January 30, 2008

CD Review: Queensryche - Take Cover

Take cover, indeed. What is it about a cover albums that make them simultaneously attractive, with a "can't wait to here their version of x" chaser, and completely frightening to the point of not wanting to go anywhere near it? Inevitably, fans and the overly curious will take the plunge and immediately add said album to their collection. They may possibly go so far as to make up stories to justify liking the album, even if its contents fall to the decidedly lackluster side of the coin. We have already seen a few cover albums come out this year, most notably Poison's Poison'd and Tesla's Real to Reel (which was a two parter released a few months apart). Now Queensryche takes up arms and takes their stab at cover song immortality.

I was really looking forward to this. Anything with the Queensryche name on it is definitely worth spending some time with. Even if the initial listen yields mediocre to poor results, give it some time. I have found that most of their releases since Promised Land need, perhaps even require that you step away from it for a few months to a year after your initial listen to build some respect for it. I am not trying to say that everything they do is great, but there tends to be a "getting to know you" period following your first listen. I am wondering if Take Cover is the same way, however I suspect that I will have the same reaction in a year. That reaction is "Meh."

The whole of the Take Cover experience is mediocre at best. Not exactly what I was hoping for. There was something about the eclectic choice of songs to cover that led to the creation of a seed of hope for something special. Artists such as Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Black Sabbath, Queen, The Police, and Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young get the cover treatment. There is even a show tune covered, from Jesus Christ Superstar, not to mention an Italian opera song.

Some of those artists seem like a perfect fit for a band like Queensryche. They have proven their skills over and over again for years, and while it is true that their best is well behind them, I refuse to believe that they are running on empty. However, Take Cover begs to differ. Now, it is not an awful album, but one can only hope that it does not prove to be the last studio effort from a band that has produced such fine work over the years.

I hate to come across as a doomsayer, and I truly hope to be proven wrong. Listening to these songs I cannot help but get the impression that Geoff Tate's great voice is going away. I know that it is impossible to sustain the range and ability one has at the start of a career over multiple decades, but he just sounds bad. Perhaps it is the fault of the production quality, but there are times when it sounds like his words are slurring together and the pitch is off. It is not the whole album, but there are some seriously bad moments. For example listen to "For the Love of Money" and "Innuendo" (particularly the second half). You cannot tell me that he is on top of his current game on those tracks.

Musically, they sound pretty good. There are some odd arrangements that I didn't particularly care for, such as "Welcome to the Machine," but overall they were tight and well produced, although there was a lack of real crispness to the sound. The album's sound did not pop like I am used to from Queensryche material. Why this is the case, I cannot say. Perhaps they did not have much of a budget to work with, or time constraints, I can only guess.

The tracks can be broken down into three categories:
  • The Good: "Bullet the Blue Sky (live)," "Synchronicity II," "Odissea," "Almost Cut My Hair"
  • The Mediocre: "Neon Knights," "Welcome to the Machine," "Heaven on Their Minds"
  • The Bad: "For What It's Worth," "For the Love of Money," "Innuendo," "Red Rain"

Bottomline. Not completely worthless, but not nearly as good as it could have been. I suspect that I will pull the good tracks off for iPod use, but I doubt that I will revisit it in it's entirety for a long time. Not when I can go to one of their greatest hits collections, or just go to Operation: MindCrime, Rage for Order, or Empire.

Not Recommended.


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