. Thanks to this, Marilyn Manson soon became a household name and one of the most talked about figures of the 1990’s.

  1. “Love Buzz” – Nirvana

If it wasn’t for their cover of an obscure song from the 60’s, then Nirvana might not be the legendary band they are today. Back in 1988 when they were recording their debut Bleach for indie label Sub Pop, they covered this song originally done by Shocking Blue in 1969. It was then released as part of Sub Pop’s singles club even though the band wanted “Big Cheese” for the A-side. Needless to say, the song was a hit and got rock magazines buzzing, especially overseas. Thanks to this little-known track Nirvana went on to create bigger and better things.

  1. “Twist and Shout” – The Beatles

This Top Notes song is part of the reason why Beatlemania hit the US. The band covered the song for their first UK album Please Please Me. Thanks to its intense vocal performance, it is regarded as one of the best examples of British rock n roll. But it wasn’t until their 1964 Ed Sullivan performance that got the band popular overseas. Since then they are often regarded as one of the best and most important bands in music history.

Honorable Mention:

“Higher Ground” – Red Hot Chili Peppers

This wasn’t included in the list because by the time it was released the Red Hot Chili Peppers had an established career with three albums under their belt that were met with moderate success. But it wasn’t until this cover from their fourth album Mother’s Milk that they hit the big time. The psychedelic and funk filled track got the guys MTV recognition, who then constantly played the trippy video. This song allowed their next album Blood Sugar Sex Magik to reach the top of the charts and to have the long history they have today.

Top 10 Best Cover Songs

Everybody loves a good cover song, whether it’s completely reinventing the song to make it something new and different or just sticking with the original to pay homage to an artist. Of course, not all cover songs are good, but that’s for a different day (and a different list). Just about every musician out there has covered something and while there are a lot of good ones, these are the ten that I feel are amazing and stand the test of time. And since I already did a list of metal covers, this one will focus on covers in other genres.

  1. “Tainted Love”-Gloria Jones/Soft Cell

This is one of those songs you always forget that’s a cover. Other people have tried to match or outdo the greatness of this version and failed (Manson). Nothing beats the Soft Cell recording. I would take this version over the original any day. There’s just something about the music that when those beeps at the beginning of the song come on, everybody knows what song it is and proceeds to dance their ass off. There’s also something about the music that’s in this area of dark synth pop, kind of like Depeche Mode. It’s just a fun, feel good song; one of the better ones from the 80’s. And it definitely stands the test of time.

  1. “Imagine”- John Lennon/A Perfect Circle

This version leaves you with no hope for the future. With the pounding drums beating throughout the song, it brings on an impending sense of doom. This cover would be perfect playing over any movie footage of the apocalypse. Lennon’s version seemed more optimistic, while this one has anger, frustration, and sadness in one song. Maynard James Kennan’s voice is the right pitch and tone for this song. It even carries a hint of sadness. You can find this cover on their album Emotive.

  1. “I Love Rock N Roll”- Arrows/Joan Jett

This has got to be one of the best hard rocking songs out there. So many people love this song and the best thing it’s aged incredibly well. Also, it fits the whole badass attitude of Joan Jett. Not only does she sound like she’s looking for a fight, she looks like it in the video for the single. Her voice just has this amazing snarl behind it, especially when she says “Owww!” after the first verse. This is a classic to this day and one of the staples of rock music.

7. “Mony Mony” – Tommy James and the Shondells/Billy Idol

This is the song that showed that the young punk had rhythm and soul. It’s like with this song he wanted to get everyone on their feet. What’s interesting about this cover is it has a lot of elements from the original from the vocals to the rhythm of the song. It’s like Idol wanted to keep everything that made the song great in the first place, but he added a few guitars and his haunting vocals to make the song his own. It still sounds like a vintage song from the 50’s, he even has the background singers that sound like old school girl groups, but the synth and the hard guitars add a tough edge to it. It’s probably one of Idol’s most loved songs and it’s just really fun.

