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King Kobra – II [Review]

KK booklet_cover

King Kobra – II
2013, Frontiers Records

1. Hell On Wheels
2. Knock ‘Em Dead
3. Have A Good Time
4. The Ballad Of Johnny Rod
5. Take Me Back
6. When The Hammer Comes Down
7. Running Wild
8. The Crunch
9. Got It Comin’
10. Deep River
11. Don’t Keep Me Waiting
12. We Go Round

Paul Shortino – Vocals
David Michael-Philips – Guitar
Mick Sweda – Guitar
Johnny Rod – Bass
Carmine Appice – Drums

Produced by David Henzerling, Carmine Appice & Paul Shortino

This is King Kobra II. It comes 25 years after King Kobra III. It is the band’s seventh studio. Are you following me? Well, after Carmine Appice reformed the band a few years back and they released a self-titled album in 2011, this is the sequel. So naming it II kinda makes sense because it’s in reference to being the follow-up to the self-titled album.

I’ve listened to this album a few times. It didn’t grab me initially like a few tracks from King Kobra automatically did. It’s still done in that same 1980s bluesy hard rock/metal meets 1970s bluesy classic rock style of the last album. Honestly, I just really wasn’t impressed with the lead track “Have a Good Time”. It just seems a bit generic to me. I’m not sure where I would rank this album in the band’s catalog but I’m seeing a surprising number of people saying it’s the band’s best album. I don’t agree with that because Ready to Strike is just too much of a classic but if you’re a fan of the band’s 2011 album, you’ll like II. You couldn’t classify this album as heavy metal but it seems like their hardest rocking album to date.

Shortino’s voice is still in great form and Carmine is just killing it on the drums. Great production here as well. After giving this album more of my attention, I would place it on level with their 2011 self-titled album. This is fun no-frills blues hard rock with a vintage sound that will make you forget it’s 2013.

Highlights: “Hell On Wheels”, “Take Me Back”, “When The Hammer Comes Down”, “Running Wild”, “Don’t Keep Me Waiting”, “We Go Round”

Buy the album at!

Liberty N’ Justice – Chasing A Cure

Liberty N’ Justice – Chasing a Cure (2011, Roxx Records)

1. “Say Uncle” (Paul Shortino of Quiet Riot / Rough Cutt, Ron Keel of Keel & Eddie Ojeda of Twisted Sister) … 4:27
2. “Throwing Stones” (Donnie Vie of Enuff Z Nuff & J.K. Northrup of King Kobra) … 4:16
3. “Paige’s Song” (Philip Bardowell of Magdalen/Unruly Child/The Beach Boys & Tony Palacios of Guardian) … 4:09
4. “Playing God” (Terry Ilous of XYZ, Jeff Paris and Richard Kendrick of Near Life Experience) … 3:47
5. “Chasing a Cure” (Benny Mardones, John Pine & Bill Leverty of Firehouse) … 4:29
6. “Black Or White” (Terry Ilous of XYZ, Alton Hood of D.O.C., & J.K. Northrup of King Kobra) … 3:57
7. “Quicksand Jesus” (Kelly Keeling of Baton Rouge) … 5:29
8. “Snake Eat Snake [Electric Version] (David Raymond Reeves & Don Webster of Neon Cross) … 4:53
9. “Butterface” (Mark Allen Lanoue of Biloxi & Joshua Perahia of Joshua) … 3:56
10. “When Mullets Ruled The World” (Philip Bardowell of Magdalen/Unruly Child/The Beach Boys & J.K. Northrup of King Kobra) … 4:16
11. “Ground Zero” (Kelly Keeling of Baton Rouge, Kerry Livgren of Kansas, & Carmine Appice) … 8:20
12. “Eve” [demo] (Tommy Denander on guitars) … 3:18
13. “Damascus Road” [demo] (Tommy Denander on guitars) … 3:43

Liberty N’ Justice is a Christian hard rock band that began in the early 1990s and has shifted into more of a melodic rock project in recent times. I say “project” because each LNJ release now features a variety of guest musicians with the only constant being founding member Justin Murr.

This particular release was originally an EP and was a digital download only. It was done to help raise money for The Epilepsy Foundation and help raise awareness about epilepsy. I guess the project was enough of a success that a physical pressing of the album was produced with 8 “bonus” tracks turning Chasing a Cure into a full-length album.

I’d been aware of LNJ for a number of years but was always surprised at how low-key the hype around the releases seemed to be considering the talent that was involved. This a truly all-star outfit as Lou Gramm, Phil Collen, Sebastian Bach, Chris Jericho, Michael Sweet, Jack Russell, Stephen Pearcy, Phil Lewis, Jamie St. James, Robert Mason and Jani Lane (yes — all THREE Warrant vocalists) have all appeared on various albums. On this release alone Paul Shortino, Ron Keel, Donnie Vie, Carmine Appice, Eddie Ojeda, Bill Leverty and Kerry Livgren all pitch in alongside members of XYZ, King Kobra, Baton Rouge and various other Christian rock bands.

