Covers are, for the most part, viewed with a sort of derision in the modern music music.
Often they showcase some laziness by the covering artist, but they on occasion they point to an artist that has run/is running out of steam and it is only the possibility of a good rearrangement that can salvage a reputation.
So it is with sadness that a number of credible artists have veered into cover album territory in the last few years in order to extend an already limping career for just a short while longer, while only doing a disservice to the already written music.
These performances are often just simple re-recording of already heard and well known songs.
Occasionally, there are wonderful experimentations within the genre – The Grey Album by Dangermouse is an example of taking two very famous albums (The Beatles’ White Album and Jay-Z’s Black Album) and creating a dedicated long playing mash-up that complimented the original material, rather than subtract from it.
Nouvelle Vague are another example of a duo that restructure the work of others, giving them a fresher appeal; often transforming post-punk and 80’s new wave material from the likes of The Clash or Joy Division to soft folk, French lounge pop or bossa nova.
One of the finest exponents of rearrangement is Sheffield blues musician Joe Cocker, whose 1969 cover of “With a Little Help from my Friends” by the Beatles steps out of the shadows of its Sgt. Peppers Lonely Hearts Club original and almost completely reinvents the piece – aided too by Cocker’s own manic performances (as seen below).
The live version below comes from Joe Cocker’s performance at Woodstock and shows the singer at the tip of the late 60’s hippie movement, before the sheer hell of early 70’s boredom rock set in.