As bad as things got at the end of the Tate era for Queensryche (cabaret, anyone?), Take Cover was a musical low. Queensryche were busy in 2007, with a double live performance of both Mindcrime albums (Mindcrime at the Moore), a double best-of (Sign of the Times featuring a new song called “Justified”), and Take Cover, a covers album. Considering the number of releases in 2007 (double CDs no less), Take Cover looks all the less necessary.
The five members of Queensryche each chose some songs for the album, and you have to admit that most of these choices are pretty cool. Where things go sideways is in the recording of them, and it usually comes down to Geoff Tate’s voice. Floyd’s “Welcome to the Machine”, which opens the album, should have been a slam dunk. The dark musical backbone is there, but Geoff’s shaky multi-layered vocals do not send shivers up the spine the way Gilmour’s did. It’s nice that Geoff threw some of his trademark sax in here, and the solos (Michael Wilton and Mike Stone) are great. The problem is the vocal and that’s a big problem.
“Heaven on Their Minds”, from Jesus Chris Superstar, was chosen by Mike Stone, who left the band after this album. Musically this works, and I never would have guessed its origin just from its metallic riff. Thumbs up for this one, no complaints about the singing. CSNY’s “Almost Cut My Hair” is a dud though, and they should have left well enough alone. Following that is a flat “For What It’s Worth” (Buffalo Springfield), a double whammy of stinky renditions of hippy anthems. Thanks Geoff, for picking those two….
When I spoke to Eddie “edbass” Jackson back in 2001, he told me “I love funk, I really like a really hard driving sound. I tend to focus more on the sonic end of it than the performance end.” That’s a great way to describe his take on the O’Jays “For the Love of Money”. Even Geoff’s sour singing fails to sink it, such is the relentless groove. Queen’s “Innuendo” is another brave choice. Long I have loved this Zeppelin-esque Queen classic. This masterwork of beauty, elegance and strength is rendered limp as a noodle by the vocal chords of Mr. Jeffrey Wayne Tate. This is painfully bad. It reminds me of Bad News’ version of “Bohemian Rhapsody”. Now my head hurts, and I must now do an ear-cleanse by playing the immaculate original as sung by Freddie Mercury. [Note: I’m not kidding, that’s exactly what I did! Here you go.]
From Freddie Mercury to Ronnie James Dio, there are some difficult vocalists here to cover. Right there are two of the greatest of all time, without question. Geoff struggles a little less with the Dio approach on “Neon Nights”. But he’s absolutely screwed on “Syncronicity II” by The Police. Scott Rockenfield, who I have always thought must have been a Stewart Copeland fan, picked this song. One of the things about the original was how effortlessly Sting sang it. He hit each note perfect and cleanly. Geoff is wavering all over the place, and it robs the song of all its biggest hooks.
Geoff Tate recovers on “Red Rain” by Peter Gabriel…oh man, what a song! Edbass shines on this one, as does Scotty Rock. “Red Rain” is one of the album highlights. Tate then indulges his every fantasy on “Odissea”, part of an Italian opera. It’s up to you whether you hit the skip button or not. Just keep in mind what Geoff Tate did to poor defenceless Freddie Mercury. He sings in Italian, so kudos for him for doing this, but the end result is an experiment that doesn’t need repeating. Finally, the live take of U2’s “Bullet the Blue Sky” is by far the best song. This is a recording from the Q2k era featuring Kelly Gray on guitar before he was replaced by Mike Stone. It’s a 10 minute extended workout complete with an epic Tate rant. “Don’t step outside of that box! Don’t step outside of that box! It’s dangerous there…outside that box.”
As much as Take Cover is a slog to get through, “Bullet the Blue Sky” is arguably enough to make it worth it.