Top Covers Of All Time
By Jake Vigliotti
I have an old cassette tape of a radio performance by Ben Folds Five. The interviewer asked, ďWhat songs do you cover? You know, you can tell a lot about a band by what they cover.Ē So what can you tell about the Dave Matthews Band by their covers? Theyíre a jazz band? Funk? Jam? Or just plain rock-and-roll? Because when it comes to songs that DMB does, there is no limit to their arsenal.
The best thing about a song covered by DMB is the little twist they put on it. They really strive to make it their own. This is why I had a major problem with Dave and Friends. They didnít really change any song they covered. Take out the Some Devil songs, and they were something youíd see on a Tuesday night in any college town; a bunch of guys in their 40ís doing 70ís songs just like they used to be done.
But DMB is not DaF. Well, except Dave. And Tim. But let us not let a few facts get in the way of a good rip on the 2003 side band experiment. DMB has done a lot of covers; and the vast majority they make their own. And theyíve yet to produce a stinker on the Madonna level. All the covers they do are good, but some are just better than others. And everyone loves lists. So we created a list based on the following criteria:
- *Quality of song covered This is a two-fold category. Some songs simply do not need to be redone because the original was awesome. Unless of course you can really do something completely different. Some songs donít need to be redone because, well, they work better when The Chipmunks do it (I know, thatís not really The Chipmunks. Just go with it). But if you can take a good song and make it great, or take an annoying song and make it tolerable, well, that my friends is a gift.
- 10. Sledghammer Itís quite the work of genius to take one of the most annoying songs (and and videos) from the 1980ís and make it bring the awesome. But DMB did that. And really, spare me the Peter Gabriel praise emails; Dave sings this song better than ole Pete does, and the song sounds a lot better as DMBís version.
- 9. Burning Down The House I do admit to some Talking Heads bias, but let us not forget that the subtle changes DMB brought to an otherwise strong song are stellar. The inclusion of Rashawn Ross on lead vocal to mimic David Byrne works perfectly. And the DMB version, in its sped-up form and abrupt end (as opposed to the original) gives the song a sense of panic to it. Which works.
- 8. Good Times Bad Times From the very first lick in Atlantic City, you knew the song was going to be nasty. Again, utilizing the versatile Rashawn Ross to mimic Robert Plantís pitch (with Dave providing the low register on the chorus) smacks it out of the park. Even though this song is the least altered from its original, youíve been waiting for DMB to take a shot at a Led Zeppelin, and they even managed to do one that Zeppelin actually wrote themselves. (Thanks to Cracked for the lead)
- 7. Angel From Montgomery Boyd Tinsley sings it. And it is fantastic. As not too much was done to Good Times Bad Times, the alteration to John Prineís original are, wellÖ umÖ a lot. And itís the only song that DMB performs where there are different singers in the different set ups; Boyd as youíve seen, and Dave in acoustic set ups.
- 6. Cortez The Killer The song has always been a Jam, and DMB has kept up the tradition. As in that video, they often bring in Warren Haynes on it, but have also preformed it with Neil Young. Itís also a song that anyone with two hands and at least 8 fingers can learn to play. Itís been a fan favorite since its DMB debut in 2000, and who really cares if the song isnít exactly a history lesson, itís still a great cover.
- 5. If I Had A Boat If you havenít figured out youíre going to get thrown a curveball when you read a list from Antsmarching.org yet, then welcome to your first column! The song has only been performed at a Dave and Tim setting, but oh is it nice. The original Lyle Lovett version is a country tune, and thereís nothing wrong with that. But it does not have that ďpopĒ that Dave and Tim deliver. The song is quite brilliant and as of this column does not have an official release, but we can all hold out hope for either a Dave and Tim 1999 release, or for this rare cover to make a return.
- 4. For The Beauty Of Wynona He is no longer the most covered artist by DMB (thanks to a recent love affair with Neil Young), but there is no denying that Daniel Lanois is an excellent song writer. DMB covered their first Lanois song, The Maker, back in 1991. But itís this little beauty that is a nice hidden gem. As in that video (with old caterer Mitch Rutman), the band has used it to utilize a ripping guitar solo from a guest. And unlike the other entries in our list, DMB actually slows it down a bit from the original. I wonder if DMB could bring this one back? Hey, doesnít DMB have a rippiní guitarist now that could tear up a solo in this one? Whereís the Twitter campaign for The Beauty Of Wynona?
- 3. Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard To this day, at every show, youíll hear some fan scream ďMe and Julio!Ē Itís the Potvin Sucks of the DMB community. Yet there probably isnít a single person reading this who has actually seen DMB, by themselves, play it. The last performance was with original singer Paul Simon at a very impromptu performance at Jazz Fest in 2001. Dave teased it (mainly as a joke) in 1996, but other than that, you have to go back all the way to 1992 to find it in rotation. Again, the original is nice, and how can you go wrong with that music video? Biz Markie, Big Daddy Kane, Spud Webb, John Madden, and Mickey Mantle batting lefty against the lefty Paul Simon (and taking him yard) all in cameos! But the DMB version, almost in a hoe-down style with Roi tearing it up is why the fans yell for it. No doubt Jeff could do the same to it. (note: Thatís the only one on youtube, and thatís not Carter on drums, thatís the late Miguel Valdez on bongos from 1992. If you can find it, 11.17.92 is the crown jewel).
- 2. All Along The Watchtower Itís been played over 650 times through 2010 that we know of, and is in the top 15 of all-time plays by the band. Itís such a concert staple that itís easy to forget that it is a Bob Dylan original.
Exodus In the giant world of covers, this is probably the best improvement to an original song since Soft Cell redid
Tainted Love. And itís not that the Bob Marley version is bad, itís just that it doesnít pack the punch that Dave Matthews Band gives it. And thatís not even the best version, itís just one I found on youtube (find some 1994 versions for perfection). The song only as 25 known plays (and zero since 2007), but it was the first song Dave ever sang live (with TR3 at C&O in 1989
), and the earliest live recording we have of Dave singing (with TR3 again). To say itís underplayed is an understatement. Hopefully, the best cover song version they do will make it back into rotation soon.
Note: Weíre not counting performances where the actual singer of a song performed with DMB as the background band. So despite the great versions of Sex Machine and Take Me To The River, weíre discounting them.
Just MissedÖ ABC (which shows the bandís versatility) and Good Morning Good Morning (which even John Lennon thought was Ēa piece of garbageĒ, yet Dave turned in a supreme performance).
But itís easy to mistake this as a Jimi Hendrix original. Which people still do, and regardless of what DMB does to it, their original version or a more recent incarnation, the song will always be associated with Jimi. Itís not fair to DMB, but thatís life. And throw in the fact that itís played so often that other artists perform it in DMBís style, itís easy to forget itís not. So weíll move it down a notch from the top spot.
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