AC/DC recently released what is being hailed as their best album in nearly 30 years and, granted, the band sounds great but, when it comes to the success of the new material, the songs themselves, apart from the delightful “Rock and Roll Train” the band seems incapable of creating any new material that even verges on the best of their classic material. After mulling this over for a while, a thought occurred to me, while they are still a talented team of musicians that plays well together they seem to have run out of steam in terms of songwriting. So, why not do what so many other artists have done in the later stages of careers: the cover album! Many artists, from Rod Stewart to James Taylor who find their well of original material drying up, will often resort to an album composed entirely of the songs of others. This provides an interesting opportunity for the artist to display their talents as vocalist, musicians or arrangers without the burden of having to produce quality original material.
On the one hand, it may seem lazy (and the worst of these albums usually are) on the other hand, when done properly, it is an interesting opportunity to hear a great artist giving their unique take on an already great song. A while back on this blog, I listed Def Leppard’s Yeah! as one of my ‘most underrated’ albums. This, I think, is a great example of what a good covers album should sound like: a group of artists having fun playing music that they love, while still giving their own unique twists on the songs. In the case of Def Leppard, this meant covers of, often obscure, glam and 70’s rock tunes that the band members grew up on. For AC/DC, who at the end of the day are just a good ‘ol fashioned Rock N’ Roll/Boogie Woogie Blues band, I would suggest an album of early rock songs: imagine how great the band would sound tearing through “Jailhouse Rock” or classic Chuck Berry numbers like “Too Much Monkey Business”
This line of thought led me to a rather odd musical question that crosses my mind every now and again: What covers would you most like to hear (but probably never will)? That is, what is an artist/song pairing that seems absolutely perfect… or that you think would just be really interesting.
Here are some of my favorite ‘Imaginary Covers’:
Bruce Springsteen tackling Don McClean’s “American Pie”- Is there really any explanation necessary for this one? Who better than the great American Rock N’ Roll purist to cover this song that chronicles the history of the music he loves?
Queensryche doing Michael Jackson’s “Dirty Diana”- I don’t know how I ever came up with this one. Basically, the song is Jackson’s attempt a sort of sexy heavy metal song and I think Queensryche (a very underrated band in their own right) could pull it off; I also think Geoff Tate’s voice would be a great match for this one.
Johnny Cash Vs U2’s “Wake Up, Dead Man”- I cannot begin to describe how much I hope that somewhere, in that collection of three dozen or so songs that Rick Rubin has yet to release from his final sessions with ‘The Man In Black’, that there is his take on this woefully underrated U2 track from their equally underrated album ‘Pop’. This is mostly because I think hearing Cash deliver the opening line of the song (which I consider one of my favorite opening lines) “Jesus, Jesus help me, I’m alone in this world. And a fucked-up world it is too” in the deep but worn vocals of his final days would be a damn near transcendent experience.
Also, do you think any of these would actually be a good idea? Maybe some ideas for covers (like U2’s cover of “Instant Karma” that I mentioned last week) are best left exclusively to the imagination.