There have been quite a few covers albums recently, and they’re always a fascinating study, a great insight into the musical psyche of the artists involved. So it was a real privilege to review Udo Dirkschneider’s My Way and learn a bit more about what makes him tick…maybe.
Udo Dirkschneider – My Way (Atomic Fire Records)
Release Date: 22 April 2022
Words: Mark Rotherham
“I didn’t plan to do this [My Way] album,” Udo told MetalTalk in an earlier interview. “I started off just doing one or two covers, then my producers came up and said, make a list of songs you like, from the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s. So I made a list and just thought, here we go.
Faith Healer (Alex Harvey) starts the album of Udo-covers with a familiar distorted guitar and drumming intro. Udo soon wades in with his distinctive vocals, although the pace is a little slower than usual, a little lighter. You quickly realise that this isn’t U.D.O. or Accept through and through. It’s Udo’s take on outside compositions.
It’s a thudding, chugging announcement of a first track, telling you that Udo does everything his way. This version stays true to the original but with a real Udo-like take on it: harsher, harder, yet somehow retaining that light touch of Metal genius.
And while you could kind of see the first track coming, who knew Udo would cover Fire (Crazy World Of Arthur Brown)? And despite the unpredictable material, so far, he’s pretty much sticking to the script musically. The songs are recognisable and not too different from the original, just given that special Udo stick of Metal dynamite and ignited. There’s a real energy to this album, and you can feel how much these songs mean to him.
Things return to the more stable ground with Sympathy (Uriah Heep). The instrumentation is faster, heavier and more immediate, but the singing is completely different to the original, remaining a hundred per cent Udo. If you ever wondered what would happen if Udo Dirkschniedier joined Uriah Heep, then listen to this track.
But who knew that Accept used to rehearse with They Call It Nutbush (Tina Turner)? This one is delivered with a whole ton of illegal steroids washed down with moonshine. It starts with a slow blues intro, but believe me, that doesn’t last long, and then it’s high octane Metal and no coming up for air. Who could ever have predicted this song would be sung by Udo? Not me, that’s for sure. Just when you thought you’d heard everything, along comes Herr Dirkschneider to mess with your apples.
And at first glance, you might wonder why Man On The Silver Mountain (Rainbow) would be on this list. But Accept, like Rainbow, was grounded in the ’70s, and both feature strong, individual singers. This song is delivered with all the force and power of the original, lending more homage to the studio as opposed to live versions, which for me, is always the much better version. I don’t know if I picked up on a bit of distorted slide guitar during the solo, but whatever it was, I liked it.
It’s fair to say that The Sweet were a lot heavier than either their looks or their image suggested. They were the commercial side of glam rock in the ’70s, but Udo brings their sound into this century with his version of Hell Raiser. It’s not something you’d ever hear on the next U.D.O. album, but it gives us a side of the man you wouldn’t normally hear. Playfulness, and humour, are all mixed up with a distorted guitar.
Up to this point, Udo has taken a very eclectic collection of songs, put them through the Dirkschneider-grinder and turned them out updated and heavier. But then, along comes No Class (Motörhead). There’s no heavying-up of Lemmy, but there’s always doing it your own way, and that’s precisely what Udo does. Just like Lemmy, Udo’s his own man with his own sound, and he’s backed by a super-tight band that really let rip on this track. It’s much more familiar territory for Udo fans and a pleasure to listen to.
And talking of fans, the Led Zep crowd always tend to get a bit precious when their heroes are covered. The knackered old gits among us will remember the controversy of the Far Corporation, to say nothing of Kingdom Come. Well, suck it up, fella. Here’s Udo to include a Zeppelin song in among a whole bunch of other songs as well. And he really rips into Rock And Roll (Led Zeppelin), with a lot more pace and, dare I say it, a lot less pretension. It’s a ballsy, rootin’ tootin’ headbanging version of an old classic, turned right up to eleven.
Now, I have to confess that until I was given this album to review, I’d never heard of Billy Squier, and that is seriously my oversight. So, having also dutifully listened to the original, Udo takes The Stroke (Billy Squier) very much from accessible ’80s rock right into twenty-first century Udo-land. This is louder, edgier and, oh yes, heavier than the original. Both versions are great songs, but Udo takes it and makes it his, with absolutely enough respect to the original for there to be no hard feelings.