Let me put this out there — despite some of the names I mentioned, this is most definitely a melodic rock album. I’m talking “Why didn’t Frontiers release this?” melodic. So for me, a few songs fall short. A few are too slow or too polished for my tastes but this is still a solid release overall. The only song I truly cannot stand is “Snake Eat Snake” which sounds like something from the grunge era and is so bad I’m wondering if it’s meant as a joke! The hardest rocking song on the album is “Butterface”, which is pretty modern and kinda reminds me of Velvet Revolver. “Ground Zero” reminds me of Kansas which is no surprise with Livgren participating on this track.

A couple of good cover songs are thrown in on the bonus portion of the album. XYZ’s Terry Ilous does a great job on Michael Jackson’s “Black Or White” and Baton Rouge’s Kelly Keeling is truly impressive on Skid Row’s “Quicksand Jesus”. No offense to the rest of the album but it is this take on “Quicksand Jesus” that I have listened to most (but to be fair, it is one of my favorite Skid Row songs).

Frequent visitors will probably get much more mileage out of this album than I have but I still liked it a lot and the money goes towards a good cause so go buy it!

Highlights: “Say Uncle”, “Throwing Stones”, “Playing God”, “Quicksand Jesus”, “Butterface”, “Ground Zero”

King Kobra – King Kobra

King Kobra (2011, Frontiers Records)

1. Rock This House
2. Turn Up The Good (Times)
3. Live Forever
4. Tear Down The Walls
5. This Is How We Roll
6. Midnight Woman
7. We Got A Fever
8. Top Of The World
9. You Make It Easy
10. Cryin’ Turns To Rain
11. Screamin’ For More
12. Fade Away

Paul Shortino – Vocals, Guitar
David Michael-Philips – Guitar, Keyboards, Backing Vocals
Mick Sweda – Guitar
Johnny Rod – Bass
Carmine Appice – Drums, Backing Vocals

Producer: Dave Henzerling, Paul Shortino & Carmine Appice

King Kobra holds a special place in my heart. Ready to Strike was the very first album reviewed on this site! Other than that, their debut is a classic melodic hard rock album and the rest of their catalog is fairly solid overall. Yes, I enjoyed Thrill of A Lifetime and Hollywood Trash even though they strayed from the sounds of Ready to Strike and III.

Getting back to this self-titled release, don’t be fooled by the basic cover art and lack of an album title! King Kobra more than lives up to the melodic hard rock goodness of the band’s debut and may even be better overall (let’s face it, some of those songs haven’t aged well and are now extremely guilty pleasures). The album is definitely made to appeal to the fans of their first album. All of these guys have been around for awhile and know what they are doing and they have created an excellent ’80s hard rock album.

The funny thing is — thanks to new lead singer Paul Shortino (ex-Rough Cutt/ex-Quiet Riot), the band has somewhat of a classic rock sound to my ears. He’s got such a soulful voice that I even thought Rough Cutt had the same vibe. His style is definitely a far cry from Mark/Marcie Free but it works with all of these songs. I can’t imagine Free doing any of this stuff but what the current King Kobra line-up is doing is working just fine without him. Free, by the way, is the only missing original member from this album.

The album starts off with a real hard rocker – “Rock The House”. It’s a great introduction to Shortino being in the band the lets you know King Kobra is hear to rock. “Turn Up The Good (Times)” is another foot stomper letting you know this is first and foremost a good time rock ‘n’ roll album.

Though the album definitely will appeal to ’80s hard rock fans, the production is not from the ’80s. There is very much a bluesy classic rock feel throughout the album, which again, I attribute much to Shortino’s vocals and is especially apparent on “We Got A Fever” (a lost Whitesnake song?) and “Cryin’ Turns To Rain”. There are a few more obvious ’80s moments though like “Tear Down The Wall”, “Midnight Woman”, “Top Of The World” and “You Make It Easy” (which sounds like Joey Lynn Turner-era Rainbow). Thrown in with all of this are even more hellraisin’ numbers like “This Is How We Roll” and “Screamin’ For More”.

From top to bottom, there is not a single bad song on this disc. I had a good feeling about this album but I didn’t know it was going to be THIS good. I think it’s great to see King Kobra back and ready to strike! This is a must own for 2011.

Highlights: “Rock This House”, “Live Forever”, “Midnight Woman”, “We Got A Fever”, “You Make It Easy”, “Cryin’ Turns To Rain”, “Fade Away”

Buy ‘King Kobra’ at!

