When you hear the word “cover” what comes to mind? Is it a wedding band singing crowd favorites to fill a dance floor? Is it bad karaoke? One of the more unique ways to cover a song is, of course, to recreate it in a different genre. Think Johnny Cash‘s gorgeous rendition of the NIN classic “Hurt”, the tongue-in-cheek folk-rock cover of “Boyz in da Hood” by Dynamite Hack, or even The Fray‘s cover of Kanye West‘s “Heartless” (or American Idol winner Kris Allen’s version for that matter.) Sometimes, the cover song ends up being better or more popular than the original. Just look at this list of greatest cover songs and you’ll probably be surprised at how many of the covers you thought were the originals!
Well, what if you take not just one song, but rather an entire album and recreate it in a different genre? That is precisely what Easy Star Records has been up to. Take a look:
As mentioned above, in 2003 the Easy Star All-Stars released Dub Side of the Moon, a reggae tribute to Pink Floyd’s Dark Side of the Moon. It went on to become one of the most successful reggae albums of the 21st century and spent over 5 years on Billboard’s Top Reggae Chart. As if that wasn’t enough, they then tackled Radiohead’s OK Computer, putting out RadioDread, which spent 18 months on that same chart (and apparently earned some accolades from Radiohead themselves.) Notice anything that those two classic albums have in common? They are both considered (by some) to be concept albums.
Producer Michael Goldwasser, the musical wizard behind much of the All-Star magic says “We’ve focused on re-envisioning concept albums as reggae and it’s really important that the source material works as a whole and is not just a collection of songs. So, what better to take on next than the mother of all concept albums?” He was referring to the one and only Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. If it’s been a while, here’s an interesting breakdown of the songs. And for the real fanatics among you, a little album art history.
Obviously it takes balls to cover the Beatles, let alone the album considered to be one of the most influential and greatest albums of all time. And yet, in April of 2009, the All-Star’s put out Easy Star’s Lonely Hearts Dub Band. The album features a number of reggae and dub greats including Steel Pulse, Matisyahu, Luciano, and Steel Pulse, along with the usual suspects – the usual suspects being a collection of some of the finest reggae musicians in the New York area.
What immediately stands out about this album, upon first listen, is how accurately they were able to preserve the vibe of each song. Though each song has been deftly crafted into a vibrant new reggae interpretation of its original, you can almost picture the Beatles nodding their heads in approval in the background because the emotion is the same.
Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds – Frankie Paul’s haunting vocals and the psychedelic guitar and effects stand out, deliciously juxtaposed against the mellow dubbed out percussion and keys, giving this track a certain irresistible je ne sais quoi.
She’s Leaving Home – Singer Kirsty Rock’s mellifluous voice soars delicately above the more upbeat ska-infused high hat and brass section. The reggae style keys come and go, a couple of interesting instrumental breakdowns happen unexpectedly and overall the listener is left constantly wondering what’s next.
This album is unique to say the least. Check it out. And while you’re at it, follow the All-Stars on Twitter.