The whole reason for a good cover to exist at all is that it takes the original source material, gets to the heart of the song, and extracts the most important elements, which are then refashioned in the image of the cover artist. There must be an element of band or artist doing the covering within the cover itself; otherwise it’s simply a note-for-note recreation of a superior (often iconically so) performance. Furthermore, there’s little in the way of artistry behind strict recreations of popular music. This approach is little more than an impression that ultimately serves little to no purpose aside from existing to remind listeners how much better the original was, is and always will be.
For a band like Train – whose music has served as the backdrop for innumerable cloying “romantic” moments in film, television and perhaps even real life – to take on the decidedly heavier sounds of Led Zeppelin would initially seem like something of a joke. What qualifies the group behind such saccharine megahits like “Drops of Jupiter” and the insufferable “Soul Sister” to cover a band like Led Zeppelin, let alone replicate an entire album? Well, it seems that when you reach the level Train has, you can do pretty much whatever you want and no one will question you.
While essentially a note-for-note recreation of Led Zeppelin II, the album feels hollow and lifeless; a soulless homage produced simply because they could. All the requisite sounds, solos, vocal tics, elephantine drumming and sturdy bass lines are there, and anyone familiar with Zeppelin II will find themselves occasionally smirking at how close Train manages to come to nearly every moment on an utterly flawless album. But there’s simply something disingenuous behind their choosing to take on such an iconic album. While more than proficient, the album ultimately plays as little more than wealthy rock stars playing making believe and dressing up as their idols.
Pat Monahan’s aping of Robert Plant’s strangled vocals and attempted affectation is perhaps the most insufferable element Train Does Led Zeppelin II has to offer, sounding so forced and grating as to further cheapen what was already a pointless pursuit. Guitarists Jerry Becker and Jimmy Stafford show themselves to have studiously consumed every lick within the Jimmy Page playbook, largely hitting each perfectly. But this rote memorization has the same feel as those YouTube users who upload themselves perfectly replicating iconic solos or even entire songs. While these performances may seem impressive at first, a look beyond tends to reveal very little in the way of actual substance or personality in the playing and an inability to perform the song any other way.
Even die-hard Train fans will have to ask themselves, “Is it really worth me spending the time listening to this when I could instead listen to the original?” The answer, they will ultimately find, is no. These are not covers so much as impressive recreations but a group of full-grown men who can afford to meticulously recreate an album that helped define their youth. Let’s just hope this doesn’t spark a trend amongst MOR acts who, thanks to a hefty payday from any number of ubiquitous commercial placements, can afford to spend the money to remake their favorite albums in full. It feels more like designer pets or ostentatious sports cars: just because you can afford it doesn’t automatically imbue it with any real worth.
Train Does Led Zeppelin II is available from Amazon <.