The 20 Best Tribute Albums Of All Time

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encomium-tribute-led-zeppelin.jpg
Hootie covered Zeppelin!? '90s U So Crazy!
This year alone has seen a multitude of tribute albums, from two Buddy Holly lovefests to the upcoming ZZ Top tribute set from a very motley crew of artists, including Nickelback, Daughtry, Grace Potter & The Nocturnals (yum), and Wyclef Jean.

Let that one sink in. We'll still listen to it, though, because it's ZZ Top and we were born in Texas. Duh.

That's not all either. Since January, we've also seen Muppets:The Green Album with My Morning Jacket and OK Go doing great Muppets hits, with middling results. Coming later this year in Europe is a tribute to pervo-crooner Serge Gainsbourg, From Lulu to Gainsbourg, with Iggy Pop, Rufus Wainwright, Marianne Faithfull, and Scarlett Johansson turning in their versions of the Frenchman's best songs. A release of Lulu on this side of the pond is still in the works.

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Rave On, the first Buddy Holly tribute that came out in late June, was a great collection of his best, with a Who's Who of today's biggest names like the Black Keys, Florence + The Machine, Cee Lo Green, Modest Mouse, and The Strokes' Julian Casablancas doing their best renditions of the late rocker's seminal tracks. Paul McCartney, who owns the copyrights to Holly's works, chimed in with "It's So Easy."

Another Holly set, Listen To Me, came out just this past Tuesday and features a more subdued , but no less star-studded, stable of performers like Stevie Nicks, Eric Idle, Brian Wilson, Ringo Starr, and Jeff Lynne taking a crack at the Lubbock native.

Back in July, in advance of this month's Nevermind anniverasry, SPIN released its own Nirvana tribute album as a free download, with youngsters and the band's '90s contemporaries helping out. Soul man Charles Bradley covered "Stay Away," and the Meat Puppets tackled "Smells Like Teen Spirit," returning the favor from when Nirvana covered the Puppets' "Lake Of Fire" for their MTV Unplugged In New York session in 1993.

Not to be outdone, Come As You Are: A 20th Anniversary Tribute To Nirvana's Nevermind, comes along on October 25, with Murder By Death, Story Of The Year, and Margot & the Nuclear So and So's.

Let's not forget Steve Earle's Townes, his 2009 LP of Townes Van Zandt covers, which dominated our ears for months. This July, the burly folks in Reverend Peyton's Big Damn Band released Peyton On Patton, a super-enjoyable collection of their favorite Charley Patton standards. But albums featuring one artist alone covering another artists' work will be covered in a future blog, we assure you.

So you can see that tribute albums are a big business in 2011. Some of our favorite albums have been tribute discs. The cool thing about them is that it can rustle new fans over to the bands being lauded. People who may not have been familiar with the Carpenters probably heard Sonic Youth's "Superstar" and decided to dig into the work of the late Karen Carpenter and her brother Richard. Hell, maybe some Carpenters fans became newfound SY fanatics.

We wrangled up 20 of the best tribute albums since the beginning of time for you here, and of course left a few out for you to haggle over.

Encomium: A Tribute to Led Zeppelin, 1995


Kiss My Ass: Classic Kiss Regrooved, 1994

Return of the Grievous Angel: A Tribute to Gram Parsons, 1999


Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye: A Tribute to Roky Erickson, 1990


Timeless: Hank Williams Tribute, 2001

I'm Your Fan: The Songs of Leonard Cohen By..., 1991

Poet: A Tribute to Townes Van Zandt, 2001


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12 comments
D2jday
D2jday

Nativity in Black

d2
d2

Surprised not to see 

Jason Wolter
Jason Wolter

"Real: The Tom T. Hall Project" is a must have.

bibulb
bibulb

I'm afraid that I gotta say that "Burning London" just ... wasn't that good.  It had its moments, but overall just misfired. SERIOUS points, however, for "Where the Pyramid Meets the Eye", which still remains awesome to this day. However, I still think that to this day the best tribute album remains "Last Temptation of Elvis", which is two discs of pure, unvarnished badassery. Lemmy, the Pogues, PWEI, Jesus and Mary Chain, Bruce Springsteen, the Cramps, Lemmy, Paul McCartney, Hall and Oates, Robert Plant - it's just kind of amazing.

Maggie_Mae
Maggie_Mae

Quite a fine list; I've discovered some new stuff I need to hear. The Pyramid Meets The Eye set is especially fine because it includes some of Roky's post-Elevators tunes, which are rather obscure. (Doug Sahm & his sons contribute "You're Gonna Miss Me." There's a Doug Sahm tribute, but you'd be better off listening to actual music made by The National Musician of Texas.)  Of course, I've got some suggestions:

Beat the Retreat collects Richard Thompson gems performed by a diverse crew--from  Ye Olde British Folkies to the younger set. Thankfully, the man himself is still alive & well.

Livin', Lovin', Losin' collects Louvin Brothers tunes; Gram Parsons loved them & Emmylou carried it on.  A few uptempo numbers & a couple of sacred songs.  But these are mostly tunes that show how love can drive you insane, lending a unity to this collection that other sometimes lack. 

Riding With Bob is Asleep At The Wheel's latest tribute to Bob Wills, with the band backing singers from Lyle Lovett & The Dixie Chicks to Merle Haggard.  Hey, Merle Haggard's Tribute to the Best Damn Fiddle Player in the World is now available again.  Plus Same Train, Different Time, in which he genuflects to Jimmie Rodgers.  (Both of Merle's albums were done long before this sort of thing was "hip.")

Time to dust off my LP's. Hey, there's the EP with Nick Lowe & Dave Edmunds doing some Everly Brothers songs....

Gary_gillmore
Gary_gillmore

Deadicated- Grateful Dead trib - Jane's Addication doing Ripple, Dwight Yokham singing Truckin', Burning Spear playing Estimated Prophet - How could you NOT love it?

Jim Porter
Jim Porter

Google for "20 More Explosive Fantastic Rockin' Mega Smash Hit Explosions", which was a neat little tribute to K-Tel albums with 90's artists covering 70's pop hits.

deepa12
deepa12

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Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

Never Give In:  A Tribute to The Bad Brains was pretty good.

Early Cuyler
Early Cuyler

Rollins Band's version of "Two Sticks" on the Zep tribute album is without a doubt the worst cover song I have ever heard, and I liked the Rollins Band back then.  Always liked The Jesus Lizard's cover of "Custard Pie" though.

bibulb
bibulb

The "Nick and Dave perform the Everlys" is on the CD for "Seconds of Pleasure" - great stuff. 

bibulb
bibulb

Warren Zevon's "Casey Jones" remains the high point on that one for me.

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