CHARLIE BENANTE – Silver Linings
June 2, 2021, 3 weeks ago
A drummer’s solo album is possibly not the most exciting prospect. When you factor in that it’s also a covers album – a traditional career damager for most artists – you’d be forgiven for dismissing it altogether. That is unless the drummer is Charlie Benante.
The mastermind behind a vast array of classic moments in metal, Benante has also been a strong presence online over the past year or so. Due to the (phrase everyone is fed up saying) Benante in particular found himself at a low ebb. Besieged by media negativity, and inspired by girlfriend Carla Harvey, he did what any self-respecting musician would in the modern world and started playing just for fun all over again.
The result was a series of wonderfully entertaining videos featuring a great cast of artists. One thing about home recording online that works well is the split screen format, particularly when a group is really kicking in together, playing just as tight as they would in the real rehearsal room.
Many bands tend to cover a song directly, trying to make themselves sound as much like the original as possible. The problem is all too often they cannot possibly recreate the magic of the original. Master creative artists take the original and pay homage but also still invent along the way. Benante’s cast of players really get into the feel of each track, and inevitably the resulting songs buzz with passion and energy. A great cover version will always turn you on (or back) to the original.
Anthrax’s Attack Of The Killer B’s showed that Benante and co. tend to pick unusual bands, or lesser known songs by well-known artists. Which metal band would have covered Public Enemy, The Chantays, or KISS’ “Parasite” other than Anthrax?
Silver Linings is much the same, taking in less obvious numbers by KISS and Iron Maiden (wisely going vocal free with “Transylvania”) whilst mixing it up with Billie Eilish, Beastie Boys, U2, Fleetwood Mac and Tom Petty.
While some tracks will inevitably not be to everyone’s liking, the sheer breadth of styles has to be admired. Best of all is Benante’s deliberate focus on recreating a particular sound for each band. Beastie Boys’ “Jimmy James” is perfectly rendered, while Joe McGinness sounds just like Paul Stanley with a production sound to match. Jennifer Cella flawlessly represents Stevie Nicks but the cover of “Rhiannon” manages to sound just different enough. Special mention must also go to Death Angel’s Mark Osegueda for seamlessly fronting both U2’s “City Of Blinding Lights” and Mother Love Bone’s “Chloe Dancer/Crown Of Thorns”. No easy task. Likewise, Carla Harvey does a stellar job of not over delivering when paying reverence to Tom Petty on a very enjoyable rendition of “Yer So Bad”.
Roberto ‘Ra’ Diaz shines throughout as the bass player holding everything in the pocket behind the artful drumming of Benante, and much like everyone making an appearance, Diaz can turn his hand to any style. Something about those Suicidal Tendencies bass players; they sure are funky. Benante holds everything together with his distinctive rhythmic style and as fans will be more than aware also contributes piano and guitar where necessary.
There are a few anomalies, such as the absence of many of the songs Benante and friends played online. The finished album features no Rush, Soundgarden or Discharge, which might have made suitable additions. Given the searing guitar work Rob Caggiano brings to the “Run-DMC Medley”, it would also have been nice to hear more of him, not to mention Alex Skolnick who has played often with Benante.
Those small observations aside, this is a very worthy memento of attacking a crazy year with a positive outlook. And rightfully corresponding to the era of Benante’s youthful inspirations, Silver Linings is out on vinyl. Just remember, Life can be a real ball...State of mind…Euphoria.