KING KOBRA – Thrill of a Lifetime

King Kobra – Thrill Of A Lifetime [Limited Mini LP Edition] (2008, Caroline Records)
Original Release: 1986, Capitol Records

1. “Second Time Around” … 4:09
2. “Dream On” … 4:29
3. “Feel The Heat” … 3:58
4. “Thrill Of A Lifetime” … 4:12
5. “Only The Strong Will Survive” … 4:00
6. “Iron Eagle (Never Say Die)” … 3:33
7. “Home Street Home” … 4:20
8. “Overnight Sensation” …  4:19
9. “Raise Your Hands To Rock” … 3:47
10. “Party Animal” … 3:58

Mark Free – Lead Vocals
David Micheal Philips – Guitar, Synthesizers, Backing Vocals
Mick Sweda – Guitar, Synthesizers, Backing Vocals
Johnny Rod – Bass, Backing Vocals
Carmine Appice – Drums, Percussion, Backing Vocals

Producer: Carmine Appice, Duane Hitchings and Spencer Proffer

Whoa, whoa, whoa! What happened to the band that gave us hard rockin’ guilty pleasures like “Ready to Strike” and “Hunger”? For the most part, they seem to have disappeared. Not that Ready to Strike is a heavy metal classic. It’s pure ’80s pop metal cheese but still a very good debut, in my opinion. Thrill Of A Lifetime lacks the bite and venom of the debut. It’s synth-heavy AOR/melodic rock pop that signals where Mark “Marcie” Free’s heart really was. This was Mark’s last album with the band, he would go on to form AOR outfits Signal in 19891 and Unruly Child in 1992.

“Dream On” (no, not the Aerosmith song) is by far the album’s best song and would have been better served if it was given a harder edge. The rest, I’m sad to say is fairly generic ’80s AOR music. There’s more keyboards than guitars on this album it seems! UGH!

But wait! That’s not at all! There’s rapping. Yes, rapping. “Home Street Home” is rap rock. I’m assuming this was done to cash in on the success of the Run DMC/Aerosmith collaboration on “Walk This Way” (which was released the same year this album was). So yeah, if you’ve ever wanted to hear Mark Free rapping about living on the streets, this is an essential album for you.

For the rest of us? Hardcore AOR fans may find a few worthy tunes but anyone who really liked the hard rock direction of Ready to Strike will probably be disappointed by this venom-less effort. How can a song called “Party Animal” come off sounding so limp? At least the band was able to gain some credibility back with King Kobra III.

Familiar with this album for years, I finally bought a copy just to fill a hole in my collection. Pretty interesting edition as my version is a mini-LP. It was listed as such when I ordered it but I thought maybe that meant the insert was an exact replica of how the vinyl looked or whatever. Not so. The album comes in a cardboard sleeve that is bigger than your standard jewel case and inside that sleeve is another sleeve featuring a photo of the band standing on roller coaster tracks on the front and all the lyrics and credits on the back. An exact replica of the original LP release, I imagine.

Pretty cool issue but I’m surprised to see this done for such a cult band. You’d think it’d be a much cooler and popular idea for more successful acts. Sadly, they didn’t go all out and make the CD look like the actual vinyl record. How could they miss that step? I’ve seen that done before and it always looks cool.

Highlights: “Second Time Around”, “Dream On”, “Raise Your Hands To Rock”

BLUE MURDER – Blue Murder

Blue Murder – Blue Murder (1989, Geffen Records)

Track Listing:
1. “Riot” … 6:21
2. “Sex Child” … 5:59
3. “Valley of the Kings” … 7:51
4. “Jelly Roll” … 4:44
5. “Blue Murder” … 4:55
6. “Out of Love” … 6:44
7. “Billy” … 4:11
8. “Ptolemy” … 6:29
9. “Black-Hearted Woman” … 4:47

John Sykes – Vocals, Guitar
Tony Franklin – Bass
Carmine Appice – Drums

Additional Musicians:
Nik Greene – Keyboards

Produced by: Bob Rock

I continue to eat my words as I take another look at some of these albums! I’d always heard a lot of praise for Blue Murder so I bought this CD a few years ago, I immediately loved “Sex Child” and “Jelly Roll”, but the rest didn’t leave much an impression on me.

How times have changed!

This is a great melodic hard rock album! Shredder John Sykes, journeyman drummer Carmine Appice and legendary producer Bob Rock knocked one out of the park here. Until Blue Murder, Sykes had most recently been a member of Whitesnake and played on their 1987 album, but ended up leaving/getting fired (I’ve read different accounts) and went out to form this band.

The album is more in line with your usual 80s melodic hard rock sound, but there are some touches of Whitesnake blues rock here as well, as evidenced by songs like “Valley of the Kings”, “Blue Murder” and “Black-Hearted Woman”. I’ve never checked out the follow up album, but I should.

Highlights: “Sex Child”, “Valley of the Kings”, “Jelly Roll”, “Out of Love”, “Ptolemy”, “Black-Hearted Woman”

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