Covers are generally a double-edged sword in that they either come out brilliantly or horribly (usually the latter, unfortunately). This week, I figured I’d share some of the former, so here’s six “Outstanding Covers of Amazing Songs.”
“Ring of Fire”
Original: Johnny Cash – youtube.com
Cover: Social Disortion – youtube.com
Social Distortion has always had a bit of country (true country, not the new country-rock crap infusion we have now) influence in their songwriting. When the band decided to pay tribute to one of their heroes, Johnny Cash, the result was this wonderful pairing of the relentlessness of punk and the soul of country.
“Love Reign O’er Me”
Original: The Who – youtube.com
Cover: Pearl Jam – youtube.com
I’ve always thought that “Love Reign O’er Me” was one of The Who’s strongest songs. However, I also wondered what it would sound like with a lead singer whose voice was more raw than Roger Daltrey’s. The answer to my question came in the form of Eddie Vedder, who really brings out the pain in the song along with Pearl Jam playing the hell out of it behind him. When listening, stick around for Vedder’s last scream, which sounds like his very soul is being ripped apart.
Original: Simon & Garfunkel – youtube.com
Cover: The Lemonheads – youtube.com
Who would have thought that a punk version of a Simon & Garfunkel classic could work? Apparently, The Lemonheads did. This cover makes this list not only for being awesome, but also for introducing a whole new generation to the brilliance of Simon & Garfunkel (myself included).
“Working Class Hero”
Original: John Lennon –youtube.com
Cover: Green Day – youtube.com
This is one of those covers that sounds like a questionable idea on paper. I adore Green Day, but musical subtlety is not often their strong suit. Somewhat surprisingly, they absolutely nailed the tone of Lennon’s ode to the (sometimes lamentable) life of the working class. Additional props go out to whoever decided to mix in a bit of Lennon’s original vocal at the end of the song, as it makes for a fitting tribute.
“Whiskey in the Jar”
Original: Thin Lizzy – youtube.com
Cover: Metallica – youtube.com
Metallica has proven over the years that they can cover almost any tune very well by maintaining the spirit of the original song while adding their own “metalness” to it. “Whiskey in the Jar” may be the best example of Metallica’s prowess, as it is an absolute blast to pump through a stereo. Note that although “Whiskey in the Jar” is actually a traditional irish folk song, Metallica clearly based their version on Thin Lizzy’s, so this may actually be considered a cover of a cover.
“The Ghost of Tom Joad”
Original: Bruce Springsteen – youtube.com
Cover: Rage Against the Machine – youtube,com
Bonus: Bruce with Tom Morello (the guitar solo may melt your brain): youtube.com
Sometimes a band puts so much effort into a cover that they almost make the song their very own. Rage did such an amazing job turning Bruce’s acoustic version into a metal blitzkrieg that a lot of people just assume that it’s a Rage original (including Chad Kroeger, when introducing Nickelback’s atrocious cover of the song live – video: youtube.com ).