Deb stole my all-time favorite Springsteen cover in her recent roundup of covers, the first in our series. I’ve gone through phases of being so obsessed with Mary Chapin Carpenter’s “Dancing in the Dark” that I’ve almost forgotten what the original sounded like. She really makes the song her own and finds something in it that the listener may have missed in the original.
That’s generally my #1 criterion for a good cover, actually. I love it when an artist can take a song written by somebody else and, instead of just replicating the original, do something different with it and take the listener to a place they’ve never been with that song before. It can be jarring, especially if the original song is very familiar – but sometimes it’s good to be shaken up a bit, yes?
Rage Against the Machine, “The Ghost of Tom Joad”: Rage certainly shakes up this song. Their version originally came out in 1997, a good number of years before Tom Morello joined Bruce on stage to play this song with him for the first time. We’d only heard “Joad” as an acoustic folk song until these guys got hold of it and I remember being fairly shocked the first time I heard it. Love it or hate it (I love it), they definitely found a new angle on the song.
Melissa McClelland, “Factory”: Another fairly radical cover that I love. This comes from her album Stranded in Suburbia; I couldn’t find the song in video or streaming form anywhere but you can at least preview it over at Amazon (and buy the mp3 for a buck if you like it).
The Band, “Atlantic City”: This is such a great song in part because it works in so many different arrangements – electric, acoustic, country, folk, rock, solo, E Street, Sessions Band – heck, Bruce probably has a hip-hop version tucked away somewhere. The Band recorded their brilliant take on it on their album “Jericho” – here’s a lovely live rendition.
Amy Ray, “Racing in the Street”: I am a longtime Indigo Girls fan, and I especially adore Amy Ray’s voice. She manages a tough-but-tender tone that works perfectly on this rare solo performance of “Racing.”
Eddie Vedder, “One Step Up”: Speaking of voices, Eddie Vedder. I always enjoy his Springsteen covers, but for some reason this very early recording just hits the sweet spot for me. It’s not by any stretch a radical re-envisioning, but this voice singing that song… yeah.
And like Deb, a bonus cheat – also a duet:
Melissa Etheridge, “Thunder Road”: I am a big big fan of Etheridge’s early work, and you gotta love how clearly giddy she is to be singing this song with one of her (and our) heroes.