Although often billed as the world’s biggest prog rock supergroup, The Prog Collective is actually more of a revolving gang of musicians. Working with an incredibly fluid line up, it’s merely an umbrella name that allows multi-instrumentalist Billy Sherwood to call on various friends according to their appropriate talents. If this sounds like a similar set up to one of Sherwood’s many tribute albums, it’s with very good reason. The Prog Collective’s main difference – at least on their first two albums – came from the idea that the gathering of talent would record original material. It’s also clear that Sherwood believed, perhaps correctly, that the mystique of a “prog supergroup” would attract more listeners than one of his many solo projects.
Ronnie Romero is one of those vocalists who never seems to stop working. Between the beginning of 2016 and the end of 2021, he released three albums with his own prog metal band Lords of Black, two as frontman with power metal collaborative The Ferrymen (featuring the multi-talented Magnus Karlsson), an album apiece with Sunstorm and Vandenberg, embarked on major tours with Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow and even guested with Michael Schenker.
Electric Six’s debut album, 2003’s ‘Fire’, was a runaway success. On that record, the band’s disco/garage rock hybrid sound caught the ears of a generation and, back when such things were important, its massive singles gained heavy rotation on the music TV channels. The live shows that followed stoked up the fun, with “dance commander” Dick Valentine, indeed, showing a decent command of an audience looking for big grooves and cheap thrills. Things might not have worked out quite so well in a tent at the Reading Festival that year when the attendant crowd heckled endlessly for ‘Gay Bar’ – and only wanted to hear ‘Gay Bar’ – but being a smart cookie, Valentine managed to keep everyone under control while working through really spirited renditions of the album tracks until the restless crowd finally got their wish. A lesser frontman might have allowed things to descend into chaos, but despite half the audience’s indifference beyond the hits, it ended up being a superb show.
Following a couple of DIY recordings, UK hardcore/noise punk duo Get The Fuck Outta Dodge turned their hand to the covers album. ‘These Songs Aren’t Ours’ brought an equal mix of punky chaos and fun when James (bass/shouting) and Ren (drums/more shouting) hammered their way through the expected (tunes by Black Flag, Misfits and Rollins Band), to the inspired (a fuzz heavy version of The Cure’s ‘Screw’) to the joyous and bizarre (hardcore reworkings of tunes by the oft forgotten Whale and 80s pop stars Fuzzbox). It showed why a covers album need not be lazy or uninspired. After what felt like about thirty six hours, the never resting duo returned with a new EP, proving their minimalist hardcore had a lot more to give, before ending the year with another full-length. At the point you’d expect their drums/bass/shouting approach to be wearing thin, ‘Buzzkill’ actually presented GTFOD at their most visceral on one of the best releases of 2020.
Four months later, the duo released a second onslaught of cover tunes, ‘These Songs Still Aren’t Ours’, which very much follows the same pattern as their first covers release. Nothing is off limits; everything is subjected to a barrage of distortion, and as before, their choice of material is both classic and off-piste. With twenty two tracks filling a strictly limited cassette, it really gives fans a lot to enjoy.
Covers albums can be a hit and miss prospect. For every band willing to take risks, there are three dozen hacking out uninspired versions of other peoples’ songs in the name of a quick buck. As proven by Jorn Lande, metal based covers albums can be an even trickier thing to pull off successfully, since not everything needs – or even suits – being “heavied up” in the name of entertainment. In fact, the experience of hearing Lande wail his way through Don Henley’s ‘New York Minute’ could be enough to put you off metal oriented covers albums for life…