Paint It Black (Rolling Stones) has been covered many times, and it’s taken on many guises. To find a version closest to Udo’s, you’d probably have to listen to the W.A.S.P. version. Udo’s take on this classic is a strange combination of distorted riffs and cymbals, but also with a very slow, clear voice. Harmonised choruses add to the very different arrangement on this song, and a soaring guitar-hero solo, with shreds like you would never have heard back in the sixties.
It took almost two thirds into this album before Udo gave us his take on fellow compatriots with He’s A Woman, She’s A Man (The Scorpions). And I have to say he pretty much keeps it very like the original, apart from the vocals, of course, and the amazing solo, which comes along and just absolutely slays you.
Staying in the ’70s but moving south by a few continents, the next track up is T.N.T. (AC/DC). Imagine Brian Johnson with a German accent. Turn down the blues and turn up the Metal, and you’d be pretty much there. This is straight down the line, up-front Metal, but when you mix AC/DC with Udo, you’d really expect nothing else. Believe me, you won’t be disappointed. And yes, those quirky ‘Oi’s’ are still there.
Frankie Miller’s Jealousy is about as far removed from Udo’s normal musical stamping ground as you can get, and you’d have to ask yourself, what is it doing on this album, and also, can Udo really cut the mustard here? Well, I’m here to tell you that who cares if it’s outside the mould, and yes, Udo absolutely nails it. Sure, he’s singing it his way, but that’s always how he comes at the world. The moody emotion, the overflowing jelly-mould of feelings, is here, every bit as much as the original. This is a very rare side of Udo’s singing but no less authentic than when he’s on more familiar ground.
And if you want familiar ground, that’s what’s next, with Hell Bent For Leather (Judas Priest). If you like Udo, if you like Accept, then it’s pretty much a given that you like Judas Priest, and as long as you’re not a Led Zep fan as well, you won’t mind someone else covering one of your band’s classic songs. And Udo really isn’t trying to be Rob Halford any more than he’s trying to be anyone else. Just like the album’s title, these songs are his take on things, and Udo being Udo, he’s not taking it too seriously. Another great cover version on an album of great covers.
But things take a real sideways shift from the originals with We Will Rock You (Queen). This is a real individual take on the Queen version. The riffing and the singing are overhauled, and the chorus is pretty much all that sounds the same. It’s harsh, it’s energetic, it’s driving. Oh hell, it’s Heavy Metal. This is an inspired, brilliant take on what was already a brilliant song. I absolutely love this version. Check out the video as well. It’s ace!
Kein Zurück (Wolfsheim) is another nod to the German music scene but very far removed from Metal. Well, Wolfsheim are, but Udo takes their ballad and then totally Metalises it. The original version is very gentle and tender, not the sort of thing you’d associate with Mr D, but here he injects it chock-full of Incredible Hulk-like force and power. If anyone can turn any song into heavy Metal, Udo can.
And talking of turning any song into Metal, the final track, My Way (Frank Sinatra), has you wondering how Udo will do this song. The answer is very similar to Sinatra’s version. But this song is so powerful in its lyrical message, so meaningful to anyone who sings it, and there really is no need to change it.
Udo Dirkschneider, over his long career, has surely done it his way, and if anyone is supremely qualified to say yes, he did it his way, it is most definitely him.
And doing it his way is exactly what he has done on every track.
Udo Dirkschneider, My Way, can be ordered from udo.afr.link/mywayPR.
Faith Healer (Alex Harvey)
Fire (Crazy World Of Arthur Brown)
Sympathy (Uriah Heep)
They Call It Nutbush (Tina Turner)
Man On The Silver Mountain (Rainbow)
Hell Raiser (The Sweet)
No Class (Motörhead)
Rock And Roll (Led Zeppelin)
The Stroke (Billy Squier)
Paint It Black (Edit Version)
He’s A Woman, She’s A Man (The Scorpions)
Jealousy (Frankie Miller)
Hell Bent For Leather (Judas Priest)
We Will Rock You (Queen)
Kein Zurück (Wolfsheim)
My Way (Frank Sinatra)