Tagged: cover version

Suite For Ma Dukes – Stakes Is High (De La Soul Cover)

ma duke

This, as my friends back in Dublin would say, is for the day that’s in it.

De La Soul were the band that helped me truly fall in love with hip hop. 3 Feet High & Rising is a stone-cold classic. But then so are quite a few of their other work, including Stakes Is High, produced by the beat genius who was J Dilla.

This cover of that amazing track is taken from a fund-raising concert where Dilla’s amazing output was interpreted by an orchestra and a few of his old accomplices including, in the case of Stakes Is High, Posdnous of De La Soul (one of my favourite rappers, ever) and Talib Kweli.

You can see and hear the emotion in the crowd and on the stage and when the strings really lay into the sample of Ahmad Jamal’s Swahililand the hairs on the back of my neck stand up. Every time.

The Stakes Is High cover is an amazing version of an amazing song, and a fitting tribute to Dilla’s amazing talents and, of course, De La Soul’s fantastic output.

And so, as I wait for my free donwload link to arrive (and hope it will work when it arrives), I leave you with another charity tribute to Dilla (this time from Phife of A Tribe Called Quest) and an absolutely amazing radio show from just after he died. Peace.


There’s Still Nothing Like This

It must be terrible to be thought of by millions of people as a one-hit wonder if you’re actually an artist who has had a long and varied career with artistic highlights and influential fans in high places, yet been unable to turn any of those things into mainstream success. If, in other words, you’re Omar.

His breakout hit, and most famous tune, There’s Nothing Like This, was released on Gilles Peterson’s era defining Talkin’ Loud  label and was, and is, an acid jazz standard. Since then he’s released numerous great pieces of music, including one of my favourite albums of the last decade, the brilliant Sing.

But, for most people Omar is probably still the guy who sang that song about ‘champagne wine’ back in the early 90s, even though he was even awarded an MBE in 2012 (probably the best thing that Cameron’s mob have done since coming to power) and despite the fact that Stevie Wonder supposedly said this about him:

When I grow up I want to be Omar

Many musicians have become bitter about situations like this, even ones who have gone on to great success. We all know the bands who will wilfully refuse to play the song that most people want to see them perform (Radiohead and Creep is an old example that springs to mind). But Omar, in what strikes me as a signal of the sort of man he is has, instead, taken an opportunity to revisit his defining moment 20 years later and, if anything, perfected it.

It still sounds exactly like a lazy summer’s afternoon, but this time has more of a Spanish air, has a slightly more pensive air about it, a beautiful touch of brass and is, simply, beautiful. It is an inspiring and heart-warming slice of modern soul. 

Thom Yorke was bashing Spotify again this week, and maybe he has a point. But maybe it’s also the case that in the modern world where uniformity is prized over all, and the ability of mediums like radio to break new music is being crushed, we need the Spotify’s of this world to ensure we don’t run out of people like Omar.

Overall Omar highlights why we should all stop pandering to the Miley Cyrus’ and Sinead O’Connor’s of this world (they’re both looking for attention, just in different ways), stop side-lining music that doesn’t fit a money spinning formula and focus instead on spirit, talent and soul. All of which Omar has in abundance, which is why this record will probably not come within a million miles of the chart.



Tune Of The Day: David Bowie – Sound And Vision

I love cover versions.

I love advertising.

I love music in advertising.

But sometimes even a great creative strategy and a shit load of cash can’t beat the brilliance of an original.

In this instance, despite the fact that car company Lincoln have thrown a whole heap of money, an entire orchestra and Beck at their #HelloAgain campaign, it doesn’t come close to the simple magnificence of the original version of Sound And Vision by David Bowie.

Sorry, but it doesn’t.

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If you do want a great cover version of Sound And Vision, I would recommend that you take a listen to the version put together by the boys of Franz Ferdinand, along with Girls Aloud, for a Radio 1 tribute album a few years ago.

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Tune Of The Day: Faith No More – Easy (Commodores Cover)

Because today’s Sunday.

Because it was a totally left-field cover for Faith No More, probably the biggest alternative rock band around when they released it (the Red Hot Chili Peppers of their day, even though the Chilis were around at the time.)

Because the original version of Easy, by Lionel Richie’s Commodores, was used in an ad for a bank in the 80s (below) which made me want to live in a loft, with a cat. Quite possibly the only cool bank ad ever made.

