Cleopatra Records [Release date 15.01.21]
Two of Dokken’s original members who left and developed into marquee names themselves are guitarist, George Lynch and bass player/vocalist, Jeff Pilson. The prediction that all rock bands will eventually do a covers’ album might not hold water, but this duo have taken the plunge, and their choice of songs is at minimum, daring, and at most, downright unusual.
Some covers’ albums are recorded to show respect to the original artists, others, like this one, come from a “wish we’d written these, and if we had they’d have sounded like this”. When you’ve paid your dues, you can make this kind of album.
As with most things in life, there’s no substitute for experience. You can hear that loud and clear in the imaginative arrangements and three dimensional production on Heavy Hitters. You can feel it, taste it.
Marq (Bulletboys) Torien handles vocals on a couple of tracks here (most notably tearing up Chaka Khan’s ‘You Got The Love’, freeze framing the funk in a world of bass heavy rhythms and heavy rock hooks), but the bulk of the singing is done by Pilson (a hugely underrated vocalist).
If the duo’s cover of opener, ‘One Of Us’, from Joan Osborne’s mega selling Relish album in 1995 hits home, then you know you’ll like this album. Lynch and Pilson have worked hard here to create a coherent hard rock framing for writer, Eric Bazilian’s typical questioning and intriguing imagery. After you’ve listened to it ten or twenty times, it works. And it sticks.
Some tracks are a little more expansive than the others, and they are unquestionably the standouts. ‘I Feel The Earth Move’: if any song can withstand a hard rock assault upon its classic pop credentials, it’s this Carole King mega hit from 1971. Lynch and Pilson combine as on other tracks, slicing and dicing a sturdy tune, with Lynch’s melodic soloing muscled up by Pilson’s eloquent bass rhythms.
Duran Duran’s ‘Ordinary World’ is a perfect pick. There is already a sense of the epic, the symphonic, in this song, a “ringing brilliance”, (a sound that could’ve been quite easily borrowed from Lennon’s ‘Across The Universe’). The duo emphasise those elements, beefing up the background vocals and adding sympathetic axework.
An equally perfect pick is ‘Its The End Of The World As We Know It And I Feel Fine’. It’s a true conversion, a magical, musical transformation from rapidfire poprock into a funky, sub-rap monster of a song, with an amazing depth of field. It leaps off the page. A decent pair of headphones and in a few moments you’ll be inside looking out.
There are a couple of worthy runners up. The duo replace the the original dance pop structure of Madonna’s ‘Music’ with a forceful hard rock punch, and light up One Republic’s ‘Apologise’ with Lynch’s jangling guitar and Pilson’s lyrical bass playing. And let’s be honest, the explosive chorus on Ryan Tedder’s perfectly minted, new millenium pop song would sound great in any company. ****
Reviewed by Brian McGowan
David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 1 August 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week and an interview with “metal queen” Lee Aaron.
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