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I'm counting down 101 of my all-time favourite covers before packing this blog away in the attic.
Read my countdown preamble here.
The Dap-Kings Set
61. Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings - Just Dropped In (To See What Condition My Condition Was In) [originally by Mickey Newbury]
This of one of several instances where my introduction to what would become one of my favourite artists was through a cover song. Back in 2007, I headed down on a bus from Edmonton to check out the Calgary Folk Festival for the first time, mainly because the newly reunited Squirrel Nut Zippers were on the bill, but I was also intrigued because the festival organizers had also booked Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings. At the time I knew almost nothing about the band, but I recognized their name from their cover of Just Dropped In which, oddly enough, I had tracked down after becoming a fan of Supergrass's cover of the same song. Yes, cover love begetting further cover love. I was a full-fledged fan by the end of the festival, the last day of which they jammed with Bettye Lavette on a side stage before killing it on the Main stage. I've seen them at every opportunity I get (three more times) and they simply put on one of the best live shows you'll ever see.
60. Mark Ronson - Oh My God (featuring Lily Allen) [originally by Kaiser Chiefs]
I soon became acquainted with the Dap-Kings brief history and found out that not only did they provide horn backing on Amy Winehouse's Back to Black album, but they also collaborated with Mark Ronson on his Version cover album, which was quickly becoming my favourite cover album of '07. Even now, it's among my favourite all-time cover albums. I've become hyper-aware that I'm predisposed to liking almost any cover song that adds a horn section, so Mark Ronson's style of covers are right up my alley. Also, his "re-version" of Bob Dylan's Most Likely You Go Your Way (And I'll Go Mine) is brilliant and would be high on this list if it technically wasn't a remix.
59. Mark Ronson - Just (featuring Alex Greenwald & Sam Farrar of Phantom Planet) [originally by Radiohead]
A year before his Version even hit stores, Mark Ronson popped up on everyone's radar in the blogosphere with his masterful horn-infused reworking of Radiohead's Just for the tribute album Exit Music: Songs with Radio Heads. Once I heard he was working on a full cover album, it became one of my most anticipated releases. When Version finally did come out, it delivered on the promise of even more Ronsonized covers.
The Motown Set
58. The Flying Lizards - Money (That's What I Want) [originally by Barrett Strong]
I was surprised to learn this oddball cover was released in 1979 since it sounds like the sort of avant-garde indie cover that could have easily come out sometime in the past 10 years. Barrett Strong's original version was the very first hit for Berry Gordy Jr.'s Tamla Records in 1959, an early incarnation of Motown Records.
57. Gladys Knight & The Pips - I Heard It Through the Grapevine [originally by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong]
The timeline of the recording and release of this song is rather confusing. It was first recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles but this original version was vetoed by Berry Gordy Jr. and remained unreleased until many years later on a Motown compilation. Marvin Gaye recorded it next, but this was also not released immediately as apparently Gordy was apparently still unimpressed. Gladys Knight & The Pips recorded their version, which had been retooled in the style of Aretha Franklin's Respect (of course, itself a cover) and finally released as a single in September 1967. Then Berry reluctantly agreed to release Gaye's version a year later and it was, of course, a huge success and became Gaye's signature tune. Which brings us to a covers dilemma: which song is the "original"? I don't really have a proper answer to that, but in my gut this is a cover and it's my list, so there.
56. Ellen McIlwaine - Higher Ground [originally by Stevie Wonder]
I first discovered this on the compilation A Break From the Norm, which collected the original song sources that were sampled by Fatboy Slim (he used this in Song for Lindy). It's a unique tour-de-force of a cover by Ellen McIlwaine who plays a mean slide guitar and has a soulful expressive voice, which I've been privileged to witness live in concert twice. She has a playing and singing style that's all her own. This is one of the rare covers in my book that comes close to topping the original.
Tomorrow the Fong Songs 101 countdown continues with some Alt Rock and some TV Themes.