I have always had a penchant for covers, the more obscure the better. When ‘Diamonds Unlocked II’ came across my virtual desk, I was excited to see what kind of…well, diamonds awaited. Paraphrasing John Denver, “some songs are diamonds; some songs are stone”.
In part, ARP recorded this hodgepodge collection to appease the loyal fanbase. Per Pell, “it makes no sense at all to put out new songs that we will not be able to perform live.” ‘Diamonds’ should do nicely.
The album contains equal parts straight-forward versions (“Only One Way To Rock” and “Lady of the Lake”) and imaginative interpretations (“I Put A Spell On You” and “She’s A Lady”). The Rolling Stones’ “Paint It Black” gets an especially pumped-up treatment, featuring a nifty organ interlude. Geordie’s “Black Cat Woman” is faithful to the original, but frankly, musicianship and vocal prowess smash the original like a grape. Sorry, Brian.
As with any collection of covers, ‘Diamonds’ will undoubtedly lead the listener down many new paths. Check out the originals, check out their respective artists and venture on as far as you dare. Shamefully, I have not listened to Rainbow in years. Now I have. Now I am a better human being.
Musically, every note is first-rate. Long-time vocalist Johnny Gioeli remains pristine as always. His voice is powerful and consistent, with controlled cracks just in the right spots. ‘Diamonds’ could be seen as a showcase for his abilities as much as the band’s namesake, ARP.
Pell’s fretboard abilities are not on full display here as this album is more about fun and exploration. He has plenty of other works where his wizardry shines through.
‘Diamonds’ is largely for ARP completists, but casual or newer fans will certainly find a few gems along the way.
“some songs are diamonds; some songs are stone”
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