100 best covers: #76 Weezer “The weight”

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A year or two ago, a teenaged girl started a social media campaign on Twitter calling for American 90s alt-rock icons Weezer to cover Toto’s hit from the 1980s, “Africa.” Six months later, the band relented, releasing their almost note-perfect cover, and because of it, have seen something of a resurgence, scoring their first big hit since 2009. Of course, the success of this one-off cover inspired a whole side album to be released in tandem with an album of new material. That so-called “Teal album”, an album full of covers of 80s tunes (among others), was released electronically in January of this year and pressed to teal coloured vinyl for Record Store Day. This release got people wondering if it was all some big joke but I didn’t think so. Weezer has always been retro leaning, always having fun, and never one to shy away from recording covers. One such cover was included as a bonus track on the UK release of their 2008 album, one of their many self-titled long players, nicknamed for the cover’s colour, which in this case was Red.

Canadian-American rock collective, The Band, released the original version of “The weight” in 1968 as part of their classic album, “Music from the big pink”. It is considered by many to be one of the best, most influential rock songs ever recorded. It is by now looked at as a standard and has been covered so many times, by so many artists, that it might as well be as such. Thus, I won’t even bother asking my usual question of “which do you prefer?”, though I give you full permission to debate the issue in the comments section if you so choose.

As great as I feel the original is in this case, Weezer’s cover might have it beat in one category: that being, the length of the recording. I always felt the groove could’ve been played out much longer in the original and I imagine it must’ve been every time The Band performed it live. It just has that awesome jam vibe. Both Weezer’s and Travis’s cover (another version I quite enjoy and that you can check out here), seem to slow it down a beat and drag another 30 seconds or so out of it. The Weezer cover starts out sounding much like the original with the rough pull on the acoustic but then, the raunchy guitars kick in, replacing the rag-timey piano of the original, and the blues turns to rock.

Purists might sneer but I really like it. And that’s all I’m going to say about that.

The cover:

The original:

For the rest of the 100 best covers list, click here.

Best albums of 1988: The honourable mentions (aka #10 through #6)


Happy Thursday! And welcome back to my Throwback Thursday (#tbt) best albums series.

I know it’s been a while since the last of these but there’s good reason. If you look back at my sentiments at the time of my last series, you’ll see that I had this crazy idea of whipping through six of these things this year to catch up. Well, halfway through writing for this particular list, I hit a wall. I found the mission way too onerous and ambitious…. So I decided to take a break, take my time writing these posts, and enjoy them again. I’ve decided instead to choose years at random to do throughout future years and maybe even do some theme-based best albums lists. First, though, I wanted to share this particular list with you because I pushed through to finish it and it is a good one with a lot of important albums.

Our destination here is 1988, which is unbelievably just over thirty years ago now. I can’t really say it feels like yesterday because at the time, I was spanning my first and second years of high school. The problems of acne, getting braces, and math homework seem like another world ago. I had yet to hit my growth spurt, hadn’t yet started shaving, and I still hadn’t yet dipped my toes in the theatrical arts, something that would radically change my high school experience from then on out.

This is the second time we are touching down in the 1980s The last time we did so, I mentioned in the introductory post that I was still finding my way in the music world. The pop charts were king. AM radio and music video shows and countdowns, and whatever they played at the high school dances at which I was holding up walls. So yeah, a lot of the albums on this list were not even close to being on my radar back when they were released. In some cases, I came upon them a few years later, some of them took longer to take hold, but all of them are now staples in my collection and revered for their place in my musical education.

Yes, the ten albums in this list are all classics and I am going to kick things off with the first five below. And if you don’t know the trick by now, I will be featuring the top five, an album each Thursday, over the next five weeks. I hope you enjoy this trip back to 1988 with me.

