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Tracks of 2014: Under the Covers

Our look back at the best tracks of the year continues with some of the year’s best cover versions.

Brownout - The Wizard “Brown Sabbath”, eh? An, erm, interesting idea: a latin funk outfit covering one of metal’s sacred cornerstones. But a good song is a good song in any genre, as this horn-honking, staccato hammering of Ozzy and co proves.

Chuck Billy - Thriller A metal tribute album to Michael Jackson was another questionable idea, but the schlock horror theme of this Jacko classic at least lends itself to a doomy, mud-caked revamp. It isn’t remotely subtle, but what did you expect from the supersized Testament frontman?

Brent Hinds - Ain’t No Sunshine The Mastodon frontman threw fans a curveball with his album of covers, what with most of them coming from genres a fair way from home territory. But this version of the Bill Withers classic shows you can turn a great, emotionally resonant voice to pretty much anything.

Rascal Flatts - Kickstart My Heart The squeaky clean country pop outfit gave this Motley Crue favourite a shiny Nashville treatment, and it’s not quite the car crash you might have feared. They even throw in a bit of banjo fret-shredding at the end. Good attitude.

Thunder - Long Train Runnin’ (Live) Danny Bowes’ formidable pipes are well-equipped to tackle this Doobie Brothers classic, and when you listen to the vocal line you realise that with a different backing, it was always a hard rock song waiting to be sung.

The Winery Dogs - Stand His new band with Billy Sheehan and Mike Portnoy have already written some smart songs in their own right, but they evidently don’t mind ex-Poison man Richie Kotzen delving into his personal back catalogue, a highlight of which is this self-empowerment anthem.

Blues Pills - Elements And Things Tony Joe White’s singer-songwriter original from 1969 always had a touch of trippiness about it, and that’s what these psychedelically inclined Swedes tap into on a feisty Jefferson Airplane-style reading of it.

Alejandro Escovedo - We Used To Be Friends This Dandy Warhols single seems a left-field choice of cover for the Chicano country-punk veteran, but he repurposes the cool, sarky original with a sense of wounded yearning that’s entirely his own.

Scott Bradlee & Postmodern Jukebox - Sweet Child O’ Mine Postmodern Jukebox specialise in New Orleans-style big band jazz reworkings of popular classics, and the impressive blues voice of Miche Braden really helps to light up this horn-wailing Dixieland number.

Me First & The Gimme Gimmes - Straight Up As part of an album devoted to songs made famous by female vocalists, these cover specialists take Paula Abdul’s kittenish ‘80s hit and reshape it effortlessly into a thundering, speed-addled mosher.

Johnny is a regular contributor to Prog and Classic Rock magazines, both online and in print. Johnny is a highly experienced and versatile music writer whose tastes range from prog and hard rock to R’n’B, funk, folk and blues. He has written about music professionally for 30 years, surviving the Britpop wars at the NME in the 90s (under the hard-to-shake teenage nickname Johnny Cigarettes) before branching out to newspapers such as The Guardian and The Independent and magazines such as Uncut, Record Collector and, of course, Prog and Classic Rock