Anyone who’s ever had a subscription to Rolling Stone will probably tell you that the “best” classic rock covers include Ike & Tina Turner’s version of “Proud Mary” (originally by Creedence Clearwater Revival); The Jimi Hendrix Experience’s blistering take on “All Along the Watchtower” (originally by Bob Dylan); The Byrds’ spin on “Mr. Tambourine Man” (also by Dylan); and Santana’s smoldering “Black Magic Woman” (originally by Fleetwood Mac). And, for the most part, they’d be right (insomuch as one can be “right” about something so purely subjective). That said, I decided to dig a little deeper, and put together this list of covers that I think do justice to the original, while either approaching it from a different perspective, or simply making it their own.
10. “Wild Horses” (The Rolling Stones) – Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello
In 2001, Country Music Television (CMT) debuted CMT Crossroads, with the idea of pairing a country artist with a rock artist. The show’s first pairing – Lucinda Williams and Elvis Costello – knocked it outta the park; especially on this song that co-writer Keith Richards has said “was about the usual thing of not wanting to be on the road, being a million miles from where you want to be.” Some people will tell you that The Sundays’ version is the one to hear (and it’s indubitably gorgeous), but this genre-spanning version by country powerhouse Williams and elder punk-new wave statesman Costello is pretty damned special.
9. “Because the Night” (Patti Smith) – Bruce Springsteen
Not actually a cover, per se, as Springsteen had already written the melody and chorus, and had set it aside, when Jimmy Iovine (who was engineering Springsteen’s album, while producing Patti Smith’s, in a studio down the hall) suggested that he proffer the then-discarded song to Smith. As for the song’s longevity and popularity, Springsteen happily lays the credit at Smith’s door. But, as you’ll see in the video, they don’t call Bruce ‘The Boss’ for nothing, and he owns it.
8. “Paint It Black” (The Rolling Stones) – Grace Potter and The Nocturnals
With her Flying V guitar, skillful ivory-tickling, fabulous stage-presence, seemingly boundless energy, and a captivating voice born to sign blues-rock; you’d think that Grace Potter was a solo artist. And she is, now. But, before striking out on her own, the Vermont-native fronted Grace Potter and The Nocturnals, a fabulous indie band that toured with jam-bands and on the music-festival circuit. Their take on Jagger and Richards’ sitar-laced discourse on depression builds with all the frenzy of a whirling dervish, until the final chords erupt, leaving you spent and sated.
7. “Landslide” (Fleetwood Mac) – Antony
Oscar-nominated singer/songwriter Anohni possesses a haunting vibrato that washes over listeners like the sonic equivalent of a Seconal followed by a chaser of Johnnie Walker Blue. In 2012, Anohni (then recording as "Antony") was recruited by producers Randall Poster and Gelya Robb, to sing the oft-covered Stevie Nicks-penned “Landslide” on their 17-track Just Tell Me That You Want Me: A Tribute to Fleetwood Mac. A stand-out (even alongside tracks by Marianne Faithfull, The Kills, MGMT, and ZZ Top’s Billy Gibson), her “Landslide” conveys melancholy, longing, regret, fear, and ultimately, resignation. If, by the time the song reaches its conclusion, you don’t feel the need to reach for a Kleenex, then you’re probably inhuman and made of stone.
[Continued in Part 2]
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