It seems legendary front man and self-proclaimed “Voice of Rock” Jorn Lande is at the point in his lengthy career where he gives zero fucks and does just as he pleases. As much as it pains me to reference yuletide rom-com Love Actually, Jorn is like a heavy metal version of the character Billy Mack, played so righteously by Bill Nighy. He’s old, jaded and out for a buck, a bit of fun and maybe the odd shag. And that’s where Jorn’s ridiculous new vehicle Heavy Rock Radio comes in. As a 57 minute collection of cover tunes from disparate acts like Black Sabbath, Kate Bush, Journey and Queen, it simultaneously proves Jorn does whatever he wants and that Frontiers Records will releases just about anything these days. But on the way to bashing this as a cynical drive-by cash grab, it grew on me despite my better (bitter) judgment. No good will come from this and AMG Himself will be livid, but here it goes.
If you’ve enjoyed Jorn’s oversinging on any of his solo albums, projects or countless guest hamfests, you’ll find yourself rockin’ with Dokken here too. He sounds great as always and his whiskey drenched rasp and commitment to excess are firmly planted in the cheek alongside the tongue. The song choices themselves vary from logical (Dio‘s “Rainbow in the Dark”) to bewildering (John Farnham‘s “You’re the Voice”) and on to the ludicrous (Frida‘s “I Know There’s Something Going On”). For myself, the fun factor is certainly skewed toward hearing Norway’s foremost Pipes ov Iron tackle non-metal tunes like “Don’t Stop Believing” in a drunken and lusty karaoke style. Yes it’s pure Scandinavian cheese on a moldy cracker, but I’ll be damned if it doesn’t make me chuckle and grin every time I hear it.
The same goes for unlikely subjects like The Eagles‘ near sacrosanct slice of Americana “Hotel California,’ which Jorn bellows and bullies his way through with such belligerent bellicosity, you’ll suspect he could and would leave the titular hotel upon finding they haven’t carried his favorite vintage since 1969. As he roars new-found power into ancient lines like “stab it with their steely knives but they just can’t kill the beast” you just know Glenn Frey is rolling in his grave somewhere. Naturally he does a fine job on “Rainbow in the Dark” since it’s a natural fit for his Dio-inspired rasp, and he shines on Sabbath‘s “Die Young” for the same reasons, as he does on Deep Purple‘s “Stormbringer.” He even blows the dust off long forgotten (except by South Park) Paul Stanley rocker “Live to Win” with impressive results.
Are there less than stellar cuts? Not really. Kate Bush‘s “Running Up the Hill” is jacked up to the point of being unrecognizable and it works shockingly well, and the anthemic richness of “You’re the Voice” will surprise you though it sounds exactly like something off the St. Elmo’s Fire soundtrack. Hell, even the super cheese 80s hit “I Know There’s Something Going On” by ABBA ex-pat Frida will amuse, entertain and titillate. The sole low point is Foreigner‘s “Rev on the Red Line” but that’s due to the fact I never found the song all that interesting to begin with rather than what Jorn does with/to it.
I have quibbles here and there with musical choices, like wishing they dialed up the heaviness factor for “Don’t Stop Believing,” but this is a quirky novelty album and ego project and it defies strict, somber scrutiny. All I know is it’s a fun, lighthearted slab of hard rocking good times sure to get mucho airtime this summer. I’ve had my beefs with Jorn’s releases over the years (Dracula comes to mind like a .44 slug), and his last good solo album of original material was 2012s Bring Heavy Rock to the Land, but cover Jorn is still better than no Jorn at all, so here we are with a hard rock karaoke show. Next time let’s try a heavy Bossa Nova thing or maybe the best of Louis Armstrong. I feel it my fingers, I feel it in my toes….