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Tuesday, April 27 2010 00:00

PUNK GOES CLASSIC ROCK (Review)

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61AFPO3mPlL. SL160 A few weeks ago I took a look back at the past decade's worth of PUNK GOES... collections from FEARLESS RECORDS. If you missed that or aren't familiar with the series, you may want to click here to catch up before reading the rest of this review, as today is the day that PUNK GOES CLASSIC ROCK, the ninth installment of the Punk Goes... series hit's the streets.
The album has been up on MySpace where it's been streaming in it's entirety since late last week. Although I have given it a couple digital "spins" via MySpace, I wanted to get a hard copy in my hands before writing this review. Despite the convenience of digital delivery, sometimes I still like to get the CD for the full experience.

Compared to previous installments, the bands presented here are considerably younger, not quite as well-known (yet), and they're tackling some really tough material. In fact, some might argue that a few of the tracks chosen for an update should've been left alone. Let's take a track-by-track look at the album along with my thoughts on each...

"More than a Feeling" - Hit the Lights (Boston)
Hit the Lights get's the album off to a solid start with a sugary take on the classic BOSTON anthem. Their infusion of pop-punk into the track works well, especially given the source material's famous and often-duplicated four-chord breakdown. 

"Paint It Black" - VersaEmerge (The Rolling Stones)
Replacing the 'Stones classic opening riff with an electronic re-imagining, VeraEmerge manages to pull off an intriguing cover, accentuated by the dueling male/female vocals of Sierra Kusterbeck and Blake Harnage. The breakdown around the 3:06 mark is a dark epic.

"Free Fallin'" - The Almost (Tom Petty)
Possibly the most straight-forward cover on the album, The Almost doesn't take much creative liberty with Petty's original arrangement. In many ways, this reminds me of when The Ataris covered Don Henley's "Boys of Summer" back in '03 (Fun Fact: that song was actually co-written by a member of Petty's backing band, The Heartbreakers). It's a good song, played well, but nothing out of the ordinary.

"We Are the Champions" - Mayday Parade (Queen)
The first of two Queen covers present on the album, Mayday Parade turns in an acceptable version that lacks the emotional intensity of the original. Listening to this gives me visions of a high school band performing this on stage at a Senior Prom... most likely in a movie as opposed to real life.

"Rock and Roll All Nite" - The Summer Set (Kiss) 
Arizona's The Summer Set turns in a version of the KISS classic that fails to rock hard enough during the day, much less all night. Too sugar-coated, this is Disney Channel fare. Tweens will love it.

"Caught Up in You" - We the Kings (38 Special) 
Taking a song that wasn't necessarily that good to begin with (even though it was a Top Ten hit at the time), We the Kings plays this one fairly straight-forward in terms of arrangement, and actually manages to infuse the song with an energy lacking in the original.

"Separate Ways (Worlds Apart)" - A Skylit Drive (Journey)
While it's hard to match the mighty rock power of Steve Perry's vocal prowess, A Skylit Drive's take on the 1983 Journey single is a lot of fun. Going straight-forward with the opening and much of the arrangement, the band mixes it up by throwing in some killer screamo breakdowns that oddly, don't feel out of place.

"Your Love" - I See Stars (The Outfield) 
Questionable as to whether or not it even fits the "classic rock" stamp, The Outfield's 1986 single "Your Love" makes it's second appearance in the PUNK GOES... series. Unfortunately, I See Stars' electro-tinged version fails to match the excellent version performed by MIDTOWN on 2005's PUNK GOES 80's.

"(Don't Fear) The Reaper" - Pierce the Veil (Blue Öyster Cult) 
Being a real-life guitarist along with being an enthusiast of banging plastic drums on ROCK BAND, I can tell you that performing this Blue Oyster Cult classic in any form is a bitch. Pierce the Veil not only succeeds, but manages to do it well. They've put their stamp firmly upon it, while being respectful of the original.

"Crazy Train" - Forever the Sickest Kids (Ozzy Osbourne)
The first single from the album released via MySpace last month, this version of Ozzy's "Crazy Train" is another fairly straight-forward cover, despite a cool electronic addition to the intro which reappears around the 3:14 mark.

"Pour Some Sugar on Me" - The Maine (Def Leppard)
The Maine surprisingly steps well out of their normal comfort zone, cranking the volume and bringing the rock. Definitely a highlight of the collection. In addition, I'm pretty sure that The Maine's drummer has two arms.

"All Along the Watchtower" - Envy on the Coast (Bob Dylan)
The fuzziest cover of the bunch, Envy on the Coast pulls together a solid version of a song already covered by dozens of other artists. The influence of the Jimi Hendrix version is heavily noted.

"Take Me Home Tonight" - Every Avenue (Eddie Money) 
This should have been better. Playing with the arrangement a little bit, the weak 13-second intro could've been cut entirely. Where the song works best is on the multi-layered choruses, which are anthemic in their delivery.

"Bohemian Rhapsody" - Never Shout Never (Queen) 
Most "tribute" albums and cover compilations usually have at least one head-scratcher in the bunch. For PUNK GOES CLASSIC ROCK, this is it. An excruciatingly painful listen, Never Shout Never (aka Christofer Ingle) manages to destroy what is arguably one of the greatest rock songs of all time. The grating sound of his voice is enough to ruin it alone, but the big rock break at 4:05 doesn't have near the balls of the original. This song actually made me angry.

"Dream On" - Blessthefall (Aerosmith)
A fitting closer for the album, Blessthefall doesn't stray too far from the path laid by the original - a slow-burner that reaches an epic climax. Well-played.

While numerous music critics will undoubtedly point out  and complain about the lack of true "punk" rock in the current crop of bands, PUNK GOES CLASSIC ROCK is a welcome installment to the series. Like the eight installments that preceeded this one, toss this in at a party and you're guaranteed to have some lively conversation. The bottom line is to have fun and be entertained, and in that the album delivers.

Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

James Zahn

James Zahn is best-known as The Rock Father™, a media personality, commentator, adventurer and raconteur. He is the Owner, Publisher, and Editor-in-Chief of THE ROCK FATHER™ Magazine. In January, 2019, after nearly a decade of publishing The Rock Father™ Magazine, he joined Adventure Media and Events as Senior Editor of The Toy Book—the leading trade publication for the toy industry since 1984, as well as The Pop Insider — a destination for all things pop culture, and The Toy Insider — the leading consumer guide for toys and games. He is also editor of The Toy Report, a weekly newsletter published by The Toy Book each Thursday. Zahn has over 27 years of experience in the entertainment, retail and publishing industries.

He regularly serves as a Brand Ambassador and spokesperson for several Globally-recognized pop culture and lifestyle brands in addition to consulting for a number of toy manufacturers. 

Creatively, James has directed/edited music videos, lyric videos, and album trailers for bands such as FEAR FACTORY, has appeared as an actor in feature films and commercials, written comic books, and performed in bands. He currently serves as an artist manager and video director for PRODUCT OF HATE, whose debut album was released by Napalm Records in 2016, distributed by ADA/Warner Music in the U.S. with Universal Music handling global. A new album has been completed and is set for release this year.

Zahn and/or his work have been featured in/on CNN, NBC, ABC, WGN, CBS, GCTN, G4, The Chicago Tribune, Forbes, MarketWatch, Reuters, BusinessWire, Fangoria, Starlog and more. He's appeared as a music expert on CNN's AC360 alongside Anderson Cooper, and has been interviewed by Larry King. In the past he served as a writer for the Netflix Stream Team,  Fandango Family and PBS KIDS, penned articles for Sprout and PopSugar, and was a contributor to Chicago Parent.

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