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BADBADNOTGOOD – Flashing Lights (Kanye Cover)

So, last Saturday saw Gilles Peterson’s first show on the wonderful 6Music, and it was great. Rambling, sprawling, diverse and, most importantly, oozing with a self-evident love of music, it covered everything from David Bowie to Paul Weller, Dr. John to Jamie xx, Quantic to Dinosaur L, and even a weird little cover of The Simpsons’ theme tune by someone called Dexter*.

There were quite a few stand-out tracks, including the aforementioned Something Better by Quantic & Alice Russell with Combo Barbaro, the prog-funk-rock of Dr John’s Getaway &  the hypnotic off-beat house of Well Wishers by Julio Bashmore. But the track that made the show for me, because it encapsulated everything I love about Gilles’ work, was the cover of Kanye West’s Flashing Lights.

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It’s hypnotic, it blends genres, it’s modern but with a firm nod to the past and BADBADNOTGOOD are a band that Gilles has supported tirelessly over the last year or so, as he does with so many great acts. And it also ticks my own personal box of being a cover version, albeit an instrumental one. It’s kind of like a Cinematic Orchestra for the noughties.

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Here’s hoping next week’s show will be as good. And the one after that. And the one after that, and the one after that, until, well, forever really.

*Gilles said he didn’t know anything more about this track but that “that’s what Google’s for” – unfortunately Google isn’t for this one.

Lights by Caleb Roenigk on flickr


DJ DSK & Mystro – I Know You Got Sole (Heaven) [Eric B & Rakim Cover)

I’ve written before about DJ DSK (AKA my old flatmate from Sydney, Nick). And I’ve written about Eric B. & Rakim before.

Well, now my Nick/DJ DSK has got together with a rapper called Mystro to do an homage to the Eric B. & Rakim classic I Know You Got Soul.

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It’s excellent in many ways, but particularly because it ticks so many of my own personal loves/obsessions.

  1. It’s a cover version
  2. It’s a cover version of a track that is, itself, famous for an amazing use of a sample (of Bobby Byrd’s epic track, which is also called I Know You Got Soul)
  3. I used to play the Bobby Byrd track back in the days when I used to DJ (if you can call playing good music badly DJing)
  4. It appears that the song is actually an ad, (in the style of the Nike track Classic by Kanye, KRS-One and a host of rap luminaries), for the sneaker-pimp heaven that is the trainer shop Sole Heaven

So, I Know You Got Sole (Heaven) ticks any number of my meme tickboxes.

And, on top of that, DJ DSK’s beats and scratching are great, Mystro’s lyrics are pretty amusing, referencing any number of classic trainers, and the video reminds me of a slightly strange version of the cult British movie Human Traffic.

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That ought to be enough reasons for anyone to like it, so why not download it now.

Air Jordan by Jon Rawlinson on flickr


Devlin – Town Called Malice (The Jam Cover)

I can’t decide whether I love or hate Devlin’s cover version of The Jam’s classic track Town Called Malice. As anyone who knows me, or has ever seen my last.fm profile will know, I think Paul Weller is an absolute genius, and one of the best British musicians of the last 30 years. In fact just one of the best musicians of the last 30 years from anywhere. I’m therefore a bit nervous of cover versions of his work, and one by a young British rapper, such as Devlin, isn’t one that I would imagine liking.

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It’s not even really a cover version, as he changed the lyrics (which were originally about  Weller’s home-town Woking, which was also the nearest town to where I grew-up and is, as the song suggested, what one might politely describe as a bit of a shit-hole. Devlin keeps the spirit of those lyrics, but moves them to modern-day Dagenham, another place that is unlikely to win the award of the prettiest place in England. He raps these new verses in a typically English shouty style, but has quite a pleasant voice when he signs a few bars towards the end.

So, what’s the final verdict on Devlin’s cover of Town Called Malice? I think it’s a positive one – it’s nice to see it being given a fresh sound, and good to know that Weller is still inspiring new music over 30 years since he was a young musician himself. And the great man obviously likes it as he asked Devlin to remix his recent track Fast Car, Slow Traffic. Which is crap. So let’s finish with the original version of Town Called Malice, still an amazing track, even now.

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Woking station by Mark Hilary on flickr