Jul 18 2008

The 17 Greatest Cover Songs Ever (and the 3 Worst)

1. All Along the Watchtower — Jimi Hendrix

Originally performed by Bob Dylan

Jimi blazes through multiple guitar solos on this cut, but it’s the main solo – played in three parts with an echoplex, wah pedal, and rolling double-stops — that seals his top spot on this list. It’s arguably Jimi’s finest moment, not to mention one the greatest guitar solos of all time. Bob who?

Jimi Hendrix Bob Dylan
All Along the Watchtower

2. Bitches Ain’t S**t — Ben Folds

Originally performed by Dr. Dre

Yeah, the lyrics are about as horribly misogynistic as you can get, but NWA and their alumni have inspired some amazing cover songs (see Dynamite Hack’s cover of Boyz N tha Hood or Nina Gordon’s Straight Outta Compton). And when Ben Folds and his piano do a tongue-in-cheek take on Bitches Ain’t S**t they set a standard even Dr. Dre’s original couldn’t compare to.

Folds used to perform it live until he got tired of fans shouting dirty lyrics at him while he was out with his kids. If you only watch one YouTube video today, make sure you check out this (possibly NSFW) cover — without question the second greatest cover song of all time. And that’s some real conversation for your ass.

3. You Really Got Me — Van Halen

Originally performed by The Kinks

Taking a heavy song and making it even heavier, Van Halen’s cover of You Really Got Me became their first hit single. Not coincidentally, this was also The Kinks’ first hit single 14 years earlier, and launched both bands’ decades-long careers.

While 17-year-old Dave Davies had to slash his cheap Elpico amp’s speakers with razor blades to get that killer distorted sound, Van Halen could rely on a wall of Marshalls to power this song’s enormous (but incredibly simple) riff.

4. Hallelujah — Jeff Buckley

Originally performed by Leonard Cohen

Without question Jeff Buckley’s finest hour, which is really saying something for this trebly gifted singer, guitarist, and songwriter — a complete musical package if there ever was one. Buckley’s delicate waterfall of guitar notes and his haunting and ethereal vocal performance made this an instant classic.

Buckley actually based his version on a cover that John Cale did, so this is really a cover of a cover. The Cohen original with drums and backing choir is great too, but pales by comparison to what Buckley achieved with just his voice and guitar.

Jeff Buckley Leonard Cohen

5. Twist & Shout — The Beatles

Originally performed by The Isley Brothers

Originally recorded by The Top Notes, it was The Isley Brothers who first had a major hit with this song. But the Beatles made it even huger when they decided to cover it on a whim after a 12-hour non-stop recording session. Raw throats and exhaustion led to John Lennon’s famous “shredded vocal cords” performance. Ever the consummate professionals, The Beatles nailed it in one take.

6. Easy (Like Sunday Morning) — Faith No More

Originally performed by The Commodores

Faith No More stuck closely to the Lionel Ritchie original, except for Big Sick Ugly Jim Martin’s big, sick, ugly, and beautiful distorted guitar solo, which was covered in more fuzz than the man himself. This cover shot to number 3 in the UK charts, and has even been featured in Levi’s commercials.

Faith No More The Commodores
Easy (Like Sunday Morning)

7. Live and Let Die — Guns N’ Roses

Originally performed by Wings

Paul McCartney wrote and performed this song for the James Bond film of the same name. Years later, in a bid to make up for their lethargic cover of Dylan’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door, Guns and Roses took Macca’s hit to another level, with Slash’s guitar interweaving perfectly with the song’s orchestral parts, and the late Shannon Hoon of Blind Melon performing on backup vocals.

8. The Man Who Sold The World — Nirvana

Originally performed by David Bowie

Nirvana’s acoustic cover of this classic is so amazing that most kids don’t know Bowie wrote it. When he whips it out live, a big part of the audience are actually stoked to see the old guy covering Nirvana.

Both feature the distorted single-note line over a strummed acoustic guitar, but Bowie’s version is much “spacier”, with heavily processed vocals and a slight rumba vibe.

