Thursday 17 May 2018

Blue-in-Green:RADIO's Top Covers [#10-1]

Welcome to Part Five of Blue-in-Green:RADIO's countdown of our top 50 covers of all time.  We're selecting tracks from a broad range of musical styles including soul, jazz, funk and R&B with the only rule that these covers have had to have been recorded post-2000.

This is the final part of a 5 week series which we hope you’ve enjoyed.  Please feel free to review the complete list by checking out the past shows and posts from the links below, and let us know if you feel we missed out anything.

Part 1 [#50-41]
Part 2 [#40-31]
Part 3 [#30-21]
Part 4 [#20-11]

10. 'Magnolia' by Lee Fields & The Expressions (2014)
Originally performed by JJ Cale, 1971
‘Emma Jean’ could quite easily be referenced as Lee Fields’s magnum opus.  Named after his mother, the album is an exquisite piece of work and home to several incredible songs including ‘Stone Angel’ and this cover of JJ Cale’s ‘Magnolia’.  Originally a stripped-back, acoustic composition, the remake breathes new life into the track backed by the super-group of The Expressions.

9. 'Woo Hah!! Got You All in Check' by Setenta (2013)
Originally performed by Busta Rhymes, 1996
Undeniably the most unpredictable cover on this list comes from the French group Setenta, who tackled the seminal 90s Busta Rhymes track in their own Latin, Soul and Boogaloo style.  Released through Hot Casa Records, Setenta’s sophomore album, ‘Latin Piece of Soul’, also features a cover of Nirvana’s ‘Smells Like Teen Spirit’ but the Busta cover really needs to be heard to be believed.

8. 'Feeling Good' by Quantic Soul Orchestra featuring Alice Russell (2005)
Originally written for the musical ‘The Roar of the Greasepaint – The Smell of the Crowd’ by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, 1964
You can never really get enough of the pairing of Alice Russell and Quantic (and whichever guise he finds himself in in that moment).  For the Quantic Soul Orchestra album ‘Pushing On’, that dream combination is presented over five guest spots including this uplifting version of ‘Feeling Good’.

7. 'Think Twice' by Jay Dee featuring Dwele (2001)
Originally performed by Donald Byrd, 1974
The much-loved influential track by Donald Byrd sees an inspired revision by beloved hip-hop producer and DJ, J Dilla.  From his debut solo outing, and being the project to kick-off BBE Record’s Beat Generation series (‘Welcome to Detroit’), the awesome production of Mr Yancey is paired with the trumpeting talents of R&B vocalist, Dwele, who smoothly substitutes for Byrd.

6. 'For Free' by Jonah Levine Collective (2017)
Originally performed by Kendrick Lamar, 2015
The debut project from trombonist Jonah Levine (and his collective), ‘Attention Deficit’, was one of the great early projects from Alpha Pup/World Galaxy.  Its elegant approach to classic styles whilst still being progressive made the project a real stand out for 2017.  And then there’s this track.  A genius reworking of Kendrick Lamar’s (and Terrace Martin’s) track that served as a two-minute interlude on ‘To Pimp A Butterfly’.  Albeit a powerhouse two minutes, here it finds the instrumental stretched out over five minutes.  A real gem.

5. 'Fall in Love' by Shola Adisa-Farrar & The Florian Pellissier Quintet (2016)
Originally performed by Slum Village, 2000
The collaborative project from Shola Adisa-Farrar and The Florian Pellissier Quintet – another release for Hot Casa Records – delivered an exceptional piece of work which featured a handful of covers including ‘Feeling Good’ and this cover of the J Dilla-produced Slum Village track.  Here Adisa-Farrar & Co. flesh out the original sample used for Slum Village’s hook, recreating it with a lush, jazzy backdrop.

4. 'Park Bench People' by Jose James (2008)
Originally performed by Freestyle Fellowship, 1993
The debut album from Jose James, ‘The Dreamer’, in 2008 was a wonderful snapshot of an emerging jazz artist inspired by the hip-hop of his generation as much as the jazz of the classics like John Coltrane.  ‘Park Bench People’ was the song that showed the magic James possess in combining these influences and presenting something wholly his own.

3. 'Be Still My Beating Heart' by The Randy Watson Experience featuring Nikki Jean (2006)
Originally performed by Sting, 1987
The production super-group comprising of Questlove and James Poyser have a strong number of songs attributed to their production alter-ego.  Remixes of songs by Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight rank among their catalogue, along with covers of Radiohead and Earth, Wind & Fire… and this mind-blowing cover of Sting’s ‘Be Still My Beating Heart’.  Featuring vocals by Nikki Jean, this hypnotic number will make you crave for a full-length project from the production duo.

2. 'Twice' by Robert Glasper Experiment [Questlove Remix] featuring Solange & The Roots (2012)
Originally performed by Little Dragon, 2007
There’s a real magic in this song by Little Dragon that fans and musicians have really resonated with.  And while artists including Marie Dahlstrom, NEXT Collective and Lianne La Havas have taken admirable stabs at the song, it’s the all-star line-up of Robert Glasper, The Roots, Solange and Larry Gold that propel the song into another stratosphere.  The song clocks in at around nine minutes but even if it had lasted another nine minutes, you’d be just as captivated by the end.

1. 'Afro Blue' by Melanie De Biasio (2017)
Originally composed by Mongo Santamaria, 1959; lyrics added by Oscar Brown, 1960
We’ll be forever grateful that lyrics were later added to Mongo Santamaria’s original jazz composition by Oscar Brown, because if they weren’t then this luxurious rendition of the classic would more than likely not exist.  Another song that has seen its fair share of covers (including the most famous recording of the song by John Coltrane), what Belgian jazz singer Melanie De Biasio does here completely reinvents the song: it’s haunting, it’s intimate, it’s like nothing you’ve heard before.  Taken from the album ‘Lilies’, this is a real piece of magic that stays with you even after repeated listens and despite being such a recent release, it’s secured the top spot of our favourite cover.

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