Axel Rudi Pell

Diamonds Unlocked

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Diamonds Unlocked is hardly the first example of an established rocker putting together an album of covers, and it certainly won't be the last. Some rock critics say that they hate cover albums on principle, but truth be told, there is nothing wrong with cover albums as long as the artist makes an effort to put new spins on familiar songs. In other words, a good cover album isn't going to sound like the work of a run-of-the-mill cover band -- and Axel Rudi Pell pretty much avoids that on Diamonds Unlocked, which employs Johnny Gioeli (perhaps best known for his work with Hardline) on lead vocals. Gioeli's performances tend to have a Jon Bon Jovi-ish quality, but none of the songs on this 2007 release are Bon Jovi songs; actually, about half of the tunes originated outside of hard rock and metal. Pell and Gioeli turn their attention to hard rock favorites like the Who's "Won't Get Fooled Again," Montrose's "Rock the Nation," and Free's "Heartbreaker," but they also embrace songs ranging from Phil Collins' "In the Air Tonight" to U2's "Beautiful Day" to Michael Bolton's "Fools Game" (which is the only thing on the album they should have avoided). Pell and Gioeli make "In the Air Tonight" and "Beautiful Day" rock harder -- not in a full-fledged heavy metal way, but certainly in a hard rock/arena rock way -- whereas their equally intriguing take on Kiss' "Love Gun" does just the opposite: it rocks less hard than the original version and is transformed into a moody ballad. Diamonds Unlocked won't go down in history as one of 2007's masterpieces, but despite hitting the occasional speed bump (most notably, the Bolton cover), Diamonds Unlocked has more ups than downs and demonstrates that cover albums don't have to be predictable or devoid of surprises.

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