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Ministry

Cover Up

Review by Rick Damigella

Cover albums are a dangerous thing, especially when done by an established band. They generally fall somewhere in between the categories of sheer brilliance and complete rubbish, mostly in the latter and rarely in the former. Ministry’s last foray into recorded music, entitled Cover Up, kicks its steel toed boot right into the realm of brilliance.

Where many artists mess up the covers album concept is in how they execute the recording. They often seem to be done in a few short, throw away sessions or sound like they were recorded with no passion for the music they claim inspired them. Many bands also seem reluctant to take chances with the arrangements of the songs, often choosing to do pedestrian retreads of songs that leave you wanting to just listen to the original. Al Jourgensen’s industrial metal juggernaut Ministry however, have the steel balls to do the exact opposite and do it right.

Instead of just playing the songs loud and fast, Jourgensen instead has put eachpiece on this disc through the Ministry machine, along with the help of “co-conspirators” lending vocals throughout the album, and given them appropriate industrial crunch in places and fan-boy enthusiasm in others. While purist fans of the classic rock artists featured here may cry blasphemy, nothing could be further from the truth. In many instances, Jourgensen manages to bring out things the originators did with subtlety and in turn hits you square in the face with the ferocity that only Ministry could bring, while merely mutilating a few sacred cows in the process.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2008  Volume 4 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Under My Thumb
Burton C. Bell from Fear Factory lends his throat to the opening number. Jourgensen has kept the song structure nearly completely the same, save for the obvious metallic pounding of the guitars. The melody line and raspy whispered backing vocals give the number a slightly gothy feel.
Bang a Gong
Josh Bradford of Silverstein grabs the mic for this cover, which I must say, brings the nasty factor up to 11. Jourgensen even has more of a glam groove in his guitar playing than the Power Station did in their cover in ’85.
Radar Love
Warning! Be very careful if you add this one to your favorite driving mix. We can’t be responsible for any speeding tickets you receive while driving to this. Josh Bradford sings here and once again, Jourgensen keeps the original song structure pretty much intact, just giving it appropriate Ministry thud. The double kick fills are nice additions and the full metal gallop during the chorus will entice the head banger in you to mess up any recent chiropractic adjustments you may have had done.
Space Truckin’
As a die-hard Deep Purple fan, here is my own personal litmus test for whether or not crimes against music history have been committed. There are some really bad covers of Purple songs out there, but this is not one of them. Jourgensen pumps up the metal in the chords and Tommy Victor of Prong bravely treads where many vocalists fear to tread and does so very well. The guitar solo is nearly note for note the same as the original, just so much heavier.
Black Betty
Ram Jam’s signature number has never sounded better. Ministry really should have recorded this years ago since it just feels like something they would play. Al Jourgensen’s vocals are spot on.
Mississippi Queen
Here is another song recreated from the depths of the artist’s fandom for the original. While the structure is not messed with much, everything is just cranked up beyond 11. Including the cow bell. Tommy Victor is back on the mic and despite Ministry’s usual disposition, this is actually a really fun song to rock out to.
Just Got Paid
OK, now things begin to take a turn towards the original being unrecognizable - but not in a bad way. ZZ Top’s song is, in a word, ferocious sounding. Jourgensen’s vocals teeter just on the edge of becoming a death growl without actually doing so.
Roadhouse Blues
This is the same recording as was included on Ministry’s The Last Sucker. To quote Jim Morrison: “I am interested in anything about revolt, disorder, chaos.” Ministry not only finds the revolt and chaos bubbling under the original, but has turned the blues number into a 200 mile an hour speed metal assault, that I imagine, would have pleased Mr. Mojo Rising himself had he heard it.
Supernaut
Ministry’s alter ego 1,000 Homo DJ’s recorded this originally, which I first heard on the Black Sabbath tribute disc Nativity in Black. I am huge Sabbath fan but will go on record and say that for me, I like this version better than the original in many ways. This is a different mix than found on the Sabbath tribute, running longer with several different samples added and a dissonant bridge section. Even if you have the NIB version, this is still one to hear.
Lay Lady Lay
Ok, this one is the most unrecognizable song from the original. Slower and amongst the crunchiest of the industrialized treatments on the album this one will likely enrage a few people out there. But as Jourgensen might say, "F*** ‘em."
What a Wonderful World
I was really expecting this to be something different to close the album and I was right. It’s slow. It’s pretty (darkly pretty). Jourgensen even gives a very dramatic vocal performance. He’s not screaming. He’s singing. Yes, it sounds like he ate a handful of razors first, and I suspect there might be a bit of tongue in cheek in there, but dang if this isn’t a really cool rendition. Call this a love song for the pierced/tattooed set… oh wait, its now 3:45 into the song and here comes the metal. Oh whew, there is the Ministry scream I was expecting. With pierced tongue planted firmly in cheek, this is a helluva album closer.
What a Wonderful World (Traditional)
Surely there must be more right? After several blank gaps, you get the first of three bonus songs. Pop the disc in iTunes for a laugh at what a fan surely did by putting bits of humor describing the blank tracks in between. At track 23 is what is essentially the slow and gothically pretty half of the previous song without the metal explosion. Request this version to be played at the next wedding you go to involving a couple with a taste for the extreme.
What a Wonderful World (Live and Fast)
At track 44 is a live performance that is essentially the full on metal gallop portion of track 11. Who said you can’t mosh to the classics?
Stigmata (Acoustic Dub Ya Mix)
And appropriately enough, at track 69 is a short number with vocals allegedly done by an anonymous fan. It's a humorous end to the album as only Al Jourgensen could do.
 
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