Legendary guitarist Robby Krieger has released a covers album and, fortunately, it defies musical convention. On In Session there’s only one Doors cover (a live version of “Back Door Man”) and it’s at the very end of the album. Krieger also opts not to go commercial by covering hits from a specific time-period in his life. Instead he seemingly takes inspiration from, of all things, Nektar’s 2012 A Spoonful of Time album, bringing in several guest musicians — many hailing from the prog genre (!) — for a covers collective that constantly flirts between the safe and utterly surprising.
Let’s just say that given the fact there are three Pink Floyd tunes showcased here (including two from The Wall), I wouldn’t be surprised if Krieger is asked to fill the role of guest guitarist on Roger Waters’ upcoming Us & Them tour. I could try to figure out why Krieger turns David Gilmour here but better to just enjoy what’s produced because these tracks prove to be among the album’s highlights.
A short answer though might be that Krieger always prefers his playing to be atmospheric in nature. Fans of his soulful finger-picking meanderings on “Light My Fire,” “L.A. Woman” and “Riders on the Storm” are going to delight in hearing him go to work reimagining the Floyd tunes as well as those by Supertramp (“School”) and the Beatles.
In tackling the yin-yang of tender and terrifying that helped Floyd fill stadiums, Krieger enlists Billy Sherwood (Yes) for “Empty Spaces” and Styx’s Tommy Shaw for “Don’t Leave Me Now.” Yes and Asia keyboardist Geoff Downes tries to highlight lunacy on “Brain Damage,” but it would have perhaps been better suited for, say, Arthur Brown, had he been asked to participate in the project.
Unfortunately, there are some basic covers showcased as well. Jackson Browne tries to infuse life into “Across the Universe,” which works until a children’s choir shows up to back him up. Why a version of “Little Drummer Boy” is included on this album bears the same consideration as why Nektar covered The O’Jays’ “For the Love of Money” on Spoonful. One positive note — it is nice to hear the recently departed John Wetton channel John Lennon on Krieger’s cover of “All You Need is Love.”
“Hypernova” arguably proves to be the best track — an instrumental comprised of one half fusion and one half outer space, and featuring Hawkwind’s Nik Turner. Here is where Krieger lets loose and rekindles his “Light My Fire” tonality for five minutes of pure delight. While In Session doesn’t do much to enhance Krieger’s already established virtuosity, his amenability towards progressive music shows his musical strengths still come from thinking — and creating — outside the box.
~ Ira Kantor