Nirvana David Bowie
The Man Who Sold The World

9. Smooth Criminal — Alien Ant Farm

Originally performed by Michael Jackson

Alien Ant farm didn’t do a whole lot more than just take the bass line from Jacko’s song and convert it into an uber-distorted guitar riff, but it’s such a cracking good riff that that was all that they needed for a monster hit.

10. Higher Ground — The Red Hot Chili Peppers

Originally performed by Stevie Wonder

The song that launched the Chili Peppers’ career, with Flea taking the clarinet/synthesizer intro and converting it into an insane slap bass line. The thrash guitar outro is a great touch too.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers Stevie Wonder
Higher Ground

11. Landslide — Smashing Pumpkins

Originally performed by Fleetwood Mac

Just Billy Corgan and his guitar are enough to create a lush orchestra of sound, but what we like best about this cover is that it takes the tricky tuning of the original and transposes it into simple open chords anyone can play.

12. Somewhere Over The Rainbow/What A Wonderful World — Israel Kamakawiwo’ole

Originally performed by Judy Garland/Louie Armstrong

Sure, he got a lot of the lyrics wrong, but the 750-pound Hawaiian and his ukulele created such a beautiful cover that no one really cared if he mangled the words. If you’re in the right mood, this song will bring tears to your eyes. We admit to getting a little choked up when it provided the backdrop for Dr. Greene’s demise on ER.

13. Hurt — Johnny Cash

Originally performed by Nine Inch Nails

Frankly, we’ve always found both Johnny Cash and Nine Inch Nails to be dead boring. But we know Internet geeks adore Trent Reznor, so we’re including this song just to avoid the brawl that will take place in the comments if we left it out.

14. Got The Time — Anthrax

Originally performed by Joe Jackson

Being just out of puberty at the time, we had never even heard of Joe Jackson when this Anthrax cover came out. All we knew was we loved Anthrax and this song kicked major ass. The opening bass line alone was enough to get us pogo-ing around our parents living rooms like maniacs (“2, 3, Go!…”).

15. It’s My Life — No Doubt

Originally performed by Talk Talk

Mark Hollis and Talk Talk do a great job on the original, creating probably one of the 80’s greatest songs. But the production on the No Doubt version is so much crisper, and we can’t help feeling this song was always meant to be sung by a girl. But really, both versions kick all kinds of ass.

16, Take Me to the River — Talking Heads

Originally performed by Al Green

The Talking Heads cover is a bit wackier than Al Green’s, and their rendition of this song in the concert video Stop Making Sense is one of the all time great live music performances. But neither version can really hold a candle to the one performed by Big Mouth Billy Bass.

17. Sweet Dreams — Marilyn Manson

Originally performed by The Eurythmics

The FreakMeister General has some great covers to his name, and it was a tossup between this and Soft Cell’s Tainted Love. Sweet Dreams won out just because the Goth Gangster schtick Manson sported in the Tainted Love video seemed a bit forced. Girls were hot, though.

Plus, John 5’s translation of Sweet Dreams’ main synthesizer riff to heavy guitar is a work of art.

…And the 3 Worst Cover Songs of All Time

3. I Love Rock ‘n’ Roll — Britney Spears

Originally performed by Joan Jett

Joan Jett’s version is actually a cover itself, but it took Britney Spears to destroy it completely. Thudding and distorted hip-hop bass, pointless DJ scribbling, and whining vocals create the beginning of the end for Britney. No wonder she went a bit squirrely after this.

2. Faith — Limp Bizkit

Originally performed by George Michael

Despite having a pretty decent guitar player, we always felt that Limp Bizkit represented the worst aspects of the worst musical genre (nu metal) in the worst musical era (1998-2002) in the history of mankind. Added up, what’s that make Limp Bizkit’s cover of George Michael’s Faith? Pure, unmitigated crap, that’s what. A big steaming bowl of it.

1. You Shook Me All Night Long — Celine Dion, Anastacia, Meredith Brooks

Originally performed by AC/DC

We never watch VH1, but we somehow managed to channel surf into this abomination one evening and were immediately consumed with the overwhelming urge to gouge out our eyes with a ice cream scoop and shove them into our ears.

