I usually do not like cover songs. They rarely are as good as the original, but there are a handful of covers that transform a song, that find hidden within the original potentialities that the songwriter probably never intuited at all.
The all time classic example of this is what Jimi Hendrix did with Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower”. Here is Dylan’s original, a simple and straightforward (and powerful) tune:
And here it is, transfigured by Hendrix:
But did you know that Daniel Lanois did something comparable with a Hendrix song? The tune was “May This Be Love”, from Are You Experienced?, Hendrix’s first album. It was a sweet song, though not one of the best or best known. Here is Hendrix’ version:
And here is what Lanois did with it:
There is also a very fine version of this on Emmylou Harris’ album Wrecking Ball, but I could only find a not very clear live version of it (and Emmylou is someone who consistently offers great versions of songs she did not write).
And yes, we are on a first name basis.
Personally, I think if you cannot do something like this, like what Hendrix did with Dylan, or Lanois did with Hendrix, or what Emmylou does with just about everything she touches, you should not even bother recording other people’s songs….