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Re: Tribute Albums

Tribute Albums
June 24, 2020 08:29PM
I loved Ira's piece today! Some of these are in my collection of favorites (Dead Dog's Eyeball, Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye, I'm Your Fan, Sweet Relief tributes to Victoria Williams and Vic Chesnutt, Elektra's Rubaiyat, etc.). One that Ira didn't mention is the tribute to the Hollies on Eggbert Records, Sing Hollies in Reverse, which is debatably the greatest collection of 2nd/3rd wave power pop musicians in one place, ever. And it spotlights how good the Hollies' songs were, which is entirely the point. There are so many bad 1990s tribute CDs that it seems to be have been a marketing niche of entirely its own.
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Re: Tribute Albums
June 25, 2020 09:51AM
> There are so many bad 1990s tribute CDs that it seems to be have been a marketing niche of entirely its own.

True enough. Some musicians have made it their stock in trade. The recently deceased guitarist Bob Kulick was involved in literally dozens of tributes to different old-school metal artists.
Re: Tribute Albums
June 25, 2020 03:17PM
The Dead Kennedys tribute album Virus 100 has some good covers. No Means No's a cappella version of "Looking Forward to Death", Les Thugs' wall of sound "Moon Over Marin" and Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy "California Uber Alles" (with updated lyrics) are great.

Has anyone seen "Two Minutes to Late Night"? Apparently it is a comedy show that broadcasts from a bar, the novelty being they are a talk show that skews towards metal. The comedy isn't my thing but the music is pretty inventive. Invite indie metal musicians (I don't recognize most of them but I bet Michael Toland knows them all) and do cover versions of old rock chestnuts. With the lockdown, they retreated to their apartments and have put out some really awesome versions of Van Halen (with Shawna Potter from War on Women showing a surprising lighter side), Scandal (Potter acting even more goofy), Steely Dan, Weird Al, Springsteen (with Slipknot drummer Jay Weinberg, who is also Mighty Max's son, guesting) among others. But the best was Chelsea Wolfe guesting for Ozzy's Crazy Train.
Re: Tribute Albums
June 25, 2020 04:02PM

My favorite tribute album was the [as far as I know] first Johnny Cash tribute recorded when he still had about a decade left in him. This is one of my favorite tribute albums, ever. All of the performances are great and the whole project is tied together by a consistent backing band for every singer. This lent the project a real unity.

I bought this as soon as it was released largely for the appearances of the Voice of the Beehive sisters and Stephen Mallinder of Cab Volt. Having Pete Shelley and Marc Almond were also benefits even if I did not collect those artists with the fervor that I had for CV and VOB. I was only familiar with about half of these songs and singers, but it works very well as one of my favorite tribute albums ever, and one that was released far ahead of the deluge that would happen in the 90s, when tribute albums stopped having any meaning. That it was a benefit for the Terrence Higgins Trust was only further in its favor and fully keeping in the inclusive and positive spirit of the album’s subject.

I actually had bought a 7″ of the original “One Piece At A Time” in 1976 as the novelty tune became Johnny Cash’s biggest hit during a long dry period in the 1970s following his greatest period of fame. I was less convinced by the emergence of Michelle Shocked in the late 80s. Anyone who would put a photo of themselves being brutalized by police at a riot certainly had some issues that held me at arms length, but she stuck pretty close to the blueprint of the original song here, so I could at least enjoy it for that. As it turned out, all of these songs sounded not too far from the original Cash sound with only the delivery of the vocalists lending each track its distinction.

No voice is more distinct to me than the deep, insinuating tones of Stephen Mallinder of Cabaret Voltaire. This track was released a year before it all went pear-shaped for Cab Volt on the album “Groovy, Laidback, + Nasty,” so this stands as the last classic Mal track for a long time in my book! I would have never in a thousand years have imagined that I’d one day be hearing him sing a very reverent cover of the ultimate Johnny Cash classic, but it works for me like a fiend. What I would not give for an album of this sort of material from him.

Steve Mack was at this time the new American singer for That Petrol Emotion, whom I had not yet paid too much attention to yet. By the time that “Chemicrazy” was released, that would finally start to change, but his turn on the early Cash cut here is fine and was a good entrée to his style.

One artist that I had quite a bit of solo material from was Pete Shelley, who kept the “er” in his first name for this divergence far afield from the worlds of synth pop or pop-punk. Shelley’s vocal delivery never quite made a perfect fit with the genres that he had established himself with. What made those records striking was how out of place he sounded in those settings. Not so here! His tenor is exceptionally well-suited to country music and I have to say that like Mallinder, I’d have gone for a whole album like this from him.

Other singers who were perhaps just waiting for country music to swallow them up were Tracey + Melissa Beehive from VOB. Their honey-soaked vocals were only a hair’s breadth from marking them as country music queens to start with, so they fell into this early Cash classic with almost no effort being expended at all. Their harmonies were just lovely and this sits as my definitive version of this retelling of the story of the Arkansas flood that made a lasting impression on Cash as a child.

The one poor fit that manifested on this album, was having Mary Mary of Gaye Bikers On Acid tackling the novelty tune “Boy Named Sue.” The song was already fairly campy and Mary Mary shreds the accelerator on the floorboard of restraint, lending the song a heavy-handed delivery that lay there inert. Besides, if they needed more Grebo on this album, they would have done well to have gotten Clint Mansell of PWEI instead, who brought more intriguing subtlety [relatively speaking] to their cover efforts.