The gratuitous over-singing! The air guitar! The Celine-freaking-Dion! Not to mention the thinly-disguised lyrics about muff-diving. It’s enough to make us beg for the sweet relief of a sinking cruise liner in the middle of the frozen atlantic. Watch it if you dare, but don’t say we didn’t warn you.

Jul 10 2008

ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 Guitar Review

ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 Guitar

While the ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 is fully capable of a wide range of tones and playing styles, at heart this is really a metal guitar, especially well-suited to progressive metal and hardcore.

In fact, in this price range, you could make a very convincing argument that the ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 is THE metal guitar. This thing is extremely sweet, capable of a devastating crunch and some of the best metal tones we’ve heard. We played ours through a Marshall half-stack and were blown away by both the lead and rhythm tones the EC-1000 and its EMG pickups provided.

You get Genuine EMG 81/60 pickups (same ones James Hetfeild uses) on all the models except the amber sunburst model, which comes with Seymour Duncan JB/59s. EMGs are some of the best metal pickups around, so if you’re partial to that heavy EMG sound then you’ll want to avoid the amber sunburst.

The 81s at the bridge provide a bright, clear tone perfect for shredding and metal solos, with nearly endless sustain and effortless pinch harmonics. And the 60s at the neck provide the ideal thickness and crunch for metal rhythm.

Check out the following sweep-picking video to get an idea of what this guitar is capable of lead-wise:

The EMGs are active pickups, so they’re capable of huge gain, but they also require a battery to power them. The battery is extremely long-lasting and easy to change, but you should familiarize yourself as to where it is and how to change it so you don’t find yourself with a low pickup battery mid-gig.

Our copy had perfect action right out of the box, with 24 extra jumbo frets adorned with abalone flags and a beautiful vintage black finish. The TonePros locking bridge and tailpiece and Sperzel locking tuners make sure the tuning stays rock-solid, even in extreme drop-tunings.

For 840 sheets, this guitar is an amazing deal, And for metalheads, this is exactly what the doctor ordered. You simply cannot find a finer metal guitar than the ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 in this price range.

ESP LTD Deluxe EC-1000 Guitar

Jul 8 2008

Daniel Owen – Fastest Guitarist Ever?

Meet Daniel Owen – Speed Demon. Not sure if he’s the fastest ever, but he ain’t no slouch. If you haven’t seen this video, be sure to check it out. Most of the time his fingers are a blur…

Jul 8 2008

Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass Review

Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass

First things first: the Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass is hands-down quite possibly the best bass guitar for the player on a budget.

It handles all playing styles admirably, from funk to country, but really excels at heavier modern rock and metal playing. Even for players who are able to spend more money on their instuments, the Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass is one of the best rock basses available.

Let’s start with the tone: thick and dark yet well-defined, this bass sounds amazing both picked and fingerstyle thanks to the 2 TB-Plus humbucker pickups. While these humbuckers are capable of generating a massive rock sound, the pickup covers prevent the strings from coming in contact with the poles, resulting in an tight and clear slapped sound as well.

The rosewood fretboard is comfortable to play, and the thin neck (a 1.73″ nut width) makes it easy to get around quickly. And even though the Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass is one of the larger basses, it’s still not very heavy and its unique shape makes it a breeze to play sitting down.

The classic Thunderbird shape makes this bass stand out visually, but you will need a specially-designed case, as it won’t fit correctly in most Fender-style bass cases. That’s a small gripe for a bass this amazing, but something to keep in mind.

Like we said, this bass handles all playing styles extremely well, but to get an idea of how it performs in the heavier side of things, check it out being played in this cover of Muse’s Supermassive Black Hole:

Overall, you get an extremely high-quality bass for your money, with features and tone usually reserved for much more expensive basses. In fact, the only difference we can see between this bass and its costly Gibson counterpart is that the Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass has a bolt-on neck and is slightly heavier.

Musician’s Friend is selling them for just $299.99, and they’re currently one of the best-selling basses online. At that price, it’s no wonder.

