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Butchering The Beatles A Headbashing Tribute

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Thursday, September 21, 2006 @ 12:49 AM

On Restless Records

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Fuck ‘em.

People who are adamant about the Beatles tend to be exactly like ones who love Shakespeare---that is to say they are a colossal pain in the ass. Whether it’s a discussion about books or music, these kinds of people not only want to use their idols as a reference point, they also want to end the conversation with these vaunted figures as well. That isn’t to say that either Shakespeare or the Beatles haven’t had an enormous impact on what has followed in both literature and music—they have. It’s just that when a person adores a group or person so much that they begin to contemplate the logistics of breaking into a cemetery and stealing whatever is left of their dead heroes in an attempt to achieve sexual satisfaction by rubbing the stolen bones on their genitals while screaming sonnets or yodeling “Hey Jude”…well, that’s a little much by my standards. The simple fact is that sometimes adoration can simply go too far. It may sound like heresy, but Robin Zander used to get on my fucking nerves when he would sing “Magical Mystery Tour”—and yes, that was bad enough, but things got worse in a hurry when Cheap Trick originals started sounding something a Holiday Inn version of a Beatles tribute band might put together. Basically, a great tribute record involving a band as storied and powerful as the Beatles has to not only be saturated with great playing but must also contain a healthy dose of musical celebration as well. Wooden adoration and rote interpretation of selections already recorded and listened to by most people eight billion times makes for a record that is never worth the purchase--whether or not Butchering The Beatles is a hands down success worthy of countless replays depends almost entirely on this point.

The introductory selection here is “Hey Bulldog” which comes courtesy of Alice Cooper, Steve Vai, Duff McKagen and Mikkey Dee—the makings of a super group by anyone’s standards. The product is as vibrant as one might expect too with Cooper’s singing and Vai’s guitar histrionics accompanied by the rhythm section comprised of McKagen and Dee. If you were thinking that maybe the first track was a little top heavy on talent and that maybe the rest of the disc consisted of contributions from guys like the touring bassist for Danger, Danger circa 1989, you’d be wrong. Instead, a rocking, rambling version of “Back In The U.S.S.R.” follows…..this time delivered by none other than Lemmy Kilmister. If that wasn’t enough, John 5 provides the six-string expertise here with the skins being pounded by Mr. Eric Singer. Both tracks manage to deliver a shot of old rock mixed with an energy and differing perspective that makes one understand why someone would get involved in a project like this in the first place. Geoff Tate and Michael Wilton of Queensryche lead the group that performs a version of the psychedelic anthem “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” that is about eight billion times better than the original. A rocker knows that they’ll always get quality when Tate’s voice is concerned--there is nothing in his performance here to change that perception either. The rest of the musicians are great as well. The only real miss out of the first four tunes is “Tomorrow Never Knows” sung….sort of…by Billy Idol. I know that he’s never been the best vocalist, but still—does he have to sound like he’s gargling shit upside down while having his anus probed with an eggbeater? I guess for the sake of brevity, we can just call him the Anti-Tate.

The middle of this disc includes “The Magical Mystery Tour” featuring vocalist Jeff Scott Soto of Yngwie Malmsteen fame teaming with Bruce Kulick who handles the guitar work while Jeff Pilson mans the bass. Behind them is the usual workmanlike drumming of Frankie Banali which combines with the other musicians to form a wall of sound that is all-encompassing and, in fact, borders on spectacular at times. Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top even makes an appearance singing track six, “Revolution”. That turns out to be a good thing too as Gibbons brings some slow, gravely vocal stylings to the festivities that somehow manages to be both casual and startlingly appropriate at the same time. If that wasn’t enough, guitarist Vivian Campbell backs him, and it actually seems as though he may not have forgotten how to play the instrument---although you wouldn’t necessarily know it from his tenure in Def Leppard. Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw are the featured musicians on “Day Tripper”---a song with relatively disappointing pedestrian vocals but commendable axe work that makes the rest of the production somehow tolerable. When John Bush comes in and makes his presence felt on “I Feel Fine” which, by the way, rocks like hell, it starts to become difficult to believe that a bunch of Beatles songs performed by all these mismatched rockers could possibly be this good—but, the majority of it really is.

The final group of tunes begins with sort of a speed bump as “Taxman” misses the mark vocally as Doug Pinnick’s performance is better than Idol’s but still doesn’t quite make the cut. Again, it is a guitarist, Steve Vai, that makes the track at least listenable. The disc rebounds quickly though with John Corabi of all people delivering a slamming version of “I Saw Her Standing There” as Phil Campbell of Motorhead and C.C. Deville man the guitars. I’m not real sure what C. C. contributed here, but….maybe the recording session will be on another episode of Surreal Life. Tim “Ripper” Owens follows this up with a really, unrocking rendition of the hippie shit power ballad….“Hey Jude”. Man, I don’t know who made this pairing, but…Tim is a helluva vocalist, and this just doesn’t work very well. I mean, I know it’s supposed to start slow, but the momentum never really goes anywhere at any time really, and the track ends up being a bit of a disappointment. The disc ends though with one of the best songs on the album…..are you ready for this? The finale is a Kip Winger rave up of “Drive My Car” that proves to be the absolute perfect closer for this project.

People generally consider the Beatles the most important music act of all time, and I can understand this distinction although I might not hold what they produced on the same lofty, reverential level that multitudes of the band’s ardent fans do. What this tribute record manages to do successfully though is meld a group of truly respected members of the metal community into a force that interprets this seminal band’s music in a way that is both energetic and interesting. The fact that such luminaries as Lemmy, Alice Cooper, Steve Vai and Geoff Tate have lent their talents to this endeavor suggests that the Beatles are probably as respected within some of the harder genres of music as they are in the more traditional realms of pop or country. People basically in need of a fresh fix from the Beatles can pick this up and appreciate the form and musicianship inherent within regardless of whether or not they are a “metal” fan, and hell, it has to be a lot easier than engaging in grave robbing and trying to pull the whole voodoo, genital, croch rub thing. In less, of course, you’re into that type of thing.

*** ½

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