Tuesday, April 12, 2011

King Kobra-s/t

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Frontiers
2011

Maybe you remember these guys if you are of a certain age. The brainchild of drummer Carmine Appice (Cactus, Vanilla Fudge and many more), he put the band to together after Sharon Osborne gave him the boot from her hubby's band. After some shifts in the line-up King Kobra had a major label record deal and put their debut "Ready to strike" out in 1985. I heard it shortly after it's release and was impressed by the smooth blend of hard rock and AOR. They got some airplay on the radio and MTV plus a few articles here and there in the metal rags of the time. They quickly jetted back to the studio and the follow-up "Thrill of a lifetime" was anything but for fans. The AOR devoured the hard rock sound they became so mellow and they even did one of the worst raps I have ever heard in my life. The album failed to catch on, they got booted from their label and line-up changes began. Vocalist Mark Free left and was replaced by Marq Torien. Bassist Johnny Rod got a fine gig playing WASP and Lonnie Vincent replaced him. The new line-up began knocking out some demos. Soon part of this group (including original KK guitarist Mick Sweda) would splinter off and form the Bullet Boys. Not one to give up Camine Appice along with remaining guitarist David Michael Phillips recruited three more members and knocked out "3" in 1988, but again third album and another different sound. The band found little interest again and dissolved. A decade later their was a semi-reunion album of sorts in the form of 1999's Hollywood Trash which quite honestly is rotten album that is best left forgotten. I figured that was it this band, but like almost every other 80's hard rock band they are trying again. This time with 4/5 of the "Ready to strike" line-up. The only change is vocalist Mark (now Marcie) Free has been replaced by former Rough Cutt/Quiet Riot vocalist Paul Shortino. The band only had one really good album and that was over 25 years ago. Some of these guys have not done any hard rock album in a while so this album had a lot against it, but they have overcome it. "Rock this house", "Top of the world" and "This is how we roll" are fine blasting rockers. Musicly so is "Turn up the good times", but it's kind of hard to take guys old enough to be grandpas saying "party hardy". "Screaming for more" is pure a Roth-era Van Halen whoop it up barnburner although the lyrics are pure cheese. "Tear down the walls", "Midnight woman", "You make it easy" and "Live for forever" are all slow to medium AOR type songs that really Paul Shortino to shine. This guy sounds fantastic even now and unlike with Rough Cutt he's getting some better material to use his sensational pipes for. "We got a fever" at first comes across as the odd man out with it's pop/blues approach for the first half it's hard to hand in there. It's gets better and the solos are very smooth, but overall not one of the best songs here. That leaves the two ballads "Crying turns to rain" and "Fade away" which are well written, finely paced songs and ballads sure are not my favorites. Again Shortino steps and sounds fantastic. My only complaints on this album do involve the ballads though. They are put ar track spots 10 and 12, comeon guys learn some track placement. Two ballads on an album so put one in the first half and one in the second half. The other point is I just don't ever think it's a good idea to end an album on a ballad at least not for a hard rock band. Your closer leaves the last impression so end with a scorcher or a heavy hitter. Still minor complaints because King Kobra have done a fine job with this album. I can't speak highly enough about Shortino and he had big shoes to fill because Free was (and still is) a great talent, but Paul gave 110% here. Carmine Appice and Johnny Rod laid down the beats in simple, but solid fashion. I think the unsung heroes here are Mick Sweda and David Michael Phillips (Henzerling) as they had not played together in some time and worked over style sounding like pros the whole time. They use restraint and guide the song as needed, but let loose with tasty riffs as needed too. Most reunion end up sour or mediocre, but chalk this up as a success.

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2 Comments:

Blogger Real Gone said...

Still really love 'Thrill of a Lifetime', but really not convinced by this new one; but then, Paul Shortino isn't a patch on Marcie Free vocally.

Read my full review here.

1:07 PM  
Blogger Metal Mark said...

Real Gone-Thanks for stopping by. Hve to disagree with you on a few points

1-Thrill of a lifetime was a real letdown after Ready to stirke.

2-I like Marcie/Mark Free a lot with King Kobra and still sounded great on the Unruly Child album last year. However Paul Shortino gave a great performance on this album and that's a large part of why it's such a fine album.

3:09 PM  

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