Tesla Real to Reel

Sacramento blue-collar rockers Tesla cannot lay claim starting the current trend of ’80s bands recording cover albums but they certainly did portend fate with 1990’s top ten album Five Man Acoustical Jam, a record of acoustic covers before critics cared. Real to Reel is a tribute to their ’70s influences, and the usual suspects (Stones, Deep Purple, Guess Who, James Gang, Clapton) are covered with precision and veneration, owing to Jeff Keith’s versatile vocal range. Robin Trower’s "Day of the Eagle” is particularly spectacular, with Frank Hannon’s Hendrix-like guitar chords wailing like Stevie Ray Vaughn. The Temptations’ "Ball of Confusion” knocks out Anthrax’s take as the definitive version, and Traffic’s "Dear Mr. Fantasy” relives the brief greatness that was formerly Steve Winwood. In a unique move, "Reel 2” (a second disc with covers of Frampton, BTO, Bad Company, Skynyrd, Sabbath, et al.) is available only with purchase of a concert ticket to this year’s tour — and has its own slot in the original’s digipak. Replete with guitar geek liner notes, Real to Reel proves that Tesla remain one of America’s great rock bands. (Tesla Electric Co./Ryko)