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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!

ROUGH CUTT – Rough Cutt/Rough Cutt Wants You

Rough Cutt – Rough Cutt/Rough Cutt Wants You (2005, Wounded Bird Records)
Original Release: 1985, Warner Bros. Records (Rough Cutt); 1986, Warner Bros. Records (Rough Cutt Wants You)

Track Listing:
Rough Cutt
1. Take Her … 3:39
2. Piece of My Heart … 4:45
3. Never Gonna Die … 4:20
4. Dreamin’ Again … 5:48
5. Cutt Your Heart Out … 2:29
6. Black Widow … 4:33
7. You Keep Breaking My Heart … 5:14
8. Kids Will Rock … 4:02
9. Dressed To Kill … 4:15
10. She’s Too Hot … 3:27

Rough Cutt Wants You
11. Rock The USA … 2:59
12. Bad Reputation … 3:46
13. Don’t Settle For Less … 2:34
14. Hot ‘N’ Heavy … 4:50
15. Take A Chance … 4:07
16. We Like It Loud … 3:59
17. Double Trouble … 3:49
18. You Wanna Be A Star … 2:44
19. Let ‘Em Talk … 3:37
20. The Night Cries Out (For You) … 4:53

Paul Shortino – Vocals
Amir Derakh – Guitar
Chris Hager – Guitar
Matt Thorr – Bass
Dave Alford – Drums

Produced by: Tom Allom (Rough Cutt); Jack Douglas (Rough Cutt Wants You)

Wounded Bird have been doing reissues of acts from the 60s-80s for years and it’s a great thing, because they’re priced low and often, they’ll be 2-in-1 releases like this one. And no, I’m not getting anything from Wounded Bird for this, I just think it’s really cool what they do.

Anyway, I had been aware of Rough Cutt for years, but never heard’em until I found this little gem browsing the rock section at CD Universe. You wanna try out a band? 2 albums on one CD is a good way to do it. This is Rough Cutt’s entire studio catalog (outside of an EP and some demos), so this is even better than some compilation.

Paul Shortino, of course, would go on to temporarily take over as lead singer of Quiet Riot, after Kevin DuBrow was fired and eventually went solo. It’s easy to see why, on both of these albums, why he was chosen to sit in for DuBrow. Great pipes.

The music is pleasant, but a some of it is just generic 80s melodic hard rock. Some of it reminds me of what you might hear playing in the background of some 1980s teen comedy or horror movie or as the credits are rolling. There are great moments though. From the first album, “Take Her” is an awesome track and a great way to get the album going, “Dreamin’ Again” is a great song as well. I’m really into “Black Widow”, from the vocal delivery to the pace of the music, it sounds like something you’d hear from a Tony Martin-era Black Sabbath album.

Rough Cutt is definitely a, dare I say, cut above Rough Cutt Wants You (sometimes just title as Wants You!). Wants You is a bit more on the generic side and seems a bit more polished. “Night Cries Out (For You” is the best cut from the 2nd album and sounds like something Joe Cocker would sing.

There’s actually some strong producers behind each album. Tom Allom produced Judas Priest all throughout the 80s and Jack Douglas has done extensive work for Cheap Trick,  Starz, Alice Cooper, John Lennon and even Aerosmith’s first five albums.

Also interesting to note is that guitarist Amir Derakh would later go on to find success as a guitarist for Orgy and Shortino now fronts a band called The Cutt (which is not a revamped Rough Cutt).

Highlights: “Take Her”, “Piece of My Heart”, “Dreamin’ Again”, “Black Widow”, “You Keep Breaking My Heart”, “Rock the USA”, “”Bad Reputation”, “Night Cries Out (For You) (The Cutt’s MySpace page) (an unofficial Rough Cutt MySpace page)

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