Is covering Nick Drake a good idea?

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Mar 4 2009, 2:36

Cover songs generally don't improve much on the original, unless they are a major reinterpretation, like the Ike & Tina Turner version of Proud Mary.

And when the original performer is so perfect, the chances of improvement are slim. The best can be hoped for is that at least it will introduce someone who has not heard the original to the song and lead them back to the source.

I first learned of Nick Drake through a cover version of Pink Moon by Walt Mink, a band from Minnesota that never quite made it outside that state. They did three different versions (one on a single with a b-side of Free to Be... You and Me.

Anyway, their version let me to listen to Nick Drake's version, and while Walt Mink rocked the song well, it can't compare to the original. I don't remember what Sebadoh's version of Pink Moon sounds like.

River Man seems to have lent itself to some interesting interpretations. Jazz pianist/vocalist Andy Bey croons .River Man huskily. Shawn Lee's trip-hop take on River Man seems kind of by-the numbers. The son/father tag team music bloggers at the deep and essential music blog Breath of Life have far more to say about various versions of this song, including these two covers, and they make me realize I need to check out Brad Mehldau

A few years ago at a KUSF record swap, I picked up a "limited edition" CD of Elton John demos, including the 10 tracks he recorded for Drake producer Joe Boyd's Witchseason productions. The Nick Drake tracks are Day Is Done, Saturday Sun, Time Has Told Me, and Way to Blue. Elton John consistently over-souls the vocals and funkifies the rhythms, and the arrangements make Drake's timeless songs sound dated. It seems doubtful that these demos would convince A&R people to have the songs recorded. In the demos, Elton also covers The Incredible String Band and songs by John & Beverley Martyn (the bootleg has several wrong song titles and says "unknown" about the songwriters, and it looks like tagging problems are common on most scrobbles of these tracks on Last.fm.) Linda Thompson sings on some of the tracks. Last.fm lists the album as Nick Drake Sessions / 1968 Dick James Demos and it's the first ten tracks that are from the Witchseason demos - not listed, and also not on my bootleg, but listed in other sources, is a cover of This Moment, written by Mike Heron.
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  • yaniv297

    No, it's not a good idea at all. Drake had such a perfect and iconic voice. I can't imagine any other voice singing those songs.

    Giu 17 2009, 21:40
  • JohnnyMyles

    Only in your closet under the covers behind the clothing

    Lug 2 2009, 9:10
  • peterring

    Standards are meant to be covered, that's the proper reverence ... Lilac Wine, My Funny Valentine, My Favorite Things, Never Let Me Go, etc. etc. I like Andy Bey's cover of River Man, Antony Hegarty would be similar, a female voice like Madeleine Peyroux, Patricia Barber or Clara Engel would be worthwhile (OK, there are already a few female covers, I'd just like a contralto voice).

    Gen 23 2012, 0:00
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