January 22, 2020 Jorn – Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing the Classics (Album Review)
Legendary Norwegian Rock Vocalist Jørn Lande is no stranger to covers, and Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing the Classics, the latest collection under his eponymous band Jorn, is due out Friday, January 24th through Frontiers Music s.r.l..
In a slight departure from his earlier cover albums—Unlocking the Past (2007), the 2010 Ronnie James Dio tribute Dio, and the first Heavy Rock Radio album in 2016—this work contains songs largely outside the Hard Rock spectrum. As fans might expect, Jorn has recorded these songs with a smooth, syrupy Eighties’ Rock formula that simply works. The supporting instrumentation is impressive alone, particularly the guitar work of Tore Moren and Jgor Gianola, but the main feature is obviously the severely talented pipes of Lande. The off-kilter interpretation of each track helps the album breathe fresh life into the concept of a covers album.
“New York Minute” is transformed from a casual Soft Rock solo vehicle for Don Henley into a powerful Rock Opera, replete with Moren and Gianola using guitar licks to perform the familiar “ooh ooh ooooh” chorus lines after the title is sung. The following track, “Needles and Pins,” is the most dramatic transformation, with its genre being moved from a staple of ’60’s Beat Rock into a Hair/Glam Metal power track, powered largely by the drum work of Francesco Jovino. At some points, the track would also fit within the Sammy Hagar era of Van Halen.
Then there is “Night Life” which has some lush keyboard work that adjusts the setting from a common Rock song by Foreigner into a terse Glam Metal statement: the swift guitar work during the bridge is delightfully approachable, only to soar almost higher than Jorn himself when the time for solos sweeps through. As with other tracks, the original instrumentation is thrown on its ear; while keyboards abound in both versions, Alessandro Del Vecchio does a fair amount of the work originally handled by rhythm guitar. “Quinn the Eskimo” sees a subtle entrance from Mat Sinner, as the bass lays a thick winding path underneath thick keyboards that otherwise steal the show.
Not all of the songs land as successfully, but this is not a deal breaking in terms of the overall quality of the album. In fact the oddly enigmatic feeling of the Peter Gabriel work “The Rhythm of the Heat” is given its proper due here, as the disjointed tempo and layered themes are reproduced through the distinct Jorn lens. No amount of inflection is necessary here, and the band maneuvers carefully around the temptation to mess with the otherwise distinct and memorable track as first recorded by Gabriel.
Too often it seems cover artists get lost mimicking the source material, rather than respectfully running the original choice through the grinder of their own personal style. The style of Jorn may not appeal to everyone, but the work the band does with each of these tracks is dense and thorough; the power ballad style is applied liberally with intent and skill, while keeping the underlying vibe of each song in its earlier incarnation. The result here is eleven tracks which take the listener on a long meandering path through some of the more obscure acts to have influenced Jørn Lande over the past few decades. For this, Cryptic Rock gives Heavy Rock Radio II: Executing the Classics 4 out of 5 stars.