Classy isn't the first word I'd use to describe prototypical hair-metal bands like Poison and Bon Jovi. But Tesla? That's another story. More workingman's rock than genuine hair-metal, Tesla recently returned with Real to Reel, an album of '70s rock covers that solidifies my opinion that the California outfit is legit and worthy of shelf space next to my Thin Lizzy and Trouble CDs.
First off, Reel sounds great: The band recorded it on vintage gear and (gasp) live in the studio. The liner notes, which describe why the band chose each song, are a nice touch -- as is the snazzy, eight-panel gatefold Digipak.
Musically, it's a tour through the band's longhaired FM-rock upbringing, featuring raw versions of songs by Lizzy, Robin Trower (the excellent "Day of the Eagle"), UFO, as well as Uriah Heep and freaking Montrose. There are a few too-obvious choices on the album (the Stones' "Honky Tonk Women," the James Gang's "Walk Away"), but those are atoned for with a flat-out killer take on the Tempations' "Ball of Confusion," the disc's real highlight.
For its current tour, Tesla is performing a mix of these and other covers, along with a smattering of its own hits and deep cuts.