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The 25 Best Neil Young Covers

on December 09, 2016, 2:00am
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“After the Gold Rush”

Artist: Thom Yorke
Originally On: After the Gold Rush (1970)

Though both singers are more often than not soaring above the proverbial clouds, their vocals straddling the otherwise thick lines between anthemic and whiny, rarely are the two compared. For most, it takes hearing Thom Yorke’s reverential cover of Young’s “After the Goldrush”, live from the 2002 Bridge School Benefit, to really elucidate the similarities. Bringing in just enough Yorkian melodrama to split the difference, the Radiohead frontman nervously plays a personal hero’s song on the instrument it was written on, with its writer watching from the sidelines. -Drew Litowitz



Artist: Phish
Originally On: Tonight’s the Night (1975)

Most Phish songs, even their slower ballads, exude positivity. All the more reason Young’s haunting ballad is a rare moment of sparse desolation in the otherwise exuberant Phish live experience. In hindsight, “Albuquerque” seems to have been an indication of how dark things were starting to get for Phish. You get the sense that guitarist Trey Anastasio, just before a decade that would include a band breakup and a battle with drug addiction, really meant it when he sang, “I’ve been starving to be alone.” –Jake Cohen


“Broken Arrow”

Artist: Wilco
Originally On: Buffalo Springfield Again (1967)

One way to nail a cover song is to imitate to perfection. “Our whole angle with learning that was to do it as exact as possible,” explained drummer Glen Kotche. Wilco’s spot-on take of “Broken Arrow” first debuted at the MusiCares Tribute to Neil Young, complete with the “Mr. Soul” false start, the “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” organ riff, and the eerie jazz piano outro, honors Young’s Buffalo Springfield opus while exposing what now seems like an obvious inspiration behind the disjointed, aching world of Yankee Hotel Foxtrot–Jon Bernstein


“Cortez the Killer”

Artist: Slint
Originally On: Zuma (1975)

Many have taken a stab at the epic scope of “Cortez the Killer”, but few have the dark muscle of post-rock godfathers Slint. Captured in a Chicago set in 1989, vocalist Brian McMahan’s unaffected, cracking voice carries the intensity, and Dave Pajo’s churning guitar licks burn the edges. The smoky intensity of the then soon-to-come Spiderland is on fine display here, and the whole thing culminates in a fittingly feedbacky fade. –Adam Kivel


“Cinnamon Girl”

Artist: Smashing Pumpkins
Originally On: Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere (1969)

Back in the late ’80s, just as they were kicking up dust in The Windy City, the Smashing Pumpkins gave Neil Young’s thunderous classic a shot during a session at Chicago’s Reel Time Studios. Sans the denim jacket, Billy Corgan channels Young’s raspy twang and spins out an anthemic solo towards the end, the likes of which would be all over Crazy Horse’s sets around the same time — after all, they held the original trademarks in distortion. –Michael Roffman


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