One of my favorite cover albums is Renegades by Rage Against the Machine. Without a doubt, Rage Against the Machine is one of the most influential bands of the 1990’s and Renegades is an album that simply cannot be ignored. It features Rage’s interpretation of music originally written and performed by a number of other prolific and influential artists. The album features covers of music by Cypress Hill, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Minor Threat, The Rolling Stones and others. Renegades unashamedly takes music from a number of genres and reinterprets them with Rage’s famous alternative rap metal sound. Within less than two months of its release, the album achieved platinum status.
While there are some songs that I don’t particularly like on the album (there are even some that outright make me uncomfortable for their grotesque use of language), there are songs on the album that I absolutely love. One of the songs that I enjoy is “The Ghost of Tom Joad”. The song was originally written by Bruce Springsteen and references the character Tom Joad from John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath. Considering Rage Against the Machine’s hyper political background, the decision to cover a song referencing this classic novel makes complete sense. It is worth noting that the cover also appears on Rage’s earlier album, titled Rage Against the Machine.
In general, what I like about covers is that they introduce music to an audience that might not hear it otherwise. For instance, the traditional american folk song “Where Did You Sleep Last Night” might have been long forgotten if it wasn’t for Lead Belly or Nirvana famously performing the tune. Another cover that brought music to a new audience was the 1991 Butthole Surfer’s cover of Donovan’s “Hurdy Gurdy Man”. The cover would later appear within the film Dumb and Dumber. While there’s certainly great things to be said about original albums, there’s also nothing wrong with a good cover album.