“Diamonds Unlocked” by Axel Rudi Pell

Artist: Axel Rudi Pell
Title: “Diamonds Unlocked”
Label: SPV Records
Release Date: 10/9/2007
Genre: Heavy Metal/Hard Rock
Rating: 3.5/5

Just when you thought you had heard your last “Metal Band Does Covers of Another Bands Tunes” album, along comes German guitar wizard Axel Rudi Pell with his own offering on “Diamonds Unlocked”. When I first realized that the virtuoso player had done this I admit that I shuddered a little bit and said “here we go again”, but after a quick couple of listens I felt that he brought some good tunes to the table and offered an interesting takes on them as well. The album begins with a brief overture which serves as the only original piece on the record in the true sense of the word and then our journey begins into how ARP would deliver some of these songs if they were his own. Thankfully he opts to remain largely to the original style and sound as opposed to mixing it up too much. First up is “Warrior” by Riot and this is a stellar rendition of an already powerful number by an as powerful band. Pell’s guitar work is right on target here and the drums from Mike Terrana are — drums from Mike Terrana, and don’t need to be further explained because of his own talents.

“Beautiful Day” comes up next and while I love U2 songs I am still a little mixed about their being covered by a band such as this. In the end this song is nice but almost sounds like you were watching some eighties rock cover band deliver it in a small bar. I surely don’t mean this as insult but it really has an older feel to it than I ever expected with Pell’s axe work and Gioeli’s vocals. We can skip around and find one of the missing tracks from KISS’ “Unplugged” as Pell and Company brings us an acoustic version of “Love Gun” that I feel would have made Gene and Paul smile a little and perhaps even scratch their chins as to why they left this off their own offering. It’s really interesting to hear the tune without the signature “ratta tat tat, ratta tat tat” guitar intro. One of the cooler surprises for me to find was the inclusion of Michael Bolton’s “Fools Game” because that tune always rocked in my opinion. Yes, I did say the word “rock” and “Michael Bolton” in the same sentence because many might not recall that the singer once fronted a Melodic Hard Rock outfit of his own before he went the way of contemporary Pop AOR stuff. Thanks for reminding me of this one Mr. Pell, it’s nice to see we own a couple of the same records. On the selection of these tunes Pell was quoted as saying “every song on this album made me want to cover it at some stage when I heard the original” so it’s logical that he bring forth a little music from Free and Montrose.

I keep a personal list of tracks I don’t like to see covered at all and sorry Axel but “In The Air Tonight” is one of those for while you do it really well, it just didn’t win me over. There is something about the somber nature of the tune and the overall sadness that it imbues is something that I think is not easily replicated by anyone other than Phil Collins. I also admired your take on The Who’s “Won’t Get Fooled Again” but its one of those songs that I am so tired of seeing anyone other than the legendary Brits do. My deductions on these are more personal than professional but you can swap them easily for the winning version of The Missions “Like A Child Again” and Chris Rea’s “Stone”, two numbers that I think your regular listener base would not have the chance to be exposed to if you had not decided to include them on this release. I had to send a lot of kudos to singer Johnny Gioeli because he was really doing a great job of handling all of the different vocalists that originally did these and through it all he managed to keep it fresh and exciting from beginning to end. All in all the song selection is well thought out and makes this album not just “another” covers album. There is a lot of heart presented here and shows that you cannot edge the talents of ARP and his band into any one genre classification or style no matter how hard you might try. Keep an open mind and enjoy these songs as much as the guitar player himself enjoyed them. It’s the reason he chose to interpret them for you.

Track Listing:
1. The Diamond Overture
2. Warrior (Riot)
3. Beautiful Day (U2)
4. Stone (Chris Rea/the Law)
5. Love Gun (KISS)
6. Fools Game (Michael Bolton)
7. Heartbreaker (Free)
8. Rock The Nation (Montrose)
9. In The Air Tonight (Phil Collins)
10. Like A Child Again (The Mission)
11. Won’t Get Fooled Again (The Who)

Official Website: http://www.axel-rudi-pell.de

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