Diamonds Unlocked by Axel Rudi Pell
Release date : October 2007
Reviewed by Anthony Morgan
One of Germany's outstanding axemen, namely Axel Rudi Pell (ex-Steeler), issues Diamonds Unlocked after notching up over a dozen studio albums under its belt. Consisting of no more then eleven covers, it includes tracks by The Who, U2, Kiss, Free and Phil Collins amongst other artists. Joining Pell are; Johnny Gioeli (ex-Hardline) donates vocals, Ferdy Doernberg (Rough Silk, Uli Jon Roth) supplies keyboards, Volker Krawczak (Ex-Steeler) handles bass and Mike Terrana (Rage) steps behind the drumkit. Pell self-produced the album, while Charlie Bauerfiend (boasting credits mixing Helloween and Blind Guardian) mixed the effort.
Diamonds Unlocked proves to be a showcase for the exemplary guitar work of Pell, a vastly underrated axeman that wields a highly powerful calibre. Each track bathes in a shimmering glow, all the great product of Pell effortlessly fretting away with his group of musicians who back him all the way. Highly charged, sparks fly in certain areas.
The most overtly commercial track undoubtedly has to be “Beautiful Day”, originally written by multi-platinum Irish act U2. Here Pell cranks up the Hard Rock factor several notches, a reworking that should be met with a warm reception by the MTV generation. Should it find its way into the group's live set in the future, the appealing number will be positively met by a jovial crowd singing along to every word - should justice be served. The distinctly Metal reinterpretation which 99% of headbangers will be raving about immediately shouts its name from the speakers, and that is Riot's “Warrior”. Pell stirs himself into a wild rage, pulling no punches. The frenetic solos discharge intensified amounts of sparks here, more audible than anywhere else on the record. If one doesn't run for cover, then it'll be them whose struck. Pell also finds the time to show his mellower, more poignant streak in areas of other numbers, ample proof of the axeman's depth, breadth and range in his musicianship. The Rock N' Roll chug of Kiss' “Love Gun” is stripped away in favour of a simple acoustic refrain, and frankly Kiss' enthusiasts (and everyone else) must immediately investigate this one. The affecting passion and emotive feeling is vastly improved upon the original, lending the song a really authentic, hearty soul its source material certainly lacks. The acoustic refrain combines itself with the mighty voice of Gioeli, forming a potent force.
Placing all the credit on Pell's shoulders, however, would be unfair. The basic rhythm and beat established from the offset by the team of musicians involved is rather engaging, attracting warranted attention independent of their mainman. The capable and robust voice of Gioeli soars, belting their firm tones throughout the record. Without Gioeli in the mix, Pell's reinterpretations would definitely lack a vital ingredient.
Most cover albums reveal themselves to be ill conceived, bloated and self indulgent, yet this record avoids that dangerous trap. Highly enjoyable, Pell and company pay the ultimate tribute to the artists whom they selected songs from. As opposed to producing xerox copies which add nothing to the originals, each track has been given a bold reimagining. It shows the tracks in an altogether new light, presenting them from another perspective. That perspective is worthy of an attentive audience, so let's hope the stigma cover albums endure quietly passes by Diamonds Unlocked.