Cover Songs

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery...or so they say. This week on Sound Opinions Jim and Greg will discuss rock music’s form of imitation: the cover song. Tune in to hear the hosts’ picks for best cover songs, as well as some of yours. Then, they’ll review new cover albums from Patti Smith and Bryan Ferry.

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Best Cover Songs

In the age of karaoke and "American Idol," it's easy to forget how great a cover song can be. But, as Jim and Greg discuss, an artist's interpretation of someone else's song can often be better than the original. In those cases, the performer brings passion and a new spin to a song. During the course of the show, Jim and Greg run down their picks for best cover songs. (For an even longer list of noteworthy cover songs, go to the thread on the Sound Opinions Message Board.)


  • Isaac Hayes' cover of "By the Time I Get to Phoenix" by Jimmy Webb
  • Richard Thompson's cover of "Oops...I Did It Again," by Britney Spears
  • The Clash's cover of "Police On My Back," by The Equals
  • Tricky's cover of "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos") by Public Enemy


  • The Byrds' cover of "Mr. Tambourine Man" by Bob Dylan
  • John Cale's cover of "Hallelujah" by Leonard Cohen
  • Hüsker Dü's cover of "Eight Miles High," by The Byrds
  • The Kingsmen's cover of "Louie, Louie" by Richard Berry

Listeners’ Picks:

  • Ian: Bauhaus' cover of "Ziggy Stardust" by David Bowie
  • Scott: Johnny Cash's cover of "Personal Jesus" by Depeche Mode
  • Jim: Slayer's cover of "In A Gadda Da Vida" by Iron Butterfly
  • Christine: The Sundays' cover of "Wild Horses" by The Rolling Stones

The inspiration for this show’s theme came from the recent release of three new albums that all celebrate the art of the cover song. Jim and Greg take on all three to see how they fare on the Buy It, Burn It, Trash It rating system.

Dylanesque Bryan Ferry & Bob Dylan


First up is Dylanesque, Bryan Ferry's new collection of Bob Dylan  covers. Ferry is one of rock's quintessential cover artists, having brought his own spin to songs like "Jealous Guy" and "Like a Hurricane." In fact, Dylanesque is the former Roxy Music front man's fifth covers album. But, this time around, Jim and Greg don't think that Ferry fares as well. Greg explains that he isn't really taking the songs anywhere new, though he appreciates how Ferry has keyed into the strengths of Dylan's melodies. He gives it a Burn It. Jim was also disappointed in Dylanesque, but thinks that fans of Ferry should definitely Burn It.

Twelve Patti Smith


Patti Smith is another artist who is known for her ability to do a great cover song. Early on in her career she did successful rendition of songs like Van Morrison's "Gloria" and Bruce Springsteen's "Because the Night." Now she has a collection of cover songs called Twelve. Jim thinks there are many "interesting" covers on this album, but interesting doesn't necessarily mean good. Patti Smith is still a vital artist though, so Jim recommends listeners Burn It just to sample her versions of famous songs. Greg is also a big Patti Smith fan, so it pains him to say that most of the songs on Twelve are poor and predictable. He shocks Jim and Sound Opinions H.Q. with a Trash It rating.

A Tribute to Joni Mitchell Prince, Sufjan Stevens, James Taylor, Elvis Costello, Joni Mitchell & Caetano Veloso

A Tribute to Joni Mitchell

The last album up for review is A Tribute to Joni Mitchell. On this album, tracks penned by the famous songwriter are performed by Prince, Sufjan Stevens, James Taylor and Elvis Costello among them. Greg explains that Joni Mitchell is a difficult artist to cover, and with the exception of singers like Caetano Veloso, many of the artists on this tribute just simply aren't good enough to tackle her work. Jim agrees, noting that all of the artists on the album are on the Nonesuch roster. He predicts that the record would have been stronger if more obscure performers were chosen. Therefore A Tribute to Joni Mitchell gets two Burn Its.

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