[Continued from Part 1]
BONUS: “Stairway to Heaven” (Led Zeppelin) – Mary J. Blige feat. Stevie Vai, Orianthi, Randy Jackson, and Travis Barker
Just narrowly missing a place on this countdown (as I only allowed one version of any song), is Mary J. Blige’s soulful rendition of Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” (the holiest of grails, in the pantheon of rock n’ roll covers). With Stevie Vai and Orianthi on guitar, Randy Jackson on bass, and Travis Barker on drums; this all-star Ron Fair-produced/arranged jam is tight and fierce. After listening, I’m sure you’ll agree that Blige (the only artist to win Grammys in Pop, R&B, Hip Hop, and Gospel) shall continue her reign as Queen of Hip Hop Soul for many years to come.
6. “White Rabbit” (Jefferson Airplane) – Pink
Half of the one-two punch (along with “Somebody to Love”) that cemented Jefferson Airplane’s Surrealistic Pillow as one of the greatest music legacies of the Summer of Love; the psychedelic sounds of “White Rabbit” will forever conjure thoughts of hallucinogens, the characters of Louis Carroll, and the munchies. And while I could carry-on about how Pink absolutely nails it; I’ll instead defer to Grace Slick, who said of the performance, "Pink sings with power, but it's something more. You sense that if she wanted to, she could open the throttle even more at any time. That coiled energy creates drama and catches the ear."
5. “Heroes” (David Bowie) – Peter Gabriel
Recorded during David Bowie’s Berlin period, the definitive performance of this song about love during the Cold War era (according to those in the know), was at 1985’s Live Aid concert. When Bowie passed, in 2016, the German government thanked him for “helping to bring down the Wall” (adding “you are now among Heroes”). Whereas Bowie’s version is noteworthy for the studio “trickery” used in production; Peter Gabriel’s version is orchestral, and doesn’t feature any guitars or synthesizers. Said Gabriel about the song, ““Heroes” for me, was always one of the great Bowie tracks. It is heroism in the face of oppression and desperation: It’s something triumphant, despite the desperate situation." As far as I’m concerned, they’re both heroes.
4. “Free Bird” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) – Phish feat. Wynonna Judd, Ronnie McCoury, and Sam Bush
Perhaps the most Southern-fried, swamp-rock anthem of all time, “Free Bird” is a monster track that invariably finds me flicking my Bic. And while I’m not about to extol the virtues of getting down in front of the Confederate flag (or drinking moonshine from a jug, for that matter), those hirsute good ole boys sure knew how to shred. Fast forward a few decades and Phish (everybody’s favorite jam band) welcomed country legend Wynonna Judd to join them – along with Ronnie McCoury on the mandolin, and Sam Bush on the fiddle. Judd (celebrating the one-year anniversary of her divorce settlement) lent her honeyed vocals to this well-known cover that the guys from Phish would’ve otherwise performed in the style of a barbershop quartet.
[Concluded in Part 3]
Get into it!