Tuesday, April 5, 2011

KING KOBRA: "King Kobra"

Rating: 8/10

Label: Frontiers 2011

Review by Kimmo Toivonen

Brief history of King Kobra: formed by drummer Carmine Appice, first album "Ready To Strike" released in 1985, moderate success and a video "The Hunger" that got some airplay at MTV. The band's image with one dark-haired guy and four peroxide blondes was quite striking, and I might add that the album was very good. Second album "Thrill Of A Lifetime" (1986) is hailed as an "AOR classic" by some but I don't rate it that highly, it's obvious that the record label forced the band to go to a poppier direction. The band did get the biggest hit of their career, "Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)", which was written for the "Iron Eagle" movie. Not by the band though. Two years later, the band released "III" on an independent label (the previous two were released on Capitol), and the line-up had changed: Johnny Edwards had replaced original singer Mark Free, and guitarist Mick Sweda and bassist Johnny Rod had been replaced by Jeff Northrup and Larry Hart. The only remaining original members were Appice and guitarist David Michael-Phillips. "III" marked a return to a heavier style, with the band covering the Gene Simmons/Paul Stanley-penned "It's My Life" amongst others. That was about it, except for a low-key compilation "The Lost Years" in 1999 and an ill-fated comeback album "Hollywood Trash" (2001) with Kelly Keeling on vocals. Now the original band that recorded the first two albums is back together, except for Mark Free. The vocalist slot has been given to Paul Shortino (Rough Cutt, Quiet Riot). Mark Free's superb vocals were a big part of the band's original charm, but Shortino does a good job. He definitely has his own, soulful sound, but it suits these new songs, and the band still sounds like King Kobra for the most part. The guitar duo of Sweda and Michael-Phillips creates its' melodic web almost as it did back in the day, and some of the songs bring back echoes from the eighties.

Standout tracks of the album are the hugely melodic "Live Forever", "Top Of The World" (great pre-chorus!), "You Make It Easy" and the closing ballad "Fade Away". Paul Shortino steals the show on many occasions, making some of the lesser tracks a notch better. His fine vocals can't save "Turn Up The Good Times" though, which is one of the most banal tracks I've heard lately. We get "fire-desire-higher" in the first verse and the pre-chorus contains the gem "Everybody, Party Hardy"... I'm not too fond of "We've Got a Fever" or "Screamin' For Me" either. "...Fever" might appeal to the fans of Shortino's Quiet Riot album with its' bluesy swagger, and "Screamin'..." is a bit Van Halenesque, but nothing to shout about. Or scream about. Anyway, those few dodgy tracks aside, the album is all good fun, and surely more of a natural successor to "Ready To Strike" than "Thrill Of A Lifetime" ever was.


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