Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Art of the Cover - VA "Rubáiyát: Elektra's 40th Anniversary" (1990)

A gorgeous piece of art adorns one of the ultimate collections of cover versions.

A wonderfully presented Box Set too, no less!

Yap, Rubáiyát, was released as a 4-LP/ 2-CD/ 2-cassette Box Set.

Rubáiyát is a compilation album, released to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Elektra record label. 

The unique premise was to feature present-day Elektra artists covering songs from the historic catalogue of recordings of Elektra Records and its sister label Asylum Records

Featuring some truly odd juxtapositions, a truly eclectic array of artists appear on this thing - with an even more electric selection of songs, resulting in some truly unique and wonderful interpretations.

An even better, limited-edition version was also released.

Yap, the expanded 4-disc Box Set "Rubaiyat: The Originals" contains not only the fine collection of covers but also the original recordings! 

Having been out of print a while, both versions of Rubáiyát are real rarities now, but they do crop up now and again on Amazon {see links!}


The Elektra label has a history of celebrating itself with various books and anthologies, but then, there’s a lot to celebrate. 

Started by a teenaged Jac Holzman in his dorm room in 1950, it grew into major label status while retaining an eclectic roster of musicians who were given the chance to spread their artistic wings, just as likely to reach pinnacles of cult fandom (Tim Buckley, Love) as pinnacles of worldwide success (the Doors, Queen).

In 1990's 40th anniversary release Rubáiyát by releasing Rubaiyat, rarely have such disparate musicians rubbed shoulders as they do on this release, whether on levels of dissimilarity (Tracy Chapman and Metallica – together again!) or familiarity (the Shaking Family were infinitesimally as well known as the Cure), but that was the point. Oddly, the juxtapositions really worked and what we get here - despite the odd hiccup - is some wonderful work.

Two long-running Elektra artists - Jackson Browne and The Cure - were featured in a double capacity. They were featured as performing artists (covering songs from Elektra's early canon) and were also represented by having songs that they had recorded for Elektra, covered by newer Elektra artists. Carly Simon was the only solo artist to have two songs covered on the collection while the Eagles were the only group to share that distinction.

The Rubaiyat cover that ultimately received the most attention would have to be the Gipsy Kings’ wild version of the Eagles’ “Hotel California,” thanks to its inclusion in The Big Lebowski years later. That’s not to dismiss the other songs on the album out of hand – anybody who heard this collection, regardless of background, would come away with a favorite.

The double album was produced by Lenny Kaye, guitarist of the Patti Smith group, who also wrote the liner notes.


Disc 1

Track # Title   Artist Original Artist

1 Hello, I Love You The Cure [The Doors (1968)]
2 The House of the Rising Sun Tracy Chapman [Glenn Yarbrough (1957)]
3 7 and 7 Is Billy Bragg [Love (1966)]
4 I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing Jevetta Steele [New Seekers (1971)]
5 Hotel California Gipsy Kings [Eagles (1976)]
6 Werewolves of London The Black Velvet Band [Warren Zevon (1978)]
7 Motorcycle Mama The Sugarcubes [Sailcat (1972)]
8 One Meatball Shinehead [Josh White (1956)]
9 Bottle of Wine The Havalinas [Tom Paxton (1965)]
10 Born in Chicago Pixies [Paul Butterfield Blues Band (1965)]
11 You're So Vain Faster Pussycat [Carly Simon (1972)]
12 Marquee Moon Kronos Quartet [Television (1977)]
13 Get Ourselves Together Phoebe Snow [Delaney & Bonnie (1968)]
14 Tokoloshe Man Happy Mondays [John Kongos (1972)]
15 Let's Go Ernie Isley [The Cars (1979)]
16 Going Down Lynch Mob [Don Nix and the Alabama State Troupers (1972)]
17 A Little Bit of Rain Arto Lindsay & The Ambitious Lovers [Fred Neil (1965)]
18 You Belong to Me Anita Baker [Carly Simon (1978)]
19 Road to Cairo Howard Jones [David Ackles (1968)]

Disc 2

Track # Title   Artist Original Artist

1 Kick Out the Jams The Big F [MC5 (1969)]
2 Almost Saturday Night/Rockin' All Over the World The Georgia Satellites [John Fogerty (1975)]
3 Hello, I Am Your Heart Sara Hickman [Dennis Linde (1973)]
4 Make It with You Teddy Pendergrass [Bread (1970)]
5 The Blacksmith  Linda Ronstadt [Kathy & Carol (1965)]
6 Going Going Gone Bill Frisell, Robin Holcomb, Wayne Horvitz [Bob Dylan (1974)]
7 First Girl I Loved Jackson Browne [The Incredible String Band (1967)]
8 These Days 10,000 Maniacs [Jackson Browne (1973)]
9 Stone Cold Crazy Metallica [Queen (1974)]
10 Apricot Brandy Danny Gatton [Rhinoceros (1968)]
11 Union Man Shaking Family [The Cate Brothers (1975)]
12 One More Parade They Might Be Giants [Phil Ochs (1964)]
13 I Can't Tell You Why Howard Hewett [Eagles (1979)]
14 Mt. Airy Groove Leaders of the New School [Pieces of a Dream (1982)]
15 You Brought The Sunshine Shirley Murdock [The Clark Sisters (1983)]
16 Inbetween Days John Eddie [The Cure (1985)]
17 Love Wars The Beautiful South [Womack & Womack (1983)]
18 Both Sides Now Michael Feinstein [Joni Mitchell (1967)]
19 T.V. Eye John Zorn [The Stooges (1970)]
20 Hello, I Love You The Cure [The Doors (1968)]

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