Thursday, May 26, 2011

Black Label Society - The Song Remains Not The Same

Black Label Society
The Song Remains Not The Same
Riot! Entertainment/Warner Music Australia

Zakk Wylde certainly doesn’t like to remain idle for long, with the vocalist/guitarist making sure that fans have something new from his Black Label Society outfit to get their hands on with each and every passing year. As a follow-up to last year’s impressive ‘Order Of The Black’ album, Wylde and his S.D.M.F. are back with ‘The Song Remains Not The Same’.
As the title implies, ‘The Song Remains Not The Same’ (A clever play on Led Zeppelin’s live film/album ‘The Song Remains The Same’ from 1976) boasts a collection of semi-acoustic reinterpretations that aren’t the same as their original counterparts, with the album following on in similar fashion to Wylde’s former acoustic efforts (Namely 1996’s ‘Book Of Shadows’ and 2004’s ‘Hangover Music Vol. VI’).
Black Label Society (Who comprise of vocalist/guitarist/pianist Zakk Wylde, bassist/backing vocalist John DeServio and drummer Will Hunt) start off proceedings with four semi-acoustic reworked efforts from ‘Order Of The Black’, beginning with ‘Overlord’. ‘Overlord’, which is the only fully acoustic based effort on the album, remains true to the original in terms of its structure and reproduced guitar riffs (Apart from a very brief electric solo) and is definitely a stand out cut in its re-imagined form, while ‘Parade Of The Dead’ is given a complete overhaul, with piano and keyboard played strings giving the song a real emotional depth that was otherwise masked by loud guitars on the original.
‘Riders Of The Damned’ also comes out a winner in its conversion to acoustic, with the lyrical prose retaining the menace of the original, which is balanced out with the keyboarded strings, the subtle electric guitar effects and the rockier acoustics base. Unfortunately, as good as ‘Darkest Days’ is as a song, there’s not a real lot that separates this re-recorded from the original.
Next up are the collection cover versions that made up the bonus tracks on the various editions of ‘Order Of The Black’ released around the world. The pick of the bunch is undoubtedly the amazing reworking of Black Sabbath’s ‘Junior’s Eyes’ (According to Wylde, Ozzy Osbourne loved it), with the faithful rendition of Traffic’s classic ‘Can’t Find My Way Home’ coming a close second. The cover of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s ‘Helpless’ is quite good, but sadly Simon And Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’ just sounds too overdone on the vocal front.
Finishing up the album is an alternate version of ‘Darkest Days’ with country singer/song writer John Rich sharing lead vocals alongside Wylde (Which is interesting, but kind of pointless given this is the third version of the song there now is), and an inclusion of the band’s piano/acoustic rendition of the traditional Christmas tune ‘The First Noel’ that was released digitally late last year.
Some have criticised ‘The Song Remains Not The Same’ for not being up to par with either ‘Book Of Shadows’ and ‘Hangover Music Vol. VI’, but to do so would be missing the point. This album is really a compilation companion to ‘Order Of The Black’, which compiles the various bonus tracks and some acoustic versions of previously released material. And on that basis, die-hard fans would be hard pressed to find a fault with this release, or at least solid at its worst.

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© Justin Donnelly