14 Great Rock Covers from the Last Two Decades

March 24, 2017
PHOTO: Trixie Textor | Getty Images
I’m a big fan of heavy, modern rock groups that can take an old song and breathe life back into it. For example, I’d probably never listen to “Word Up” voluntarily, were it not for Korn’s awesome rendition on seven-string guitars.

To me, it’s like trading in an old, worn-out cell phone for something brand new and interesting.

So I’m rounding up some of my favorite—dare I say “the greatest”—rock covers I’ve come across spanning the last couple of decades. This means the cover was released after 1990 and that the original might or might not precede that date.

And to give more weight to my selection, this isn’t an article I decided to write and then rushed to cobble together a bunch of rock covers for the first time. Honest to Pete, I’ve been collecting these on my playlists for years, and I’ve picked through those to make a decent roundup.

Here’s a quick look at some of the music on my iPhone that I’ll offer up as proof.

I guess this isn’t really “proof,” but you get my point.

I’ve listened to this stuff a lot, and now I’m sharing my thoughtful, carefully collected playlist for all ya’ll to enjoy and jam to.

Before we get started: This is not a ranking. The order I’ve chosen isn’t significant. I think all these songs are great, and I'm not compelled to order them by some subjective measure of greatness. Let’s just enjoy some good music.

For those interested in full video song lessons and tutorials, check out Guitar Tricks’ song list. They’ve got a little bit of everything for those of you who want to do your own covers. They’ll even let you try it for free.

1. “Can’t You See,” covered by Black Stone Cherry
The original was good, but I don’t think I ever found myself particularly motivated by the flowery little flute intro. Chris Robertson and the fellas from Black Stone Cherry beef this one up considerably with heavy lead licks and a slew of drop-tune power chords.

2. “Saturday Night’s Alright,” covered by Nickelback
Wasn’t there a version of this song released between the Elton John and Nickelback renditions? I guess it doesn’t matter.

Yes, of course; I respect the original and what Elton John has done for music, blah blah blah. But I also must respect the fact that Chad Kroger and Ryan Peake absolutely blow the doors off the older versions, with a little help from Dimebag Darrell (God rest his soul).

3. “Cherub Rock,” covered by Stutterfly
With all due respect, Billy Corgan looks (and sings) like a sad baby. In fact, I loved everything about the original “Cherub Rock” track, except him. However, a little-known cover of the song does exist, from a band called Stutterfly. It’s far more metal and, in my humble opinion, more vocally palatable than Corgan’s take. Thanks Stutterfly; you guys absolutely killed this cover.

4. “Renegades of Funk,” covered by Rage Against the Machine
If you go back and listen to the original version of this song by Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force, you start to really appreciate the innovation and brilliance behind Rage’s cover. It’s just incredible how they were able to morph this track into something completely different, yet true to the original tune.

To be honest, you could put the entire Renegades album on here (it was entirely made up of cover songs). We might revisit said album once or twice in our list.

5. “Man of Constant Sorrow,” covered by Charm City Devils
What I find impressive about this cover is that the original “Man of Constant Sorrow” doesn’t really have a chorus. The fellers from Charm City Devils just had to make one up. They did, and it fits pretty well. Also, hats off to these guys for pulling it all off without a banjo in the mix.

6. “Rocky Mountain Way,” covered by Godsmack
Few bands achieve the same level of tightness and power that we get from Godsmack’s music. Thus, anyone who loves heavy, modern rock guitar can’t listen to this and miss the original version (by Joe Walsh) at all. Moreover, I can’t go back to the original after being exposed to the power of the cover. You’ve been warned.

7. “Love Runs Out,” covered by Black Stone Cherry
Black Stone Cherry just seem to nail it every time. Off their 2016 release, Kentucky, their cover of “Love Runs Out” does a great job of injecting some heavy riffing into OneRepublic’s hit tune. It starts out pretty similar, with the piano intro, but just give ‘em time for the guitars to heat up.

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