There would be other Johnny Cash tribute albums in the years to come. Primarily at the time when the singer’s fading health coupled with his straightforward albums of material with Rick Rubin had raised his profile considerably at the end of his life. But those tribute albums are just the sort of tony or exploitative tribute albums that give the whole exercise a bad name. Better that efforts like this are out there to redeem the not completely unworthy notion of a tribute album.

Former TP subscriber [81, 82, 83, 84]

For further rumination on the Fresh New Sound of Yesterday®
Re: Tribute Albums
June 27, 2020 01:14PM
I can't recall if it was a tribute but I had an album at one time called the Blasting Concept Volume II. The Minutemen (I think) cover VH Aint Talking bout Love. I think the Meat Puppets were on it as well, it was a curious lot of tunes. I need to look that up.
Re: Tribute Albums
July 06, 2020 06:09PM
Ciao My Shining Star: The Songs of Mark Mulcahy is probably the most-listened to of the ones I own.
Spare Shells gets a mention for the title and the most I have on the one artist is 3 different Clash ones, although 2 are a Volume 1 and Volume 2 affair from some Uncut magazine.
Re: Tribute Albums
July 08, 2020 10:03AM
My favorite tribute CD is the 2002 compilation, "For a Few Guitars More," which features fantastic covers of Ennio Morricone's spaghetti western themes. The disc was released by the Croatian label Dancing Bear, and is highly recommended to anyone interested in the Maestro.
Re: Tribute Albums
July 08, 2020 12:05PM
Thanks, Middle C, I'm listening now! This is good stuff. I don't recognize the names of any of these artists, but no matter. These are fun renditions of these songs.
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Re: Tribute Albums
July 08, 2020 12:16PM
I can only remember listening to two tribute albums in my life. One was Endless Highway: The Music of the Band. The standout was My Morning Jacket's rendition of "It Makes No Difference." But looking over the track list now, I remember some surprisingly good versions by Death Cab for Cutie and Jakob Dylan.

The other was one I owned on cassette, Conmemorativo: A Tribute To Gram Parsons. I was visiting a friend in El Paso and found it in a convenience store. (Incidentally, the fact that I found this cassette there is one of the reasons why I never pass up an opportunity to look at the music sold in any store...never know what you will find.) Anyway, there was another Parsons tribute album out around the same time that had more high-profile artists, but I never heard that one. The highlight on my cassette was The Mekons doing "$1,000 Wedding."
Re: Tribute Albums
July 09, 2020 11:29AM
I've listened to so many over the years. The Vic Chesnutt Sweet Relief I always felt was better than the original Victoria Williams. My fave is probably either Schoolhouse Rock Rocks! or Virus 100 because of L7, NoMeansNo and Faith No More. Can we forget that there were '90s tributes to Rumours, Carole King and the like? Those were just godawful.
Re: Tribute Albums
July 09, 2020 07:14PM
As a rule, I don’t really seek out tribute albums. Nothing against them, I guess they never spoke to me. Not to say I couldn’t fall in love with them.

It did feel like they churned them out in the 90’s ...as if they were striking while the iron was hot and a cold front was predicted.

Oddly enough, I’ve had a surprising number of people try to convince that the greatest cover song of all time was Toad the Wet Sprocket’s version of “Rock n Roll all night” from the ‘kiss my ass’ tribute album.
Re: Tribute Albums
July 09, 2020 11:27PM
It is a shame that Hal Willner won't be organizing any more tribute albums. He let the musicians take some mighty absurd swings (which didn't always pan out) but his ear was in the right place, seeking musical cross-pollination. Who else would've "totally tricked" The Replacements into recording Cruella De Ville for a Disney tribute, interpreted Mingus by way of Harry Partch instruments or allowed David Thomas (clip below) to release his inner Uncle Dave Macon?

Re: Tribute Albums
July 10, 2020 11:54AM
Well, Willner did finish the T. Rex tribute album before he died, which Ira talks about in the column that lead to this thread.

My first tribute album was a cassette of Willner's Kurt Weill tribute Lost in the Stars (mainly because of who was on it - the concept of a tribute album was a mystery to me at the time), plucked from a bargain bin for a buck or two. Followed it up with the Disney tribute. I've always been disappointed with tribute albums ever since, frankly - most of them simply don't have the imagination or verve of Willner's.
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Re: Tribute Albums
July 10, 2020 10:54AM
Another one that I didn't see mentioned here is the Neil Young tribute album The Bridge, which I believe was intended as a fundraiser for a school for special-needs kids (including Neil's son). I can't remember all that much of what was on it, other than Sonic Youth doing a song from Trans.
Re: Tribute Albums
July 10, 2020 11:50AM
That one's a big favorite for me. It also has a great version of "Helpless" from Nick Cave, Loop and Soul Asylum kicking ass on "Cinnamon Girl" and "Barstoll Blues," respectively, the Pixies making "Winterlong" sound like they wrote it, the Flaming Lips doing a typically spacy "After the Goldrush," and Dinosaur Jr. happily decimating "Lotta Love." Plus some weirder shit like Psychic TV doing "Only Love Can Break Your Heart" and Bongwater doing "Mr. Soul."

There was another, double disk tribute called This Note's For You Too on a European label, and it's got its moments, like Steve Wynn doing "Time Fades Away." But most of the takes are pretty straightforward, and it's just not as interesting, especially at two disks.
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