I can’t remember the last time I read or heard somebody praising cover-albums. At times it even feels like people hate them by default, that they have made up their minds without hearing a note. I have no issues at all with cover-albums, I even find them interesting. It’s always fun to hear some artist’s take on another artist’s song. That said, there are bad ones and there are really good ones, but it almost never happens that a cover betters the original. I know of covers albums that are really good – Stryper, Tesla and Ace Frehley have all released really good records, but the first time I actually looked forward to a cover-album is when Jorn Lande was about to release Heavy Rock Radio back in 2016. Let me explain why.
When it comes to Jorn Lande – this brilliant singer – I have never been much into his solo stuff. I think he’s at best when he sticks to singing and let other people be in charge of writing songs. Masterplan, Avantasia, Ayreon, Vagabond – and let’s not forget the brilliant Swing Of Death album that ex- Wig Wam guitarist Trond Holter wrote the music for, all those projects has Lande’s voice bettering the end-results. That’s why I looked forward to hear Jorn’s interpretations of his favorite tunes. And it was a damn good album. Mostly simply because Jorn and his band managed to Jornify the tunes and making great versions of them but also because he didn’t only chose the usual suspects but some very surprising choices. I’m not sure how successful that album was but that we would be given a sequel was, at least to me, a no-brainer. And since I dug the first one, I had some high hopes for this one.
Jorn & co. open the album with Bryan Adams’ hit and classic that never was but should have been, “Lonely Nights” from his second album You Want It, You Got It (1981). Originally, an AOR-pearl, here tempoed and heavied up some, Jornified with a crunchier outlook but still true to the song’s big melodies and hooks. Closest description here would be an AOR flavoured Hard Rock stomper, big on catchiness and striking melodies. A very good cover of a very good song. It was also chosen as this record’s leading single. Go figure. A cover of Russ Ballard’s “Winning” – also covered once by Santana – follows and for someone not familiar with Ballard’s stuff other than his obvious hits, this surely is a pleasant aquaintance. It comes in a slower pace and holds a edgier twist than I guess the original does. Some bagpipes comes in which bring the tune a slightly celtic flair and on top an effective and super-catchy refrain takes the song home. It’s winning for sure.
Don Henley’s “New York Minute”, a song I can’t recall ever hearing albeit I probably should have, is a slow and heavy ballad with a thick, beefy rhythm. With slow and laid-back verses, the chorus gets bigger and more bombastic – and it could actually pass as an original Jorn-tune. Never a Don Henley fan myself, I sure did enjoy this version, a version that really stayed with me afterwards without going air-wave flirtatious at all. Very good. The album’s second single, a cover of The Searcher’s “Needles And Pins”, earlier also made famous by both Smokie and The Ramones, is quite a cheeser originally but is Jorned up on a heavier and rockier mode. In Jorn’s hands, this becomes a Melodic Rock groover but with all the pop-elements and big catchiness intact. It’s a real curve-ball, a very unexpected choice and pretty far from what you would associate with a singer like mr Lande.
Santana’s “Love” is next up for the execution and since I have never listened to Santana’s records, I have no clue how this sounds in its original form. Groovy as damn on a beefy rhythm, this tune comes across as a heavier, early 80’s Whitesnake. With some chunky riffing, 70’s Classic Rock style, the tune is even headbang-friendly in a mid-pace with a splendid chorus that is the icing on the cake for making this tune sounding like it could have been a Jorn original. I dig it but I wonder what Santana himself would think of it. “I Do Believe In You” is another new aquaintance for me since the song’s authors The Pages is a group I have never even heard of before. The tune clearly comes from west-coast/pop and Jorn has kept many of those elements here but it’s been given a more pop-laden Classic Rock touch, which I guess suits him better than pure AOR. With a bulls-eye refrain, the tune’s pop-friendly catchiness makes it a clear single-contender – and this could very well end up a hit. Very good.
“Night Life”, taken from Foreigner’s superb album 4, before mawkish power ballads took over and they actually rocked hard, stays true to the original albeit Jorn has made it more gritty and heavy and morphed the song from a pretty crunchy AOR-rocker to a Classic Rock belter. That said, the early 80’s shines through and the song’s new costume fits just fine. One of the highlights of the album. That Jorn has covered a Deep Purple tune isn’t exactly a shocker, but what I love with this choice – “Bad Attitude” from the oh so underrated House Of Blue Light (1986) – is that it’s not one of the obvious classic 70’s Purple tracks. This song is one of the songs that’s closest to the original on the album but Jorn’s version is slightly rougher and it takes a slightly new twist without the slick, 80’s production of the original. I love the original and I think this version is awesome too.
Written by Bob Dylan but made famous by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1976, “Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)” is another unexpected choice. At first, the tune feels somewhat out of place albeit well-performed but as it goes on it grows when the song takes the route of 70’s Classic Rock with a Deep Purple vibe complete with a raunchy organ and a quick jam session. I think it’s a fantastic cover. That Dio would turn up here isn’t exactly a wild-card but as Jorn’s major influence, he/they really should. I love Dio’s poppier moments and “Mystery” is a brilliant song. Not much has been done to it here but Jorn totally nails it and the song fits him like a glove. Yeah! To round this adventure up, we get a cover of Peter Gabriel’s “The Rhythm Of The Heat”. Never a fan of Gabriel – which doesn’t mean I dislike his stuff – I’m unfamiliar with this track. Jorn’s version is an uptempo, meaty and crunchy rocker that ends up between 70’s and 80′ Classic Rock with a Metal addition for good measure. I dig this version and the chorus hits me right between the eyes.
I really don’t know what to write about this record that I haven’t already written about the first one, other than I prefer the first one. Why? Well, I think both records are really good and equally as well-performed, it’s just that I found the first one’s songs more interesting – and slightly better even though it contained some unimaginative tracks like “Don’t Stop Believin'”, “Hotel California” and “Rainbow In The Dark”. This album, however, helped me get aquainted with stuff that I have never leant an ear before, in that case this album is even more interesting than the first one. But what I do like with both of the cover-albums is that Jorn haven’t rushed the songs and that he do them with heart, passion and conviction – he’s a fan(boy) and he has made sure he’s given the songs his all and he has also Jornified the songs, making sure that he’s done his best making them his own. Again, well done.
More Jorn reviews:
1. Lonely Nights (Bryan Adams)
2. Winning (Russ Ballard)
3. New York Minute (Don Henley)
4. Needles And Pins (The Searchers)
5. Love (Santana)
6. I Do Believe In You (The Pages)
7. Night Life (Foreigner)
8. Bad Attitude (Deep Purple)
9. Quinn The Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn) (Bob Dylan / Manfred Mann’s Earth Band)
10. Mystery (Dio)
11. The Rhythm Of The Heat (Peter Gabriel)