#10 The Sugarcubes “Life’s too good”

Nowadays, we have the international sensations Sigur Rós and Of Monsters and Men but before The Sugarcubes hit the scene, we hadn’t heard much rock music from Iceland. The six-piece alternative outfit were made up of veterans of different music groups from the Reykjavik scene. They released three full-length albums in their four year existence, though none as impactful as their debut, “Life’s too good”. Admittedly, I didn’t first listen to the album until well after their former frontwoman, Björk, had established her solo career with her excellent first two records. However, I have grown to love the quirky, punk-inflected DIY rock of The Sugarcubes’ debut. And it doesn’t at all sound thirty years old.

Gateway tune: Birthday

#9 Erasure “The innocents”

Here is an album that I was definitely listening to in high school, though perhaps not as early as 1988. “The innocents” was Erasure’s third full-length album and first to hit the top 10 in the UK charts, spawning a number of hit singles. The duo of Vince Clark and Andy Bell took 80s synth pop and made a career out of getting people out on the club dance floors. I love many of their singles but this is the only one of their albums that I love all the way through. I am well aware that it could be nostalgia factor here, given that this is the first of theirs that I listened to after my friend John made a copy of it on cassette for me.

Gateway tune: Chains of love

#8 Billy Bragg “Worker’s playtime”

I got into Billy Bragg with the album after this one, 1991’s “Don’t try this at home”, during my final year of high school and only went back to discover this previous album a few years later, when one of my university housemates Meagan had it in her CD collection. “Don’t try this at home” is considered by many his attempt at pop but in 1988 Bragg was still mixing his prototypical protest songs with songs on love. He usually performs these songs live solo on stage with his electric guitar but on record, he had a full band with him, though the music is typically secondary to his words. “Workers playtime” is his third album and is chock full of classics and fan favourites like “Must I paint you a picture?”, “She’s got a new spell”, and the one below, “Waiting for the great leap forwards”.

Gateway tune: Waiting for the great leap forwards

#7 Jane’s Addiction “Nothing’s shocking”

Jane’s Addiction is another artist I was listening to by the end of high school, the introduction coming with the album following the one on this list, in this case, 1990’s “Ritual de lo Habitual”. In 1988, though, the quartet led by founding members Perry Farrell and Eric Avery, and including Dave Navarro and Stephen Perkins, were releasing their second album, their major label debut, “Nothing’s shocking”. Here, the group re-recorded a couple of tracks that appeared on their ‘live’ self-titled debut album and added some explosive new ones that mixed metal, surf, glam, funk, and punk. They were a hard-living group and it shows in the raw angst on so many of the songs here.

Gateway tune: Jane says

#6 Leonard Cohen “I’m your man”

I’m hoping that Canada’s singer/songwriter/poet, Leonard Cohen, needs no introduction to anyone that lands on these pages. His eighth studio album, “I’m your man”, was the first CD I owned by the influential lyricist, after being introduced to him by way of the appearance of “Everybody knows” a couple years later in the film “Pump up the volume”, a favourite of mine at the time. The production and instrumentation on this album definitely sound of its time but Cohen’s rich and deep vocals and excellent lyrics allow you to forgive him. So many great tracks, like the title track, “First we take manhattan”, and the aforementioned, “Everybody knows”. How could I not include this here?

Gateway tune: Everybody knows

Check back next Thursday for album #5 on this list. In the meantime, you can check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Vinyl love: The National “Boxer”

(Vinyl Love is a series of posts that quite simply lists, describes, and displays the pieces in my growing vinyl collection. You can bet that each record was given a spin during the drafting of each corresponding post.)

Artist: The National
Album Title: Boxer
Year released: 2007
Year reissued: 2011
Details: yellow

The skinny: The last post in this series featured the just purchased brand new album by The National, “I am easy to find”, and it’s been on regular rotation on the turntable ever since. The American alternative rock band has consistently put out excellent records, at least since I picked up on them. And the record that started it off for me was this one, “Boxer”, an album I ranked at number four for 2007 when I counted down that year’s best album many months ago now. In that same post, I talked about how I fed an MP3 version of the album through my stereo so that I could record it to cassette tape in order to listen to it in my car. Good times. Now I just spin it on my turntable in pretty pretty yellow.

Standout track: “Mistaken for strangers”