  1. “Smooth Criminal” – Michael Jackson/Alien Ant Farm

This has got to be the oddest, but most awesome cover of a Michael Jackson song ever. Driving guitar riffs, odd vocals, and various screams trying to imitate the King of Pop, this song rocks hard. This song shows that Jackson’s song translate really well the rock genre. This cover takes everything that was amazing about the original and turns it up way past ten. Aside from the style, the song stays pretty true to the original in terms of pace and vocal style (kind of). Not only is the song a great homage to MJ, the video is as well. It’s full of references to Jackson and even has elements from his other videos, such as the light up steps from “Billie Jean.” This song also helped to teach a younger generation how awesome Michael Jackson was and could be. Unfortunately, it’s also the cause of many people thinking Alien Ant Farm were the originators of the song.

5. “Sweet Dreams (Are Made of These)”- Eurythmics/Marilyn Manson

This is the song that launched the band into popularity. The original version has a more futuristic sound with synthesizers and Annie Lennox’s sultry vocals. Manson’s version is anything but sweet dreams. This song (and the video) will give you nightmares for weeks. Everything from the slow, dredging guitar riff, to the weird warping noises, heard in the beginning, and even Manson’s shrill vocals unnerve you. I think this version really shows the dark undertones that were in the original that were masked by how catchy the song was. Manson stripped away those elements and left us with pure terror.

4. “The Man Who Sold the World”- David Bowie/Nirvana

This cover is often hailed as better than the original. The subdued, mellow tone of the song blends well with Cobain’s scratchy, anguished vocals. He sounds a little sad, yet joyful at times during the song, even a little reminiscent while he’s singing. There’s something about the way Cobain sings here that makes it sound like he’s so familiar with the song, as if he wrote it himself. There’s just something about this version that sounds sorrowful and vulnerable, while Bowie’s sounds a but more psychedelic. The hypnotizing guitar riff and the looping bass line traps you in the song and makes you remember why this is now considered a Nirvana classic.

  1. “Feeling Good”- Cy Grant/Muse

This cover is one of the best and under appreciated cover songs out there. It’s one of Muse’sbest-knownn songs and one that really displays Matt Bellamy’s hauntingly beautiful vocals. It manages to keep the spirit and the tone of the original, but it also adds this attitude and just a hint of darkness that can make the song unnerving and creepy at times. What’s even more interesting is the bridge when Bellamy pulls out the megaphone and continues to sing. At times he sounds like he’s speaking gibberish, at others he sounds like a sweet angel. Maybe the song is so amazing because it’s one that Bellamy has admitted he wish he wrote himself.

  1. “I Will Always Love You”- Dolly Parton/Whitney Houston

For the longest time I had no idea that this was a cover song. If anything it sounds like it was written just for Whitney Houston. The original can’t even stand up to this one. While this version manages to keep the same tone and mood of the first version, Houston’s voice is so beautiful and power that it makes it more intense. The part that always gives me chills is when the music stops, the boom of the drums come in, and Houston holds that note during the last chorus. She may have had her own demons to deal with later in her life, but it doesn’t change the fact that she had one of the best voices in music.

  1. “Where Did You Sleep Last Night”- Leadbelly/Nirvana

There is not one person who can really claim recording the first version of this song since it’s been around since the 1870s under different names. But the two most popular versions are by Leadbelly and Nirvana. This would be Cobain’s last televised performance and he made sure it was memorable. There is so much emotion in this song. You can feel the pain and anger when Cobain sings. You even get a hint of defeat when he lets out a heavy sigh before singing the last words. Just listening to him shriek out the lyrics is really haunting. This is the most powerful and gut wrenching Nirvana performance. It becomes eerie when thinking about how Cobain died a year later.

