When bands decide to put out cover albums, almost everybody start to throw rocks at them, accusing the musicians of selling-out or lack of creativity. Although that might be the case in some instances, there’s no lack of those albums with great music.
I, personally, love to see bands paying tributes to their heroes or even making some songs that had nothing to do with them, their own.
Of course, sometimes it backfires as is the case with Queensryche’s “Take Cover” that with the exception of the Black Sabbath and The Police covers is absolutely horrible.
Even Death Metal bands had their goal at cover albums. However, just like Slayer’s “Undisputed Attitude”, those are kind of too genre specific. I’m talking about Vader’s “Future Of The Past” and both Napalm Death’s “Leaders not Followers”. Those are all good albums (I have all three) but there are some too unknown bands covered. The only exception in the Death Metal realm is Six Feet Under’s “Graveyard Classics”, but the recording is so bad (one of the worst snare drum sounds EVER) and Chris Barnes’ voice is so unfit to sing anything else other than Death Metal that it’s not worth making the list.
As a final introductory note, it broke my heart to leave Lemmy, Slim Jim and Danny B self-titled 50’s Rock And Roll album, Fish’s “Songs From The Mirror”, David Bowie “Pin-Ups”, Lana Lane “Covers Collection” and especially Rush’s “Feedback” out of the list. It’s worth mentioning that the Rush album only stayed out because there are only 8 songs in it.
Without further delay, let’s see the list.
#5: Ann Wilson – “Hope And Glory”
Okay, right off the bat I’ll admit I was totally biased in choosing this one. I guess that if Ann Wilson releases an album of Salsa, Polka, Rumba or Japanese lullabies I’ll love it. The last song on this album is actually not a cover, but the other eleven are. And there are some amazing choices for Ann unrivaled voice. The greatest of all to me is the definitive version of Credence Clerawater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising” (in my opinion a billion times better than the original). There are also killer versions for Pink Floyd’s “Goodbye Blue Sky”, Elton John’s “Where to now, St.Peter?” and The Youngbloods’ “Get Together”. Also worth of note is the very particular version of Led Zeppelin’s “Immigrant Song”.
#4: Poison – “Poison’d!”
You can say anything you want about Poison’s choice of clothes or hair (especially in the eighties) but you can never underestimate their great musicianship and good taste for melodies. And this album shows you exactly where all of that came from. Opening with the immortal “Little Willy” by The Sweet and following with no less wonderful version for Bowie’s “Suffragette City”, Alice Cooper’s “I Never Cry” and Tom Petty’s “I Need To Know”, this is just as fun as a Poison concert, just not with their songs. In a more personal note, my favorite of all songs in this record is the fantastic version for the Rolling Stones’ “Dead Flowers”. It’s worth getting poisoned indeed.
#3: Tesla – “Real To Reel”
Probably alongside Ratt, Tesla is musically the most accomplished of all 80’s Hard Rock bands and with an edge: Tesla got a great, great singer; probably the best of all from that breed of bands. And if you had any doubts about that, and never had the opportunity to catch them live, this album is a good chance to see Jeff Keith displaying all his talent. Of course the band is great throughout the record but his performance in Bad Company’s “Shooting Star”, Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You”, James Gang’s “Walk Away”, Derek and The Dominoes’ “Bell Bottom Blues”, Uriah Heep’s “Stealin” and in both Stones’ covers “Honky Tonk Women” and “Street Fighting Man” are nothing short of mesmerizing. You can argue that UFO’s “Rock Bottom” played like the “Strangers In The Night” live version with an endless guitar solo is soporific (and it is) but nothing that clouds this great record.
#2: Metallica – Garage Inc.
If there’s band that is ALWAYS accused of selling-out is Metallica. And when they released this double record (disc 1 was all new covers and disc 2 was every cover they ever recorded), it was no different. However, everyone who had a little bit of brain and decided to check it out was not disappointed. Disc 1 had decent versions of Discharge, Diamond Head, Black Sabbath (a rather odd song, “Sabbra Cadabra”), Nick Cave, a brilliant Mercyful Fate medley and a song by Blue Oyster Cult, “Astronomy”. However the songs that became singles and videos were the great stars: killer versions for Misfits “Die, Die, My Darling”, Bob Seger’s “Turn The Page” and most of all the traditional Irish folk song “Whiskey In The Jar” that was once immortalized by Thin Lizzy. With all due respect to Lynott and the boys, this one to me is now the definitive version. Not even a horrible version of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Tuesday’s Gone” with the always needles and terrible participation of the late Layne Stanley can tarnish the disc. Disc 2 is a real treasure trove for those of us who were not around (or at least not around Metal) in the late eighties. It’s a real pleasure to hear Metallica playing Diamond Head’s “Am I Evil?”, Killing Joke’s “The Wait”, Misfits’ ”Last Caress”, Budgie’s “Breadfan” (also light-years better than the original), Queen’s “Stone Cold Crazy”, Anti-Nowhere League “So What?” (probably the most politically incorrect lyric EVER written) and Sweet Savage’s “Killing Time”.
#1: Def Leppard – Yeah!
This might seem an odd and even ridiculous choice for a lot of people, but to me this is the greatest cover record ever recorded. The songs are great, the performance is flawless and they all fit my taste perfectly (with the exception of one). Opening with a killer version of T.Rex’s “20th Century Boy”, the record never stops grabbing you by the throat and making you sit down and listen. David Essex’s “Rock On” shows a great interpretation by Joe Elliot as does “Hanging On The Telephone” (originally recorded by The Nerves, but immortalized by Blondie when Debbie Harry was still hot) and ELO’s “10538 Overture”. My personal favorites are the Hard N’ Heavy version of The Kinks’ “Waterloo Sunset” (you should listen to the original to see what they did here), an amazing spot on version of David Bowie’s “Drive-In Saturday” and fabulous ones for Mott The Hoople’s “The Golden Age Of Rock And Roll” and Badfinger’s “No Matter What” (which they had released originally in a collection). Other versions in the album are also very nice: Roxy Music’s “Street Life” , Free’s “Little Bit Of Love” and Thin Lizzy’s “Don’t Believe A Word”. Not even the always boring Justin Hawkins from The Darkness manages to disrupt the record as his cameo in The Sweet’s “Hell Raiser” is rather cool. And it’s wonderful to hear guitarist Phil Collen singing lead and doing his perfect Rod Stewart impersonation on The Faces’ “Stay With Me”. The only song I don’t like that much is “He’s Gonna Step On You Again” by John Kongos, but I can totally get it why they put it in the record, because it does show a studio trick that Leppard used a lot through their career. This album has yet a very hard to find bonus CD with some other cool songs like Tomn Petty’s “American Girl”, but it’s worth getting to hear bassist Rick Savage singing and playing “Dear Friends”, an extreme underground Queen song.
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