Various Artists | Butchering the Beatles: A Headbashing Tribute (Restless)

cd_butcherbeatleIn what seems like a fairly obvious pairing, Damn Yankees Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw tackle the high harmonies on "Day Tripper," a song whose guitar riff was made for wank-ery, and Doug Aldritch (Whitesnake, Dio) definitely delivers.

 

 

 

 

There have been blues tributes and soul tributes, jazz tributes and string quartet tributes, so it was only a matter of time until someone released a metal tribute to the Beatles. For those who thought Mötley Crüe's atrocious cover of "Helter Skelter" just wasn't enough, Restless mixes and matches superstar singers and guitarists with lesser-known sidemen to create a brand new supergroup lineup for each of a dozen different Fab Four classics.

When the bands click, Butchering the Beatles can be a load of goofy fun. Alice Cooper hams it up to great effect on the wicked semi-rarity "Hey Bulldog," probably the most appropriate song for this context (although it should be noted that "Helter Skelter," the Beatles' only real metal-ish song, is not present here). Cooper gets a bit ridiculous during the outro—did we really need a Paris Hilton reference, or the line "You ain't no bulldog, you're just a California Chihuahua!"?—but a blazing solo from guitar god Steve Vai helps set things right. In a perfect pairing, Queensrÿche singer Geoff Tate and guitarist Michael Wilton give "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds" a power ballad push, backed by four members of Dio. ZZ Top's Billy Gibbons gives John Lennon's classic "Revolution" a dusty Texas blues spin; Gibbons' growl is perfectly suited for the song and Vivian Campbell (of latter-day Def Leppard) turns in possibly the best guitarwork he's ever committed to disc as he and Gibbons trade back and forth on the song's extended coda, the album's undeniable high point.

Some of the best songs come from surprising sources. Billy Idol drops the snarl for a downright funky take on "Tomorrow Never Knows," with guitarist Steve Stevens, drummer Brian Tichy (both of Idol's touring band), and journeyman bassist Blasko crafting a swirling psychedelic dream so far removed from Idol's usual territory that only the occasional shouts of "Yeah!" would give you any idea it was him. In what seems like a fairly obvious pairing, Damn Yankees Jack Blades and Tommy Shaw tackle the high harmonies on "Day Tripper," a song whose guitar riff was made for wank-ery, and Doug Aldritch (Whitesnake, Dio) definitely delivers. And in possibly the most shocking development, Kip Winger brings a bit of Alice Cooper's devilish charm to "Drive My Car" while Grand Funk-ster Bruce Kulick adds some down-south boogie to George Harrison's classic lead, keeping the same effortless charm of the original; all that's missing is the cowbell.

As one would expect, there are quite a few misses as well. In what should have been a shoo-in for best song, Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead utterly disappoints on "Back in the USSR," a song seemingly right up his alley. He ruins the bubblegum brilliance with a delivery that is lifeless and almost painfully off time with the instrumentation. Axeman extraordinaire Yngwie Malmsteen slings out some absolutely sick solos all over "Magical Mystery Tour," but the multi-tracked vocals from Jeff Scott Soto (of Malmsteen's own band) can't even begin to keep up. The '90s fail to pull their weight when John (Anthrax) Bush, Stephen (Deftones) Carpenter, and Mike (Alice in Chains) Inez team up on "I Feel Fine," a decent but ultimately uninspired retread. Doug Pinnick (Kings X) and Steve Lukather (Toto) come close with a low end-heavy run through "Taxman" that approaches Primus territory before John Corabi (briefly Vince Neil's replacement in Mötley Crüe) wails his way through "I Saw Her Standing There," which mostly sounds like Poison covering Chuck Berry (appropriate, given that Poison's C.C. Deville supplies the six-string heroics here). And the less said about the excruciating run through "Hey Jude" headed by Tim "Ripper" Owens (the lame-o who succeeded Rob Halford in Judas Priest), the better.

Despite some ups and downs, Butchering the Beatles is generally likeable, and the production leaves the vocals and guitars clear and crisp, although the bass and drums are frequently buried deep in the mix. Though a few songs on this collection do succeed in, as the title suggests, butchering the Beatles' classics and none of the songs approach the masterful originals—how could they?—the majority of this "headbashing tribute" is an enjoyable skewed take on the classics for those who wish George Harrison would let loose and shred every once in a while. B | Jason Green

RIYL: The Beatles, guitar wank

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