Zakk and Black Label Society write songs that are arguably easy to change into “acoustic” tracks. On The Song Remains Not the Same, we get a collection of BLS tracks with acoustic rhythm guitar, electric leads, and some interesting covers. Having been either acoustic to start or BLS’s own huge chorus metal/rock songs the tracks generally take well to being converted to “semi-unplugged” status.
The songs from Order of the Black work well as they follow the typical BLS driving verse and huge chorus formula. The fact that the electric elements remain alongside acoustic rhythm does not detract actually, it’s really more a plus. Zakk’s vocals are the same as on the full out versions, there is no “sensitive douche-bag” thing that we hear far too often from “unplugged” albums, vocals that sound like the singer has given up the will to live or perhaps joined the Vienna Boys Choir.
Some standout tracks include the cover of “Junior’s Eyes” originally by Black Sabbath. Zakk and BLS modernize it somewhat in terms of the rhythm beneath the melody and, I know I’m asking for it here, but it’s arguably as good as the original, maybe better. Another standout track is the Steve Winwood cover, “Can’t Find My Way Home”. BLS do a great job capturing the melancholy feel and keeping the upbeat parts of the melody true to the original.
The weakest track on the collection would be “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. I’m not a big Simon and Garfunkle fan at all, but I am familiar with the original track and this version seems heavy handed and a little overdone to me. It’s a competent attempt at a classic, but it falls short. I think the main issue here is the vocal layering. It sounds too sugary, too sweet and weighs down what should be an airy if somber track.
Darkest Days with John Rich’s guest vocals is next, and this works very well, capturing the original feel and adding the guest vocals add to and amplify the feel of the original. Finishing up the album is a very competent and well done version of the First Noel for some reason. It’s nice; I’ll bust it out when December rolls around again.
Overall The Song Remains Not the Same is a great collection of semi-unplugged tracks and covers by Black Label Society that is must own for fans of the band, and though it’s not really the best introduction to Zakk and BLS, it’s a great album in its own right.