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Friday, September 8, 2017

1028. Motörhead / Under Cöver. 2017. 4/5

With the demise of most of the band, and most importantly Lemmy himself, there was going to be few opportunities to cash in on the Motörhead name going forward. This collection of cover songs, collected from the past 25 years, is not something new. Most fans of the band will either already own these songs on other publications or will have heard them at some time. It is a chance to bring them all together in one album, though in this age of digital music and playlist most could have done it themselves if the mood had hit them. But enough of this negative stuff. It is a Motörhead album after all.

Even with this band, you would have to be hard pressed to believe that some of the songs that they perform here they could pull off in a manner that befits the original. Probably the best case in point is the first song on the disc, Judas Priest’s “Breaking the Law”. There is no way Lemmy is going to match Rob in the vocal range. But what the band does, as it so often does, is make this into a quite serviceable hard rock song, with a slower but perfectly formed tempo, and the vocals dominating over the top. It’s not reinventing the wheel, but you can believe it is a simplified song done simply and well. The same applies with the Sex Pistols’ “God Save the Queen”, where Mikkey Dee’s metronomic drumming takes centre stage, once again keeping a perfect tempo that Lemmy and Phil Campbell perfectly complement the song. It takes the furiously crazy original version and turns it into a perfectly good hard rock song with almost no effort whatsoever. Terrific. It’s a tougher gig taking on a David Bowie song, in a lot of ways but mostly vocally, but that doesn’t stop the trio taking on his “Heroes”. But the technique is used again, disposing of much of the 1970’s antiquity of the song and using the solid base of the Motörhead sound to recreate the song in their image. Okay, so maybe this doesn’t work as well as the first two songs, but this version does grow on you in time. That Lemmy and David passed away within two weeks of each other is perhaps the saddest part of all.
Rainbow’s “Starstruck” was recorded for the Ronnie James Dio tribute album Ronnie James Dio: This Is Your Life, and features Saxon’s Biff Byford on lead vocals. This is a rollicking version of the original track, with Lemmy providing the back-up vocals during the chorus. Neither is an RJD on vocals but it is a fun version all the same. Ted Nugent’s “Cat Scratch Fever” comes from the March ör Die album, and has never been a favourite of mine. I don’t particularly like the song which makes it hard to like this version at all. Then come two Rolling Stones favourites, “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Sympathy For the Devil”. Both are done faithfully to the original versions though with that Motörhead twang.
“Hellraiser” has always been a fan favourite. Co-written by Lemmy with Zakk Wylde and Ozzy Osbourne, both did versions on their respective albums, March ör Die and No More Tears. Motörhead’s version is both different enough and original enough to hold its own against Ozzy’s version, and was also on the Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth - Movie Soundtrack. Both The Ramones cover of “Rockaway Beach” and the Twisted Sister cover “Shoot ‘Em Down” are serviceable without being anything but what they claim. The star attraction is the cover of Metallica’s “Whiplash”. What Motörhead did here with this cover was brilliant. They literally turned it into a Motörhead song, completed with Lemmy’s recognisable bass run and the changing of the lyrics in the final verse. It is a masterpiece and rivals the original version for magnificence. This is the one song every fan must hear if they haven’t because it truly defines who Motörhead is.

As with all albums that are full of cover versions of other bands’ songs, this is an interest piece, and your interest will wane over time. A week perhaps, or a month. Eventually you will want to go back to hearing the original versions of these songs, and this album will return to your collection and sit there for a very long time before it sees the light of day again. As a curiosity this is fine. As a long-term listener, it is not going to last in the end.

Rating:  “Never stop, never quit, we are Motörhead”.   4/5

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