Tesla | Real to Reel (Tesla Electric Co. Rec.)

teslaNot only is the energy notably lacking on each track, the production quality of the entire album falls flat. It fails to pop, sizzle, or even appear interesting.





Tesla's sixth studio album, Real to Reel, is a double album of nothing but cover tunes. Which prompts the question, "Why are '80s hair metal bands releasing cover song albums lately?" It's not like they are huge money makers, so I am confused as to the groups' motivation. Def Leppard's 2006 album, Yeah tanked, and Poison's 2007 cover album, Poisn'd has barely made any noise at all. (C'mon, did you even know they released the album?)

Tesla, who made their debut in 1986 amid the avalanche of hair metal bands, were unfortunately lumped in with the mass of "less talent, more lipstick" kind of bands. The group, which was more blues-rock-focused than glam or metal, always seemed to be associated with the hair metal groups due to their heavy sound and heartfelt lyrics. The thing that set them apart was the level of musicianship and ability to rock without the gimmicks. For reference, go check out the group's 1986 Mechanical Resonance for a musical how-to manual on what makes a great rock album.

That said, this album could be their Achilles heel. Crammed full of songs that graced the FM dial in the '70s, the first disc should really be viewed as a British Invasion cover album. Almost half of the tracks belong to bands that hailed or have roots from England. While the Rolling Stones' "Honky Tonk Woman" and Traffic's "Dear Mr. Fantasy" are stellar classic-rock tracks, the songs just don't seem to translate well with Jeff Keith's raspy vocals. Other tracks like UFO's "Rock Bottom" and the Beatles' "I've Got a Feeling" come off stale and uninspired. The only track that managed to shimmer ever so slightly was Deep Purple's "Space Truckin'," despite the fact that Keith's singing comes across less than energetic.

The band tried to capture the live energy of each track by recording each song using only 24 tracks. They abandoned the modern way of producing of using ProTools and layering all together. Bass player Brian Wheat goes on record saying, "You can't manipulate the reel. This was all recorded old-school, just like it was in the '70s." Unfortunately this is an instance where current technology would have served the group well. Not only is the energy notably lacking on each track, the production quality of the entire album falls flat. It fails to pop, sizzle, or even appear interesting.

Another gimmick the band employs is making fans go to one of their live shows to get the second disc. Despite the fact that the second disc is free, this trick smacks of desperation. Are ticket sales so sad that they have to lure concert goers with free CDs? Not having heard the second disc—and I doubt I will either seeing how the band's tour schedule doesn't allow them to come to the Gateway City—the slate of songs seem to be much more rocking than those on the first disc. I would have enjoyed hearing the group's take on Mott the Hoople's "All the Young Dudes" and Black Sabbath's "War Pigs."

The lesson learned here is while cover tunes may appease the live audience, whole albums of the songs come across as egocentric and bloated. I think Tesla has to learn the hard the hard way that, no matter how good you think you are, you will never be as good as the original. I just hope the boys have got this out of their system and get back to kicking out the jams…and by that, I mean their jams. C- | Jim Campbell

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