Wild Horses: everyone covers the Rolling Stones

I love covers. My iPod holds hundreds of them. Wild Horses being among my favourite songs, there should be no surprise it’s covered several times over. I thought I’d share a few of them with you…and a new one shared with me just this morning.

This first one …Mmm… a deliciously intimate live performance featuring Alicia Keys’ silkily husky voice playing off Adam Levine’s high-pitched nasal twang. The gentle, soothing acoustic intrumentation of guitar and piano just lulls you into a warm, gentle place of longing.

I’m not sure there’s a better songwriter alive today than Dave Matthews. He’s got a huge catalogue of music, one that’s expanded by a long list of exquisite covers. His live renditions of Jimi Hendrix’s All Along the Watchtower are flat out epic. Interesting that I hadn’t heard this Wild Horses cover until this morning, after posting a couple of the others here on FB. (Thanks Trevor!) Among Matthews’ greatest talents is arranging a variety of instruments into a song. Perhaps this is in part due to the quality of the instrumentalists he brings into the mix? I don’t know, but there’s always something interesting going on instrumentally with anything he produces, and this performance is no exception.

This live rendering has been attributed variously to Jewel, Charlotte Martin, Tori Amos and Chantal Kreviazuk. I’m certain it’s Kreviazuk’s powerful voice that just crushes this song. A very simple but potent interplay of piano and strong, clear vocal … I’d have loved to have been in the room for this one. She soars, and the lyrics soar with her. A Candian, btw.

My favourite? I’m sticking with this one. Back before iPods I’d load up my CD changer with six discs and throw it on shuffle. The Sundays’ first album, Reading, Writing and Arithmetic pretty much lived there…the songs from it would mix fluidly with just about anything.

There’s a bright, upbeat, hopeful quality and tempo to David Gavurin’s acoustic guitar that’s matched and exceeded by Harriet Wheeler’s true, clear, plaintive voice. That’s true for the rendition of this song as well. And yet…the song remains a lament, a loss, a lost hope for an unlikely change of heart.

Are any of these any better than the Stones? Hmmm… Maybe not. Especially this rendition. Mick and Keith have had a looong time to work all the details out on this one…they know more about it than anyone else. In 1995 they got together for an unplugged album, Stripped.

Are any of these your favourite? Have you got another cover you’d like to share?

4 Responses to “Wild Horses: everyone covers the Rolling Stones”

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  1. Gary says:

    Better late than never, just read this post, agree, a great song. One of their best ballads. Like you, Patrick, I enjoy listening to covers. I like how diff artists interpret a song, see something in it that perhaps the writers did not, and so give the song a diff slant. To me, a good cover has to be respectful to the original. Why cover a song if you are merely going to mock it? There’s a ‘youth-oriented’ radio station down here called ‘Triple J’ and they have a show called, ‘Like a Version’, in which young bands cover songs put to them. I’ve not heard many as I don’t listen to the radio but the ones I have heard often seem to make fun of the songs rather than to pay respect to them. The thing is, most of these young musicians would never ever write anything remotely as good as the song they are covering. Getting back to Wild Horses, it’s hard to beat the Stone’s original. Mick really outdid himself on this version.

  2. Patrick says:

    Mocking: bad. But I don’t mind when a cover looks for something entirely new in a song. (Listening to Annie Lennox cover Whiter Shade of Pale, and it’s a bit of a departure.

    But I really love it when someone turns a song on its head. Take Bullet With Butterfly Wings, for example.

    Frida Snell’s cover completely changes the tempo and emotional energy of the song. The Smashing Pumpkins original is about anger, violence, that loud, raucous rage. Snell comes in and says, “What about the silent scream?” And so, her song is all about angst, ache, the silent scream, the tightly bundled rage without outlet.

    Most Smashing Pumpkins fans absolutely hate the cover. Personally, I prefer it. That may have something to do with hearing the cover first. But, I think it also has something to do with having come through a period of that kind of silent screaming rage myself the previous year. Snell’s rendition got me.

  3. Gary says:

    Yes, with you on this one. I love a cover which reworks the original. There are many examples of this. Recently I’ve listened to Pearl Jam’s and Rage Against the Machine’s reworking of Bruce Springsteen songs, and while I’m ambivalent about them, I can see where the bands are coming from. While they change the songs considerably, they respect the song and pay homage to it. A mocking version is like the one that Aussie singer did with Psycho Killer…she should be so lucky to write one remotely as good.

    BTW, I enjoy reading he comments on Youtube. Some of them I find very moving, others very knowledgeable. It’s like they are members of my tribe.


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