Various Artists
Sucking the ’70s: Back in the Saddle Again
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Tribute albums bring out the best and worst in fan opinions: the love/hate continuum wildly diverges between tunes that mimic the original band perfectly—and those that’re so far from the originals that their most endearing qualities have vanished. Ultimately, it comes down to personal preference, but this second installment of Sucking the ’70s from Detroit’s Small Stone label adds another facet: whether or not you’ve actually heard the originals to be able to judge the quality of the covers themselves. The two-disc, 31-song Back in the Saddle Again offers even deeper cuts than its 2002 Vol. 1 predecessor, though even astute classic-rock fans may not be familiar with half of the selections.

The cuts quickly collate into three categories: spot-on hits that operate beyond the original template, adding a new twist; interpretations that approach greatness but don’t quite make the grade; and those unknown slabs of wonder that might even influence the listener to check out the original band. Residing in the first group, Boston’s Antler (starring members of Roadsaw and Quintaine Americana) handle the Eagles’ “Those Shoes” with incredible aplomb, thanks to the Don Henley drawl of frontman Craig Riggs—who then switch-hits with Roadsaw proper for a by-the-numbers take on Led Zeppelin’s “When the Levee Breaks.” Sweden’s Dozer give Devo’s “Mongoloid” a fuzzed-out overhaul with creepily whispered back-up vocals. Flint, Michigan’s Whitey Morgan and the Waycross Georgia Farmboys turn Van Halen’s venerable “Running with the Devil” into a countrified honky-tonk, replete with pedal steel guitar and Morgan’s Hank III vocal twang. Masters of truly reverent covers, L.A.’s Fireball Ministry treat Joe Walsh’s “Turn to Stone” with the same veneration as their past versions of Judas Priest’s “Victim of Changes” and Alice Cooper’s “Muscle of Love” (both found on 2001’s FMEP). Washington’s Mos Generator capture the early, debut-era rawness of Rush’s never-committed-to-album single “Garden Road.”

Heading up the honorable mentions, Rainbow’s “Man on the Silver Mountain” is covered well by Virginia’s Alabama Thunderpussy, though vocalist Johnny Weills (possibly his last recording with ATP before being replaced by Exhorder/Floodgate throat Kyle Thomas) ain’t no Ronnie James Dio (then again, who is?). Steppenwolf’s “Born to Be Wild” (from 1968, n.b.) is sloppily handled by Argentina’s Los Natas, though they do add verses en español. New Jersey’s Halfway to Gone and Cleveland’s Red Giant rev up Elton John’s “Honky Cat” and Lynyrd Skynyrd’s “Saturday Night Special,” respectively, while Virginia’s Throttlerod tighten the screws on Foghat’s “I Just Wanna Make Love to You.” North Carolina’s Gideon Smith & the Dixie Damned can’t quite get a grip on Donovan’s “Season of the Witch,” though Smith’s country-ish warble is intriguing here. The Beatles’ “Two of Us” topples under the weight of Kyuss/The Obsessed bassist Scott Reeder’s overreach. Seattle’s Valis get too psychedelic with Gary Wright’s “Dreamweaver,” but no one can beat Crowbar’s take on 2000’s Equilibrium anyway.

As for the off-the-beaten-track nuggets, San Francisco’s Acid King shore up Steve Miller’s “The Stake,” and Clutch & Five Horse Johnson have an honest go at Funkadelic’s “Red Hot Mama.” Two AC/DC compositions—“Sin City” by Detroit’s Novadriver and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Singer” by Kentucky’s The Glasspack—receive above-average ratings. A second Eagles tune (actually, they popularized the David Blue original), “Outlaw Man,” garners excellent treatment from Fu Manchu bassist Brad Davis, and Texas’ Dixie Witch tap the brakes slightly on Montrose’s slowburner “Rock Candy.” Enticing fans with a nod to the 1976 Aerosmith scorcher (sadly not covered here), Back in the Saddle Again not only offers even deeper cuts that you may not have heard before, but it also continues the welcomed trend of assembling a varied collection of ’70s renditions from stoner-/riff-rock bands that define the genre.

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Written by Chris Ayers
April 23rd, 2007

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