Tribute albums, and in turn, the constant stream of cover versions of songs are an unfortunate inevitability in a scene where so much weight is on the shoulders of a small number of bands. However, if bands' members would sit down before embarking on covering classic songs, they should ask themselves the following questions; which would go a long way to prevent the rest of us suffering:
Does this band need another of their songs covered?
Does my voice suit this track?
Am I going to bring anything new to this song?
Is there any reason to believe that our version will be better than the original?
If the answer to these questions is a blanketing no, why bother? Put simply, if I want to hear a Skrewdriver song, I will reach for one of their CDs. Many bands will cut their teeth on these classics, and when played live they are always crowd pleasers; regardless of who is doing them. The seemingly endless resurrection of songs, which in some cases will never fit any band but the originator, continues unabated. We went through a period in the 90's where cover songs, usually the same damn songs, were obligatory on almost every RAC album. And some of us got very tired of it, very quickly. Whether as space fillers, a vehicle for new bands, or as a genuine tribute, covering the same few songs which have been done to death is as likely to irritate as impress.
Cover versions are a potential minefield for any band, new or established. Once bands stray beyond the cliché bands that are normally covered, the risks become greater of screwing up royally. There have been success stories: Bound For Attack’s version of Iron Maiden's "The Trooper," Final War's cover of Bad Religion's "Do What You Want" and Skullhead's excellent rework of Hawkwind's "Silver Machine." The latter being probably the greatest stretch across genres.
Then there are many covers which work, but are not a dramatic departure. Warfare 88's rework of "Sex & Violence" merits a mention simply because any band who can cover one of the Exploited's god awful talentless glue sniffing anthems, without making me want to smash the CD, deserve kudos. Then we have Brutal Attack doing Free's "All Right Now," Max Resist's cover of Blitz's "Warriors," and many other examples. Not classics but honest versions well played and outside the cliché RAC track list.
At the other end of the scale, beyond the pointless repetitive covering of RAC classics, comes another class of covers which are just bad. Ian Stuart's attempt at singing "Behind Blue Eyes" is sadly one such example; his voice was wrong for the track. Another song in this group is Brutal Attack's unfortunate run at [Black] Sabbath's "Changes." Somewhere after the first chorus, the piano and Ken's voice begin to fall out of synch and the whole song falls apart. In addition, less so for repetition and more so for simply how off it sounds, Rahowa's version of "The Snow Fell."
Straying outside the genre is a risk that will sometimes pay off, if for nothing else other than earning credit for having a swing at it. Better to try and fail, than to play it safe and be forever regarded as little more than a tribute band.