Fire Woman: A Tribute To The Cult
Versailles Records, 2001
REVIEW BY: Christopher Thelen
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 06/01/2001
Of all the bands in the world that could elicit a tribute album, one might wonder at first why The Cult would be in line for such an honor now. After all, they had only a brief period in America when they were close to the level of superstar, thanks to their Sonic Temple album. It's been a while since we heard from Ian Astbury and crew. And anyway, how many of their songs are recognizable in the first place?
One listen to Fire Woman: A Tribute To The Cult answers that last question; you may be surprised to hear how many songs you recognize, even if only at a quick glance. While the collective of artists on this disc gravitate towards a harder rock vein (though neither this disc nor The Cult were hard rock per se), it quickly proves itself to be en enjoyable way to pass an hour - and that's after you get through drooling at the cheesecake shot of porn star Kendra Jade on the cover.
It helps if you have a working knowledge of The Cult's discography when you go into Fire Woman, but it's not a must in order to enjoy these tracks. In fact, the artists who lovingly cover these songs mostly turn them into their own babies, nurturing them throughout the creative process. Listen to how Jake E. Lee and Tattoo Frank take a song like "American Horse" (off of Sonic Temple) and turn it into something that is both special and unique. Listen to how Gilby Clarke injects life into "Wild Flower" and makes you want to go back and hear the original. Listen to how Jason McMaster captures the essence of "King Contrary Man".
Several tracks on Fire Woman leap out as being exceptional. Listen to Enuff Z'Nuff's cover of "She Sells Sanctuary," and wonder just how these guys got this one nailed down so close to the bone. Donnie Vie might not have the same kind of edge to his vocals as Astbury does, but he convincingly delivers the goods. Likewise, Richard Kendrick takes "Edie (Ciao Baby)", a song which presented its own unique challenges to whoever would choose to cover it, and kicks the doors down with his rendition - all without utilizing a string section.
This isn't to say that everything on Fire Woman is stellar. One has to admire Jizzy Pearl's decision to cover "Fire Woman" - arguably the best-known track from The Cult - and realize that nothing he would do could live up to the original's power. But this track falls a bit flat on its own. Part of it may be Pearl's vocal style - but in actuality, the problem is with the musical delivery courtesy of American Dog, who just don't capture the rhythmic snap in the guitars that this track requires. What makes this more surprising is that American Dog absolutely nails "King Contrary Man" backing Jason McMaster. And the industrial version of "The Witch," featuring Levi Levi and Sinderella Pussie of My Life With The Thrill Kill Kult, never gets off the ground.
Still, the collective of artists who make up Fire Woman: A Tribute To The Cult more often than not knows what it takes to make these songs special, and they're able to make the translation for the listener. Chances are this disc will make you want to dig through your collection and dust off whatever albums from The Cult that you own - in which case, Fire Woman has done its job admirably well.