Axel Rudi Pell
Diamonds Unlocked

The cover record needs to die. I realize it’s an easy way to put together an album quickly and make a few bucks, but can you really name one all-covers record that just blew you away? No, you can’t. That’s because rarely are the covers as good as the original. Still, it seems we’re doomed to see more and more of them until people quit buying them.

The latest to land on my desk is Axel Rudi Pell’s Diamonds Unlocked. It opens with “The Diamond Overture,” a classical-tinged piece that evokes Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” at points, that’s followed by a cover of Riot’s “Warrior,” which surprisingly isn’t bad at all.

You have to give Pell credit for being eclectic. Included on the disc are covers from Riot, U2, Chris Rea, Kiss, Michael Bolton (no, that’s not a misprint), Free, Montrose, Phil Collins, The Mission and The Who. Honestly, though, he probably should have stuck with metal bands. His cover of U2’s “Beautiful Day” sounds like a garage band that was sitting around thinking, “You know what would be cool? If U2 played metal.”

Covers of Chris Rea’s “Stone,” Bolton’s “Fool’s Game” and Montrose’s “Rock the Nation” all sound incredibly dated and 80s-ish. The worst is “Fool’s Game,” which reminds me a bit of Rick Springfield, or, I guess, Michael Bolton trying to play hard rock. (Yeah, I know that’s how he started, but I’ve also heard that stuff, too.)

To be fair, there are some covers here that work. His take on Phil Collins’ “In the Air Tonight,” though more or less faithful to the original has some interesting takes with the steel drums and some cool chime flourishes. I also like the heavier guitar piece that comes after the iconic drum roll that everyone thinks about when they think of that song. He also does a faithful, straight up cover of The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again.” (How could you possibly mess with that song too much?)

The most surprising track here, though is his acoustic cover of Kiss’ “Love Gun.” An acoustic cover of “Love Gun?” What the fuck? Certainly that was my initial reaction. How can you strip the song of those machine gun riffs? What do you have left? Surprisingly, the best tune on the record. There’s more feeling packed into the performance than any of the other songs here, and it sounds more like something Pell has wanted to do for a long time than something he tossed out for a quick cover record.

Just like there’s that occasional cover song that surpasses the original, there are a few gems to be found on the glut of cover records out there – that’s the case with “Love Gun” and possibly “In the Air Tonight” here. But I’d still rather hear an album full of original music from most of these bands.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
October 25th, 2007

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