Review: The Frequency Conspiracy – Quarantine Covers
So Cal Records / Alliance Entertainment (January 1st 2022)
Reviewer: David Pearce
The Frequency Conspiracy were the lockdown brainchild of Joel Maitoza who invited a group of musicians that he was friends with, or admired hugely, to collaborate on a set of songs that would end up covering a range of genres, and an eclectic set of artists, to make up the 9 track album ‘Quarantine Covers‘.
‘Carry on Wayward Son‘ was originally recorded by Kansas in 1976 and The Frequency Conspiracy give an excellent account of themselves as they capture the Prog edge whilst bringing the heavier elements to the foreground. It means that a song that in its original incarnation is very effective but restrained is let off the leash and allowed to discover a more intense edge to the benefit of the track. It’s a really promising start and an early indication that there will not be any obvious choices on this album.
‘Hell Bent for Leather‘ is a Judas Priest classic that is a visceral experience in both versions. The original is more intense, but in this cover version the vocals are the star as they soar, growl and blast through the speakers with absolute intent.
The next track is ‘Locked Out of Heaven‘ originally performed by Bruno Mars! As a huge Bruno Mars fan – though perhaps I shouldn’t admit that on this website! – I was intrigued to see the track on this album. It’s one of my favourite tracks of his and his homage to the sound of The Police – a favourite band of mine – made this an unmissable treat when it was first released, and it was a clear opportunity for this album to completely rework an original track from another genre. It is definitely an interesting experiment that certainly has its moments as it ramps up the guitars and gives it a much grittier feeling. It’s enjoyable throughout and includes a killer guitar solo. Overall, though, I think that Bruno just shades this one.
‘Words get in the Way‘ is lifted to a new level in this reworking which moves into heavier territory from the start and includes a vocal that, to my ears, works way better for this track. Great instrumental work particularly from the bass and the drums give this track so much more depth and really makes you listen to this song anew.
‘Rock Candy‘ is a track I had never heard by Montrose, a band I had never come across, so I was able to approach this track pretty much as an original before going back to the Montrose version to compare it. The Frequency Conspiracy nail this one and for my money produce the definitive version with thunderous guitars and a powerful, consistent vocal performance that really lifts the track out of (arguably) relative obscurity and gives the listener a satisfying rock track from beginning to end.
‘Turning Japanese‘ by pop punk band The Vapours was a staple of my teens, especially when I discovered what the lyrics were really about! It is instantly recognisable, quirky, and fun from first note to last. Quite a tough act to follow there! What we get here is a much more faithful version that is slightly heavier on the guitars, but which doesn’t mess with what makes the original great. It may not be reinventing the wheel in this case, but it made me smile and that can’t be a bad thing.
‘Shapes of Things‘ is a track that I first heard in the early 80s courtesy of Gary Moore, one of the greatest guitarists ever. The Frequency Conspiracy just go straight for the jugular with this track and it is one of my two favourite tracks on the album. Brilliant vocals and a drumming masterclass which propels it from first to last give it a fantastic sound that is ramped up later on with the guitar solo itself. Put it this way, it doesn’t lose anything when compared to the original. It will also serve the purpose of sending younger fans back to the guitar legend himself.
‘Sailing‘ was not what I was expecting! It does not take on the classic song by Rod Stewart, but instead the completely different song by Christopher Cross. As a British listener I had only ever heard Arthur’s Theme by this artist and Sailing is more of the same, namely a Yacht Rock ballad that is quite forgettable in the original version. The Frequency Conspiracy manage to make it a much better listening experience by giving it a much heavier instrumental backing, but I’m not sure that it is a song that really brings out their best.
The final track, ‘Life in the Fast Lane‘, originally by The Eagles finishes the album off with a bang. The original is a favourite of mine, and this version turns it into a Southern Rock stomp that channels Lynryd Skynyrd rather than The Eagles to great effect. I loved this reworking just as much as the original because it brings a completely new feel to it which takes it in a different direction to great effect. It is a track that gives the song a new lease of life. Definitely up with ‘Shapes of Things‘ as the other standout track.
Overall, this is an excellent set of covers that really takes flight when they find elements that the original artists didn’t explore and use those elements to revitalise the songs and introduce them to a new audience.