Epiphone Thunderbird IV Bass

Jul 8 2008

Marshall MG100HDFX/MG412 Half-Stack Review

The Marshall MG100HDFX/MG412 Half-Stack is Marshall’s most affordable half-stack amp. Smaller than a full-stack, it’s still capable of driving that killer tone and legendary Marshall feel. With 100W of power and a cab that handles 120 watts, this Marshall halfstack is fully gig-capable and perfect for practicing at home.

Marshall MG100HDFX/MG412 Half-Stack

The most surprising thing about the Marshall MG100HDFX/MG412 Half-Stack is that, even though it’s a solid state amp, it can still drive that big Marshall tone and Marshall tube feel.

Marshall uses their exclusive FDD (Frequency Dependent Damping) technology to achieve highly accurate tube emulation, resulting in the heavy crunching rhythm and singing lead tone you’ve come to expect from Marshall tube amps. Sure, Marshall tube amps will always be considered the real Marshalls, but when we put this half-stack through the paces, we found it compared very favorably to our Marshall tube rig — and at a fraction of the price.

This emulation also means that you get a great digital effects package built right into the amp, including reverb, delay, chorus, and flange, all footswitch-controllable. That feature alone will save you a small fortune on pedals. And, like most Marshalls, there are two footswitchable channels (clean and overdrive), each with their own controls. You also get Contour knob that lets you easily dial up that ever-popular “scooped” Marshall sound.

The Clean channel has two modes: Clean and Crunch. Crunch mode will get you a nice heavy-blues overdrive, while Clean is crisp and clean, even at high volumes. The Overdrive channel also has two settings: OD1 and OD2. OD1 has that classic Marshall tube amp sound, while OD2 delivers a more modern metal-style overdrive. However, if you’re after that extremely heavy distortion favored by many curent metal bands, then you’ll want to complement this amp with a pedal like the Boss ML-2 Metal Core Distortion Pedal.

To get an idea of how the Marshall MG100HDFX/MG412 Half-Stack sounds, check out this cover of Black Sabbath’s Paranoid using this exact amp:

If you’re looking for that big Marshall tone at a suprisingly affordable price, then the Marshall MG100HDFX/MG412 Half-Stack is an excellent choice. Musician’s Friend is selling them for just $599.99, and it’s currently one of their top-selling amps. No surprise there, because at a price like that, this amp is extremely hard to beat.

Jul 2 2008

Billy Corgan Signature Stratocaster Just Released

Billy Corgan White Stratocaster Fender’s Artist Series has just launched the Billy Corgan Signature Strat, joining Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, John Mayer, Jeff Beck, Mark Knopfler, Buddy Guy, Yngwie Malmsteen and Stevie Ray Vaughan in the echelon of artists honored with their own Fender Stratocaster guitar model.

Some might say better late than never, as Billy’s career peaked about 12 years ago, but hardcore Smashing Pumpkins fans (your humble author included) will be eager to get their hands on a quality Strat that allows them to duplicate that signature high-gain Pumpkins sound. Couple it with a Marshall stack and a Fender Blender pedal, and you’ll be on your way to Pumpkin heaven.

Fender has some great detailed photos on their site, and there’s a few quick reviews on Premier Guitar and Electric Guitar Review as well.

Detailed specs include…

  • Heavy alder body
  • Modern C shape maple neck
  • DiMarzio Billy Corgan Signature single-spaced humbucking pickups (neck and bridge) and a DiMarzio Chopper middle pickup.
  • String-through hardtail bridge
  • 22 jumbo frets and a maple fretboard (9.5 radius)
  • Satin nitrocellulose lacquer finish
  • Olympic White finish with black pickguard or Flat Black finish with white pickguard
  • ’70s style large headstock and logo

The list price is $1599 but if you shop around you can find it for as low as $1199.

Billy Corgan rocking out!

Jul 2 2008

Fret Dreams Has Launched!

Welcome to FretDreams.com, a site dedicated to honest reviews of the top guitars, basses, amps and effects.

The site is still a little bare-bones right now, but we’re working on lots of great content to be released soon.

In the meantime, if you’ve got a piece of musical equipment you’re thinking about purchasing and would like to see reviewed, let us know in this posts comments and we’ll look into giving it a test drive.


The Fret Dreams Team