New Music for Old People: Covert Covers

By , Columnist

Tuck & Patti

These covers of original recordings that were pretty well known are not NEARLY as well known as the originals, but they have merit of some sort or they wouldn’t have stuck in my mind. I think in various ways they are all equal to their original counterparts and these versions contain careful planning and really interesting music. I hope you enjoy them and maybe you’ll meet some new friends you had no idea you would consider taking home. Give a listen...

Below is a jukebox containing all the songs I picked this week. After you read about them below, go back and listen to whatever you like by just clicking on that title in the jukebox, or stream the whole playlist by clicking on the "play" icon at the top. It's free and it's the entire song. We're not selling anything. We're just in the business of hopefully making your days better by listening to great music.

We apologize to our readers/listeners who are trying to enjoy the playlists via mobile devices like iPhones/iPads and are finding that they can't; these are, unfortunately, circumstances beyond our control. At present, Grooveshark is not compatible with those operating systems, and in order to stream the playlist, you will need to use a PC or Mac.

TMR1019 by Lisa on Grooveshark

1. "Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)" — The Isley Brothers (2:31)

Kim Weston did the original record on Motown and The Doobie Brothers pretty much aped her arrangement. But the Isley Brothers weren’t having ANY of that. In best Motown fashion, their sidemen play fantastic parts and set a tempo that reduces the original versions to plain old shuffles. When James Jamerson’s bass enters the mix, I defy you to sit still. This is some of the best stuff the Isleys did during their Motown residency in the mid-'60s. A GREAT opener...

2. "I Wanna Hold Your Hand" — Lakeside (4:36)

This is easily my favorite Beatles cover and pretty much unheard in the white community. It never crossed over and was released in 1982, just past Lakeside's '70s heyday in the R&B community. I believe this is the singles mix. There are three different mixes on the album this came from in 1981, but not this particular masterpiece. I always wanted to shove this down the throat of the guy who wrote a book that called the Beatles' music totally un-soulful. He also probably never heard Marvin Gaye’s version of “Yesterday.”

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3. "I Can See Clearly Now" — Holly Cole (3:00)

As Canadian jazz chanteuse Cole rounds the bend to 50 years old, it's good to single out some of her standout interpretations of other writers' songs. This was originally recorded by Johnny Nash and he had a top ten hit with it that helped Bob Marley get more of an earhold from U.S. listeners. Holly's version is well sung and arranged and ignores Nash's debut version. I especially like the piano playing, which my research tells me is by Aaron Davis. Hope you all enjoy this; it always sounds nice and fresh to me.

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4. "Sunshine of Your Love" — Rotary Connection (3:07)

I might have included this in an earlier column. Chess Records producer/arranger Charles Stepney showed off the vocalists Minnie Ripperton and Sidney Barnes and studio stalwarts guitarist Phil Upchurch and drummer Morris Jennings. I’m sure this must have made Jack Bruce ill for all the right reasons. An amazing version.

5. "Captain for Dark Mornings" — Tuck & Patti (3:39)

The lead-off track from Laura Nyro’s New York Tendaberry album of long ago was not as widely covered as some of her earlier material. What’s great about this is that Tuck studied Laura’s piano voicings and duped them as guitar parts that remain very faithful to her unique pianistics but show his guitar sound off quite well. Patti sings it well and their tribute to her is quite simplistic instrument-wise and yet totally successful. I’m a fan.

6. "Superstition" — Old School Freight Train (2:28)

This is a newgrass version of Stevie Wonder done quite well and the humor is not lost on me. The singer has a great voice and doesn’t country up the vocal at all. So I think this will put a smile on your face and a kick in your step. All in all, a great idea pulled off perfectly. These are musicians settled in Virginia.

7. "Calling You" — Al Kooper (4:08)

This song amazed me when I heard the original version by Jevetta Steele. It was in that great indie film Bagdad Cafe (1987). Then they used it for an AT&T commercial on TV as well. It’s a very original, extremely complicated composition and I set about recording it by myself as an exercise for my ears and hands. Unfortunately, I can’t remember how to play it anymore and I’m too old to relearn it. It took me about a month to record it, just learning all the little idiosyncrasies in it. I once chatted on the phone with the song's composer, Bob Telson, and it turns out he was a big Blues Project fan in high school. I hope he liked my homemade version — I was too spooked to ask him. It’s on my latest album, White Chocolate.

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Displaying his sartorial prowess, Al Kooper hopes to distract any critic disdainful of his 'alleged' vocal deficiencies...

8. "Your Move/Give Peace a Chance" — Robert Downey Jr. (3:32)

Right off the bat I was a Robert Downey Sr. fan growing up — he was an avant-garde film director and I enjoyed all his films, especially Greaser’s Palace and Putney Swope. So I HAD to investigate his son, who turned out to be an original actor and then later trotted out a very good first album. This is from that album and there are original songs by the lad that are quite good as well. I always liked the original Yes version of this but it’s just wonderful to hear what a great singer and musician he is as his freakin' HOBBY!

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9. "Aquarius" — The Undisputed Truth (2:18)

It’s tough to get it up for this tune 'cause the hit version was so bland. Sorry, Marilyn... But give it to the Motown session guys and suddenly it’s more than listenable. Other than the guitar and horn parts, my favorite thing was the drum kit laid out until the last 40 seconds. At MOTOWN? Historic...

10. "Money (That's What I Want)" — Secret Machines (5:10)

This is electronica from 2005. A band from Texas resettles in NYC (God knows where they lived!). This was originally a worldwide hit for singer-songwriter Barrett Strong and the first hit for Motown founder Berry Gordy on the Tamla label in 1959. Later in 1960 it was released on the Anna label distributed by Chess out of Chicago. The Secret Machines' version sounds NOTHING like the original, but we like that here at Covert Covers. This is extremely well done and probably paved the way for a few current bands. Did anyone NOT from Texas besides me hear this in 2005? Like the original record, I think this version is timeless as well. And what better title to end with in an election year?

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