Stryper - The Covering (2011) Mar 22, 2011 23:51:41 GMT -5
Post by Erik Rupp on Mar 22, 2011 23:51:41 GMT -5
A Stryper album of cover tunes? Who would have thought that woudl be a good idea?
Well, as it turns out, it was a pretty good idea as the album is a pretty enjoyable affair for the most part. One thing a lot of people overlook is just how good and how tight Stryper is as a band. They are a fairly powerful unit, despite their squeaky clean image and occasional forays into sappy ballad territory.
Here, though, it's purely a Hard Rock and Heavy Metal happening. Stryper covers songs by bands like Black Sabbath, Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Judas Priest, Kansas, and the Scorpions (among others), with very strong results on most of the songs.
The bottom line for this album is that it's fun. It's got a lot of energy and it's fun.
If you want specifics, well, here's what's on the album...
"Set Me Free" - Originally recorded by the legendary band Sweet (now that's interesting, Michael Sweet singing Sweet). This is a no surprises version of the upbeat track. It's good, but not exactly earth shattering. It gets the album off to a good, but not great start.
"Blackout" - I really had a blackout! OK, maybe not, but this track hits like a hammer. It's got a tone of energy and really captures the vibe of the original while sounding somewhat fresh. Sweet's vocals are perfect for this song and the band plays with a lot of enthusiasm. It's a step up from the first song.
"Heaven and Hell" - Surprise, surprise, surprise. Stryper covering Dio-era Black Sabbath, and doing it very, very well. This is one of the very best cover versions of this song ever recorded. The biggest surprise is just how well Stryper captures the feel of Black Sabbath's version while adding just a touch of their own style to it. Again, Sweet sounds really good on this track. Most singers have a hard time with this one (they can often hit the notes, but Sweet really gets it right). I think Ronnie might have liked this one.
"Lights Out" - DAMN!!! Those Stryper boys can play! This is possibly the best version of this song ever recorded. Possibly. If it's not then it's just a half step behind the original UFO monster. Every bit of UFO's energy is translated here, and in fact this one may ever so slightly exceed the energy from that version. And the vibe - it's amazing just how close Stryper comes to the vibe and feel of the original while still managing to throw in some extra vocal harmonies that they are known for. This may be the highlight of an album filled with several highlights.
"Carry On Wayward Son" - Covering one of the all time great Hard Rock songs is always a tricky thing. Even if you do a good job it isn't good enough. The problem with this one is Robert Sweet's drumming. He just doesn't show the finesse that was present on the original. He's close, but he's bashing a bit too much. Michael Sweet's vocals are just fine, but the band merely does a very good job with great material (they update part of it to an 80's Metal style that misses some of the feel of the original). Another issue is that the Hammond organ is too low in the mix. This song works within the context of the album, but this isn't something that will make Kansas fans pass up the original.
"Highway Star" - All right, hold tight - I'm a Highway Star! The high octane energy of Stryper really pumps this one up. Yeah, it's heavier than the original, but that doesn't necessarily make it better (most of us have heard full on Metal versions of this song that can't hold a candle to the original). This one, however, can hold a candle to the original. Hell, it may be every bit as good as the original - and if not the difference isn't all that noticeable! Another album highlight.
"Shout It Out Loud" - You'd expect Stryper covering KISS to sound pretty good as both bands have used vocal harmonies well over the years, but there's something off about this one. It may be that it's just a little too rooted in the 80's style Pop Metal that Stryper was so well known for that changes the overall vibe to something that is less than the original despite a harder and heavier presentation. It's good, but not up to the standards of most of the other songs on the album.
"Over The Mountain" - Speaking of something sounding off, this is definitely in that category. Turning Randy Rhoads' rapid fire rolling guitar part in the verse into an Iron Maiden-esque gallop was an interesting idea, and it does sound fresh in that way, but it also sounds wrong. And editing out a repeat of the pre-solo riff almost sounds like a record that skipped. The band plays the song extremely well, but it's those small changes that are just distracting. What could have been another album highlight ends up just being a decent cover.
"The Trooper" - Yep, Stryper not only covers Black Sabbath and Ozzy Osbourne, but they also cover Iron Maiden. And to some pretty impressive results. Where the Maiden gallop made their cover of, "Over the Mountain," sound off, this time it's inherent in the song. The additional vocal harmonies actually sound pretty cool here, which helps the song stand out and not sound like a cookie cutter copy. The re-arrangement of the beginning of the solo section is very effective as well, taking the drum beat to half time which actually allows the song to breathe prior to the solo. Iron Maiden fans should love this version - as should most Metal fans in general. It's just a great, inspried cover.
"Breaking The Law" - Well, they've covered Sabbath (Dio era), Ozzy, and Maiden, why not Priest? And you know what? They do another fantastic job here. Yes, there are (again) a few well placed additional vocal harmonies, but yet again they actually enhance the song. (As do the musical harmonies added to the solo section.) Another big time winner.
"On Fire" - Well, they did start out as Roxx Regime, another Sunset Strip band heavily influenced by early Van Halen, so it makes sense that they would cover the mighty VH. Their choice of song is interesting as it is a great track but not one of Van Halen's best known. Stryper is enthusiastic, and if this version isn't as good as Van Halen's that's only because VH captured lightining in a bottle for their first four albums, and especially on their first. Solid and a lot of fun.
"Immigrant Song" - Stryper pulls back a little here and shows the finesse that they should have shown on, "Carry On Wayward Son." The vibrato on the guitar and the lightly distorted guitar tone help this one sound more 70's than 80's. This is another very successful cover. Even hardcore Zep fans would have a hard time finding fault with this one.
"God" - The only original track on the album, and it holds up well among all the Hard Rock and Heavy Metal royalty. It's both heavy and melodic, and is an uptempo song with some decent dynamics and tempo changes. If their next album is filled with songs this good then Stryper will again have another surprisingly good album on their hands.
So the bottom line with The Covering is this - it's a fun album with some extremely well done versions of several classics. If you like cover versions then this album is one that should find a home in your CD collection.