Rockers Cover ‘Ol’ Blue Eyes’ With Mixed Success

Frank Sinatra, “The Chairman of The Board,” “Ol’ Blue Eyes,” “The Voice” or whatever other moniker he went by, was the greatest popular singer of the twentieth century, with his legendary interpretations of the Great American Songbook, one of a kind phrasing and sonorous vocal tone that evolved into a seasoned brilliance in the autumn of his years. Many have covered his signature songs, including Tony Bennett, one of his contemporaries, released “Perfectly Frank,” a tribute album to the Hoboken-born legend.

“SIN-atra,” features rock and metal singers covering 12 of his classics. Is this sacrilegious? An affront? This collection is treading on hallowed ground, but if taken in the spirit it is presented in, is an enjoyable effort in parts and an empty exercise in futility in others.

The brain child of Bob Kulick, who has produced Metal Christmas and Beatle tributes, arranged this effort and plays guitar on it along with Richie Kotzen (guitar) and is joined by Brett Chassen (drums), Mr. Big’s Billy Sheehan (bass) and Doug Katsaros (keyboards). Their musicality and “chops” are clearly evident on this release, but its selling points are the contributions of Jani Lane of Warrant, Dee Snider (Twisted Sister), Robin Zander (Cheap Trick) Glenn Hughes (Trapeze, Deep Purple and Black Country Communion) and Geoff Tate (Queensryche). Rounding out the group are some less accomplished rockers like, Doug Pinnick of King’s X, Franky Perez (Scars on Broadway), Nonpoint singer Elias Soriano and Devin Townsend, an up and coming current Metal artist.

“New York, New York” by the aforementioned Townsend is nothing but a poor parody with a tedious scream fest in parts that is only partially redeemed by some crunching guitar and a unique arrangement. Townsend clearly has vocal talent that has not been harnessed. The vocal chorus at the end is out of place.Singers should realize where their strengths and weaknesses lie.

Glenn Hughes, who has also been dubbed “The Voice,” is one of the high points on the CD for this humble reporter, with his rendering of “I’ve Got You Under my Skin.” Hughes has amazing vocal range which is in full bloom on this track. He can handle any vocal chore and his soulful, rocking version gives this classic new life and a second “skin.”

The “Summerwind” is given a valiant effort by Tate, but falls short. The vocals are a little overdone, pretentious and the brass section is totally out of place. Despite this, the midsection and solo are the only saving grace.

Another nugget that stands out is Dee Snider’s passionate, well sung rendition of “It Was a Very Good year.” Snider makes the song his own and it is classic metal meets pop standard brilliance. The track’s opening guitar refrain pays homage to “Kashmir,” by Led Zeppelin. This track has a hypnotic arrangement and the guitar solo is perfectly suited for style of the song.

That doesn’t happen with Tim “Ripper” Owens (Judas Priest and Iced Earth) version of “Witchcraft,” a Sinatra classic, however. It is tortuous to listen to and comical at times. The vocals are atonal and the guitar “acrobatics” can’t pull this out of the quagmire it descends into.

Zander’s version of “Fly me to the Moon,” has a strange feel to it, but is saved by his vocal brilliance, The production is overdone at times and the song would have benefited by letting his voice be out front in the mix.

Eric Martin (Mr. Big) does a killer version of “The Lady is a Tramp,” originally featured in the motion picture “Pal Joey.” His vocals are strong, self-assured and his take on this track does not deviate too much from the original, save for some power chords and its metal treatment. The rhythm guitar and bombastic drums and Kulick’s arrangement also make this one a winner.

If Joey Belladona (Anthrax) sung “Strangers in the Night” in the recent audition period of American Idol, he would have been eliminated. Belladona can’t sing in his own genre of music, so what makes him think that he can do justice to this Sinatra standard? While listening to this, you’ll pray for the guitar solo to come quickly. It is embarrassingly bad. Sinatra would be turning over in his grave if could hear this putrid try.

Just when you thought it couldn’t get worse, it does. “High Hopes” was a Sinatra throw away song when he sung it and is desecrated by Perez whose atonal vocals and groans are not suited to sing “Mary had a Little Lamb.” In addition, the music is grating and dissonant. Ugh.

A momentary reprieve is granted with Pinnick’s heartfelt, vocally sound rendition of “I’ve Got the World on a String.” He can flat out sing and his vocal ability makes this song a cross between what it was originally intended to be when written, while adding a metal twist that gives the song new life. Incidentally, Pinnick is also a great rock and roll screamer.

“Love and Marriage,” made even more popular by the “Married with Children”sitcom, by Elias Soriano, sinks to a new low. The vocals are awful and there is nothing redeeming about this effort. Were some of the artists picked for this project out of a hat randomly or was some thought put into it?

The CD closes with a rousing version of “That’s Life” by Lane.” It is kitschy, but sound. This track had been covered by David Lee Roth, and Lane clearly pays homage to that effort while adding his touch to it. Lane has vocal chops and the bluesy guitar solo that evolves into a shredding display is also top notch.

When you get past the novelty aspect of this recording, there are some worthy listening moments, but this is dampened by the lesser efforts that drag this CD down to the depths of “Morder.” All in all, let’s give credit where credit is due. Taking on the greatest singer in recorded history is not an easy task, for a singer of standards, let alone a bunch of Headbangers and rock and roll stars.It is not a great release, but it has some shining moments and would be preferable to listening to what is flooding the Billboard Charts today.

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Steve Janowsky is a former co-host of the Rocktologists theme based classic rock show radio show on WKRB 90.3 fm, which was voted the best classic rock podcast in the country by Dave White of About.com. Some of the interview guests on the show were Simon Kirke ( Free and Bad Company), Carl Palmer (ELP), Vince Martell (Vanilla Fudge), Randy Jackson (Zebra) and Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. Janowsky is also an English and Journalism instructor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY and is an avid guitar player and songwriter.

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Steve Janowsky is a former co-host of the Rocktologists theme based classic rock show radio show on WKRB 90.3 fm, which was voted the best classic rock podcast in the country by Dave White of About.com. Some of the interview guests on the show were Simon Kirke ( Free and Bad Company), Carl Palmer (ELP), Vince Martell (Vanilla Fudge), Randy Jackson (Zebra) and Frank Marino of Mahogany Rush. Janowsky is also an English and Journalism instructor at Kingsborough Community College in Brooklyn, NY and is an avid guitar player and songwriter.

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