Cover albums dropped during a career are often dubious contract fillers, though the exceptions can be downright glorious. THE RAMONES's "Acid Eaters" being one case, SLAYER's "Undisputed Attitude", SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES's "Through the Looking Glass" and BETWEEN THE BURIED AND ME's "The Anatomy Of" being others. What those ageless wonders the THE ROLLING STONES's did on its stunning 2016 album, "Blue & Lonesome", defies all odds.
Cover albums dropped following the passing of a legend, well, they are going to have both its supporters and detractors. Yes, there's a morbid, sentimental fascination in hearing one of the late Lemmy Kilmister's final performances on last year's live offering, "Clean Your Clock". This year, though, we see the release of "Under Cöver", an eleven-track collection of MOTÖRHEAD doing what it does to rock, punk and metal classics, aka "Motörheading" them. While touching on THE ROLLING STONES, grumbly and thunderous versions of "Jumpin' Jack Flash" and "Sympathy for the Devil" are included, and nobody but MOTÖRHEAD could jack with decibels like there, capable of tickling the ozone layer.
It's no secret MOTÖRHEAD was keen on its cover tunes. It's part of being a rock 'n' roll band, paying homage to your idols and peers on your way up, and especially once you've achieved a solid global reputation—something that MOTÖRHEAD did better than most. This goes back to the band's chunky rip on the rock classic "Train Kept-a-Rollin'" and B-side drop of THE KINGSMEN's party classic, "Louie Louie" from the "Motörhead" and "Overkill", released on the1996 CD reissue, days respectively. Another memorable B-side MOTÖRHEAD cover came with Willie Dixon's "I'm Your Hoochie Coochie Man".
"Under Cöver" isn't quite mandatory for deep MOTÖRHEAD fans who would already own most of the material gathered here, like the SEX PISTOLS's "God Save the Queen", which had already appeared on 2000's "We Are Motörhead". Or the long play on Ted Nugent's "Cat Scratch Fever", which originally appeared on 1992's "March or Die". From that album comes the bass-busting haul of Ozzy Osbourne and Zakk Wylde's "Hellraiser", recorded for Pinhead and company's third terror romp. "Hellraiser" also featured Michael "Wurzel" Burston, no doubt one of the first (along with "Philthy" Phil Taylor) to greet Lemmy on the other side.
"Breaking the Law", 2008, remains true, trü, to JUDAS PRIEST's original, even leaving in the expected police sirens following Rob Halford's eminent assertion "You don't know what it's like!" It certainly clouts and roars. Lemmy gave this his full, loving touch as he did with 2002's gnarly take on the RAMONES's "Rockaway Beach". This well after MOTÖRHEAD bestowed the former its own tribute song, "R.A.M.O.N.E.S. " on the "1916" album.
Longtime pal SAXON's Biff Byford takes over vocals on MOTÖRHEAD's blazing cover of RAINBOW's "Starstruck", which appeared on the Ronnie James Dio tribute album, "This is Your Life". Then there's the stellar hike of TWISTED SISTER's "Shoot 'Em Down", a heavy-hitting show of solidarity for the American hard rocking band that had to first stake its claim in the U.K. following a long stint in Long Island.
The centerpiece of "Under Cöver" is an initially rowdy and ultimately exquisite recording of David Bowie's "Heroes", recorded during the 2015 "Bad Magic" sessions. This keeping in mind "Sympathy for the Devil" appeared on "Bad Magic". "Heroes" is a touching and remarkable denouement to the careers of both Lemmy and David Bowie as Mikkey Dee and Phil Campbell pour their hearts into this cover. Lemmy, obviously in a frail state at this waning point of his life, sounds gristly and weathered for the first couple rounds. That is, until he inhales, digs deep and pulls a beautiful trick out of his hat, sounding wonderfully jubilant, in voice and on bass.
"Under Cöver" concludes with the blistering rendition of METALLICA's epochal thrasher, "Whiplash", for which MOTÖRHEAD won a Grammy in 2005. Mikkey Dee famously commented about the award, "It's okay, but it would have meant more if it was one of our own songs".
"Under Cöver" isn't really a cash grab, though the pessimist's eye is sure to judge it thus. It's a loving compilation of remembrance since it has really nothing to lose. What it stands to gain is serving a heedful reminder of what a force Lemmy Kilmister was. Yet his supporting cast are equal legends, capable of taking your favorite cut to a louder level of appreciation.