JORN – Heavy Rock Radio

cover9188_413858Here we go again – another covers album. A part of me wants to give it a 1/10 just for the hell of it, because I’m pretty fed up with covers albums. But then again, even though most of them suck, there are a few that are the exceptions to the rule. Stryper did a really good one and so did Tesla and Ace Frehley. But when it comes to Norwegian big voice Jorn Lande, a covers album is almost to prefer. Let me explain. Jorn is a damn brilliant singer, somewhere between Ronnie James Dio and David Coverdale, but as a song writer he’s not all that, to be honest. His solo albums aren’t exactly crap or even bad, they just are – nothing sticks. Well almost nothing. But when Jorn lends his vocal chords to projects like Avantasia and Ayreon, he pretty much own those records. The first albums with Masterplan are also where Jorn shows his greatness. Last year he and former Wig Wam guitarist and song writer Trond Holter released Swing Of Death, a rock opera that described the story of Count Dracula through the eyes of the Count himself. I’m not sure if the subject of Dracula was that shit hot, but the songs on that album were bloody amazing so now that Trond is Jorn’s guitar player, maybe there will be some order in the song writing department as well. That’s why a cover album from Jorn isn’t all that bad, if he just chooses the right songs, there’s a good chance that this album will come out really good. Besides, he once made a killer version of former Nightwish singer Tarja Turunen’s “I Walk Alone”, a song that was only decent with Tarja herself. And judging by the track list, at least half of the record are made of very unexpected and unpredictable songs. Still, done right, even the most predictable and unimaginative choice of song could turn out great. That is very rare, though.

To make a version of Frida’s (that’s Anni-Frid Lyngstad, one of the A’s of ABBA, folks) is a pretty brave move if you ask me – and a very unexpected one. I have always liked that song so to hear Jorn’s interpretation was something that I was the most excited about when it came to this record. And I must say he succeed with it. The guitar arrangement – signed Trond Holter, I guess – is phenomenal and even though Jorn has stayed true to the song, he has managed to make it his own at the same time. And talking about brave moves – to have the guts to try to mess with a Kate Bush is really bold. But Jorn and his band makes “Running Up That Hill” justice. The song turns into an early Rainbow sounding tune, still with Bush’s very personal melody all over the track – great stuff! Foreigner’s “Rev On The Red Line” is a cool choice – I really dig it when the choice lies on a more obscure tune rather than the more obvious hits – but I never found the song that strong, to be honest. Extra point for the unexpected choice, but unfortunately, I think it’s the wrong song. Good, but not great. “You’re The Voice” by John Farnham might have been a really huge hit back when, but it’s still a pretty odd choice for a guy like Jorn. But the guys nails it right on the spot. The whole arrangement makes me think of the Swing Of Death album that Jorn and Trond made together and it fits the song like a glove – awesome! But the most unexpected cover on this album must be “Live To Win”, the title track off Paul Stanley’s solo album from 2006. Now that was a pretty uneven album if you ask me, but this song is one of the best songs off that album – even though Stanley has written many songs better than this. However, Jorn makes a killer version of it, in fact, I think that this version is even better than the original – well done. So far, so good, but to cover Journey’s “Don’t Stop Believin'” is a bit too unimaginative. I mean, c’mon already – the song is still being played to death and frankly, who needs a cover of it? Jorn’s version is ok, but if I want to listen to “Don’t Stop Believin'”, I put on the Escape album. Besides, I don’t think Jorn’s voice fits the song all that well. “Killer Queen” (Queen) is a much cooler choice, then. Fact is, this is the first cover I have heard of this song and I guess it had to be a pretty big challenge to take on that song as the song is so much Queen, very original in every part of the song. Did he/they succeed then? Yes, I think they did. Now Jorn’s voice is miles away from Freddie Mercury’s, but he pulls it off. It’s both very close to the original but at the same time far, far away from it. Quite impressing, to be frank. Then we get a version of Eagles’ “Hotel California”. For real -“Hotel California”!! I have a hard time thinking about a more boring and unimaginative choice. Maybe Bonfire’s cover of “Sweet Home Alabama” (Lynyrd Skynyrd) is worse, but this one is really close. See, this is a song that if I never hear it again it’s too soon. But that aside, they actually managed to pull of a decent cover here. But the truth is, the song is saved by Holter’s brilliant guitar arrangement – that guy is such an underrated player. Dio’s “Rainbow In The Dark” is another pretty lazy choice. I mean, as the huge Dio-fan that Jorn is, couldn’t he have found another Dio track to cover? One that is a bit more obscure? There are shitloads of killers on Dio’s first three albums. It’s not a bad version, but it brings nothing new to the table at all.

One damn unexpected choice is the cover of Iron Maiden’s “The Final Frontier”. Now, I think that The Final Frontier is a pretty weak record and the title track is a song that I hardly remember at all. Also, before I heard this version, I had a hard time imagining Jorn singing an Iron Maiden song at all, but I’ll be damned if this tune doesn’t fit Jorn perfectly. Jorn really makes the song his own and for the first time I realize just how catchy the song actually is – the melody, especially the chorus, is highly pop influenced. Yes, Jorn, this is a great choice and this is also better than the original. Maiden fans will probably kick my ass for that comment. “Stormbringer” by Deep Purple is another awesome track that one have to be careful when covering it, but as a massive Coverdale fan, Jorn knows that and therefore the risk of fucking it up is minimal. He doesn’t fuck it up, quite the contrary, he nails the damn thing. It’s a great version, much better than Coverdale’s own attempt to cover himself on his The Purple Album last year. They finish the record with a cover of one of my favorite Dio-era Black Sabbath songs, “Die Young”. You really have to have some big self-confidence to jump on that song, but if you’re a fan, you’re a fan, right? It is not as good as the original, but we all knew that beforehand. That said, Jorn’s version is very good and he does it justice. Again, Holter’s guitar arrangement is killer and he’s very much a big part of the song being as good as it is.

As a whole, this is not a killer album, much because of some boring choices of songs and some versions just doesn’t work, but most of the album is really damn good – some of the songs are even brilliant. The thing is, Jorn is such an awesome singer and when he sings on stuff that other people has written he really rises to the occasion. Also, with the addition of Trond Holter in the band he have found a partner that isn’t only a great song writer but also a great guitar player – as I said before, very underrated – and Trond’s guitars plays a big part in making this album as good as it is. It’s really great to get a covers album that actually works, that does what it’s supposed to do, an album that on many occasions breaks out of the usual hard rock comfort zone and goes outside the box. I will give this my thumbs up and while I do that, I’m getting some high hopes that Jorn’s next studio album of originals will be a really great one. I have no doubt that it will be if Holter gets the proper room in the song writing department.

Other Jorn related reviews:

Swing Of Death

7/10

Tracklist:

1. I Know There’s Something Going On (Frida)
2. Running Up That Hill (Kate Bush)
3. Rev On The Red Line (Foreigner)
4. You’re The Voice (John Farnham)
5. Live To Win (Paul Stanley)
6. Don’t Stop Believin’ (Journey)
7. Killer Queen (Queen)
8. Hotel California (Eagles)
9. Rainbow In The Dark (Dio)
10. The Final Frontier (Iron Maiden)
11. Stormbringer (Deep Purple)
12. Die Young (Black Sabbath)

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