Various Artists
Butchering the Beatles

Ah, the tribute album. It seems like everyone’s got one these days, from the most deserving legendary performers to one-hit wonders that have been around for less than five years. Usually, the performances are all over the place, from the occasional interesting interpretation to straight up karaoke versions to someone royally fucking up a great song. Butchering the Beatles is no exception. It has all those things.

Following one of the popular formulas of the tribute album, this one features a variety of 1980s rockers with a few truly big names thrown into the mix. Notable performers include Alice Cooper, Steve Vai, Duff McKagan, Lemmy, Geoff Tate, Rudy Sarzo, Billy Idol, Steve Stevens, Yngwie Malmsteen, Bily Gibbons, Vivian Campbell, John Bush, Doug Pinnick, Tim Owens and George Lynch, along with a ton of others.

As one would expect, most of the songs here are turned into 1980s rock anthems. Sometimes that works. “Magical Mystery Tour,” featuring Jeff Scott Soto on vocals and Malmsteen shredding all over the place is a good example, and so is the squealing version of “Day Tripper,” featuring Jack Blades, Tommy Shaw, Doug Aldrich and Marco Mendoza. Other times, it doesn’t work at all. “I Saw Her Standing There” with a mish-mash of musicians including John Corabi, Motorhead’s Phil Campbell, C.C. Deville of Poison, Chris Chaney of Jane’s Addiction and Kenny Aronoff of Smashing Pumpkins sounds pretty much like you’d expect that mix to sound. Likewise “Drive My Car,” featuring Kip Winger, Bruce Kulick and Tony Franklin … well, it features Kip Winger, that’s really all I’ve got to say, isn’t it?

There are some solid performances scattered throughout the album. Cooper, Vai, McKagan and Motorhead’s Mikkey Dee join forces on a version of “Hey Bulldog” that turns it into a snarling beast worthy of the title. Idol and Stevens’ psychedelic take on “Tomorrow Never Knows” is perhaps one of the strangest moments of the record, but also one of the most memorable. But the true star of this album is Billy Gibbons’ blues rock shuffle take on “Revolution.” It’s a track that oozes Gibbons’ laid-back cool on every note, and it’s also the only moment here where a musician really takes a song and makes it his own.

Then there are a couple of surprises, like Tate’s take on “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” and “Ripper” Owens’ version of “Hey Jude.” Unfortunately neither surprises musically. Both singers are ill-suited for the song they chose and both songs flop. Perhaps the most surprising thing, considering the lineup, is that no one took on the most obvious Beatles tune for the style – “Helter Skelter.”

The album is rounded out by a collection of OK, but not stellar songs that all have at least something working for them. Lemmy sticks fairly closely to the original with his punkish version of “Back in the USSR,” which is a solid performance, but nothing exciting. Bush’s vocals on “I Feel Fine” are solid, but the band featuring Stephen Carpenter of the Deftones, Mike Inez and John Tempesta don’t deliver the oomph to back him. Doug Pinnick and Steve Lukather offer up a moderately interesting take on “Taxman,” but to be honest, I’d really rather hear a full-on King’s X cover of the song.

It would be easy to turn the title of this record against it in the review, but the truth is there’s no more butchery here than on any other tribute album. In fact, there are a few truly standout performances, which you don’t always find on tribute records. But ultimately Butchering the Beatles delivers the same thing as most tribute albums – a chance for artists to perform some of their favorite songs and a briefly interesting diversion for fans of both the band being paid tribute and the musicians paying the tribute. In that regard, this one holds up nicely.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
October 24th, 2006

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