5 Cover tunes that rank with the originals

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Some of you may recall my post last year about original recordings that were better than their covers. Well now it's time to honor some covers that, at least by my way of thinking, rank right up there with the originals. Unfortunately, the floss is no longer allowed to include soundbites, so you'll have to go check these out on iTunes, or hit the YouTube vids provided. Of course, these are just some of my favorites. I'm sure you all have your own, and we'd love to hear about them in the comments below.

1. "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction"

originally written and recorded by The Rolling Stones, released as a single in 1965.

This tune has been covered by Britney Spears, Jimi Hendrix, Cat Power and Vanilla Ice, but the one I think beats out the original is by Devo and was produced by Brian Eno and released on their 1978 debut album Are We Not Men? A: We Are Devo! (They had actually released an earlier single of the cover, but the reworked version is better.) And by the way, if you're a Devo fan (and who isn't?) and haven't heard yet, the band is back! Check out their latest video over on their Web site.

 

2. "Unchained Melody"

originally written for the 1955 film, Unchained, with music by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret.

Todd Duncan was the first to record this classic, one of the most often covered songs penned in the last 100 years, with more than 500 versions in hundreds of languages. Les Baxter, Al Hibbler, Jimmy Young and Roy Hamilton all released versions in the next decade that topped the charts, but my favorite is the Phil Spector version, sung by the Righteous Brothers, released as a single in 1965.

3. "Rebel Rebel"

originally written and recorded by David Bowie, released in 1974 as a single on the album Diamond Dogs.

My problem with the original is that it just seems to run on a wee-bit too long, like Walt Whitman's beard, or commercials toward the end of an episode of Saturday Night Live. Other interesting covers include one by the Bay City Rollers and, believe it or not, Dead or Alive. But my favorite comes from the film The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou and was recorded by Brazilian musician and actor Seu Jorge, who sang all those great Portuguese versions on the soundtrack. This one is just the right length, and works against the grain.

4. "Hurt"

originally written by Trent Reznor and released on Nine Inch Nails' 1994 album The Downward Spiral.

When Nine Inch Nails opened for David Bowie, the year after Downward Spiral was released, Bowie sang "Hurt" in a duet with Reznor. But it was Johnny Cash who really made this song the classic that it is today, on his album, American IV: The Man Comes Around, released in 2002 and jam-packed with covers (another great one on this album is "Bridge Over Troubled Water" by Paul Simon). The recording went on to win awards and become the only entry he ever had on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks chart, where it hit #33 in 2003.

5. "Walk This Way"

originally released by Aerosmith as the second single from their 1975 album Toys in the Attic.

This was one of my favorite songs as a kid growing up in the "˜80s. First, in the late "˜70s, early "˜80s, we had the original version, which features that great drumbeat solo intro, which we all used to pound out on our air drums. And then in the mid "˜80s, we got the Run-D.M.C. cover released on the hip-hop trio's album Raising Hell. It, of course, features Steven Tyler and Joe Perry on the track (which helped re-cast Aerosmith as a group worth paying attention to), and was the first rap song to crack the top 5 of The Billboard Hot 100.

Check out past On Music posts here.

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July 22, 2009 - 4:29am
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