Bonus: “Psycho Killer”- Talking Heads/Cage The Elephant

This quirky song by legendary band Talking Head becomes even more chaotic and awesome when covered by Cage the Elephant who are not only crazy, but unpredictable and full of energy. And that’s exactly what they bring to their version. It’s really singer Matt Shultz who makes the song. His vocal style is unchained, raw, and unstable. The original is kind of subtle and quiet with hushed vocals, but Cage’s version is loud, in your face, and makes you wonder if one of the members actually is crazy enough to be a killer.

Incesticide- Nirvana

Release Year: 1992

Rating: 8/10

Incesticide is a collection of Nirvana B-sides and previously unreleased songs from the band’s early days. Their best work may not be on this album, but there are some great songs that would later end up in the band’s live set. Some of the songs include alternate versions of their hits “Polly” and “Been A Son” and covers of Devo and The Vaselines. The sound more represents that from their first album, but there are some impressive tracks nonetheless.

This album has a heavier sound, similar to the one found on Bleach. The guitars sound raw and the riffs are dirtier and harsher than on Nevermind. The album’s opening track “Dive,” has a slow infectious bass riff that feels and sounds heavy. It has such a slinky, dirty groove that makes you want to wiggle around. Kurt sounds intoxicated as he slurs “Pick me pick me, yeah” and his vocals constantly match the slow tempo of the song. It’s a great track that the band often played live and one of the best from this collection.

Another really awesome, yet strange song is “Hairspray Queen.” It begins with this weird bass riff that goes up and down throughout the whole song. It sounds like the music you would hear when having a bad case of gas. If anything it catches your attention. Kurt’s jarring, dancing guitar riff follows along with Chad’s thudding beat. The strangest part of the song has to be Kurt’s vocals. He strains his voice to a squeaking falsetto during the verse and then resumes to his normal voice for the chorus. Though the song sounds really disjointed and at times out of tune, it really grows on you and before you know it, it’ll be one of your favorites.

One of my personal favorite songs from here is “Aneurysm.” It has this racing intro that has the guitar ringing out as if a warning sign. It then goes into a more melodic riff that shows off Cobain’s guitar skills before the music is slowed down into a steady groove. This is a great example of the loud/quiet/loud technique Nirvana became known for. During the verses the song will go back and forth between playing the groove quietly and playing it louder by the end of the line. This is an infectious song from the stellar music to Cobain saying “Come on over, do the twist.” It’s probably the best song on this collection and another on the band would always play live. Interesting fact: it’s actually about Cobain’s ex-girlfriend Tobi Vail from Bikini Kill.

There are a couple of tracks on the album that aren’t exciting or interesting like the others. “Son of Gun,” a cover of a Vaselines’ track, has this great punk feeling and has great guitar work, but Kurt’s voice seems to fall flat here. He sounds uninterested and bored and it takes a toll on the listener. Another track “Big Long Now,” has this great dragging pace to it, but after a while it really drags the listener down and becomes dull. It doesn’t help that Kurt emphasizes this feeling with his slow, drawn out singing. It sort of picks up during the chorus as the music swells and Kurt begins to yell, but it’s not enough to make the song more interesting. It just really drains you in the worst way.

This is the most experimental album by Nirvana. Different sounds for the riffs are played with here, such as on “Molly Lips,” which has a bright, melodic guitar riff versus the heavy riff found on “Dive.” Kurt even plays around with his singing here. In some tracks like “Big Long Now,” he sings softly and slowly. In “Hairspray Queen,” he stretches out his voice high until the point where it sounds like his vocal chords are going to snap. And in “Molly’s Lips” he sounds sincere and even adds inflection in his voice. This song really shows off his vocal ability. It’s an interesting listen for fans to find out just how much Cobain could do with his voice.

Overall, this album gets 8/10. It may not have their best work, but it’s a great collection of early Nirvana tracks. It also provides an insight about the direction the band was going with their music and how much they experimented with different sounds in their early days. Their different influences are also more clear on this album, which is interesting for any fan who wants to know more about the band. Though all the songs may not be interesting, most of them are still awesome. The covers are good and most of the tracks are just stellar. This is definitely an album that every Nirvana fan should have.