Kings X’s music is difficult to define. The band’s career has had its ups and downs. But their influence is acknowledged, if not by magazines, then by the musicians they inspired…
King’s X can depend on one thing: the respect of fellow musicians. Their innovation is acknowledged in the back-stages and recording rooms, if not on Magazine covers. Take, for instance, what came to be known as the “Seattle sound.” No one is quite sure if King’s X or Soundgarden invented drop D tuning first (Soundgarden’s Ultramega OK was released the same year as King’s X Out of the Silent Planet), but no less an authority than Pearl Jam bassist Jeff Ament was convinced enough to declare King’s X the inventor of grunge. “I think I’ve come to realize that musicians do seem to be drawn to us,” says Gaskill. “I’m honored by it, and I think it’ll keep us around, because there’s always going to be musicians…”
No one is quite sure how the public at large will regard King’s X when the book is finally closed on the band. In the category of power trios, only Rush and ZZ Top exceed them in longevity. They are important enough musically to become legends, but fringe enough to be forgotten completely. Jerry Gaskill has his own modest hopes for how that legacy will read. “I hope that it will read that we were just a band that were all our own, that we’re one of those bands that, if you take any of the members out, that band no longer exists.”
Longtime fans showed up at Scout Bar over the weekend to hear some beloved tunes, sure, but also to simply check in and see if the proto-grunge power trio was OK.
It’s a pleasure, then, to report that King’s X is alive and well. If the group is still living with the pain of the past two years’ trials, none of it showed on their smiling faces Saturday. Instead, they were buoyed from start to finish by the intense love of a diehard audience that managed to completely pack out the Clear Lake club.
Gin Blossoms - “7th Inning Stretch” (Congratulations I’m Sorry, 1996)
What?! I’m sorry, I’m not counting this one.
Hey! Hello! - “Lock for Rock (And Other Sporting Cliches)” (Hey! Hello!, 2012)
Without a doubt the best song on Ginger Wildheart’s noisy-pop PledgeMusic project with Victoria Liedtke.
Cheifs - “The Lonelys” (Chunks, 1989)
This comes off a 17-minute SST compilation full of “chunks” of songs, some of them by bands I have never heard of even though I’m familiar with most of the SST roster. The Cheifs [sic] were apparently a short-lived punk band that bridged the gap between the late-70s punk movement and the early-80s hardcore bands, and this track may have been their only SST appearance. I can’t find them on an SST band list anywhere, and it doesn’t look like they released a full album for any label, much less SST. This track gets a bit of an update as “The Lonlies” (linked, and notice the updated spelling as well) and is included on a Cheifs compilation called Holly-West Crisis on Flipside records. Even so, it doesn’t do too much for me, although it must have hit someone the right way because the album was re-released three different times on two other labels.
Soasin - “It’s Far Better to Learn” (Saosin, 2006)
Decent enough effort from the emo/screamo band that has popped up in several of my other Fives. Maybe I’m just a contrarian, but I think I’m just over all the earnest, pleading lyrics asking “What’s wrong with me? Why don’t you like me?” and asserting revelations like “I don’t believe in anything.” Meh.
Platypus - “Better Left Unsaid” (Ice Cycles, 2000)
Platypus was a “supergroup” of sorts featuring guitarist/vocalist Ty Tabor of King’s X, Dream Theater’s John Myung on bass, journeyman keyboardist Derek Sherinian, and jazz-fusion/prog-rock super-drummer Rod Morgenstein (let’s just forget about that whole Winger thing) that released two albums before splitting into two different side-projects. You would expect that an ensemble like this with its combined pedigree would produce an all-out prog wankfest, but the focus on Ice Cycles is on the songs, most of them fairly laid-back, emotional, and introspective numbers like this one, reserving the prog for the final 10-minute, 7-part suite they call a “quintology” and that features track names like “yoko ono,” “yoko two-no,” “yoko againo,” and “yoko outro.”
Megadeth - “Countdown to Extinction” (Countdown to Extinction, 1992)
This follow-up to the great Rust in Peace very nearly matches its predecessor in composition quality and musicianship and produced some of my favorite Megadeth tunes, the title track being one of them. I’m not sure that Megadave will ever recapture the magic of this era of Megadeth or top the lineup featuring Junior, Marty Friedman, and Nick Menza.
Chris Cornell - “Mission” (Euphoria Morning, 1999)
Not sure what I expected from this solo effort from the Soundgarden frontman, but I remember liking this at the time that it came out, probably because it was just different enough from Soundgarden to be interesting while retaining that unmistakable voice and that scream. I’m not so sure what I think about it now. I usually just skip tracks from this album when they come up.
Scorpions - “As Soon as the Good Times Roll” (Love at First Sting, 1983) Love at First Sting was the album that really broke the Scorpions here in the States, and due to the hugeness of songs like “Rock You Like a Hurricane,” there are some overlooked gems. This mid-tempo number is one of them.
Queensrÿche - “Guitar Solos” (Live at Harpo’s, Detroit, 1984)
Does just over 2 minutes of live guitar wankery count as a track?! Since the guitarist is Chris DeGarmo doing harmony leads with Michael Wilton, I’ll let it pass.
Transatlantic - “Stranger In Your Soul” (Bridge Across Forever, 2001)
26 minutes of pure modern(-ish) prog goodness with a “hidden” track of in-studio nonsense at the 27:30 mark.
Dokken - “Heartless Heart” (Tooth and Nail, 1984)
Rockin’ with Dokken! Except with this particular track… not so much. This sounds tame, tired, and dated. Kinda like me most days.
My first Five after having (finally) updated to iTunes 11, and it seems my library is in a weird mood. Besides offering me a Caedmon’s Call sandwich, I get a couple of tracks I haven’t heard in quite awhile.
Caedmon’s Call - “Lead of Love” (Caedmon’s Call, 1997)
The opening track from their major-label self-titled debut, “Lead of Love” (if I’m not mistaken) is the song that broke Caedmon’s Call to a national CCM market. Prior to that they were a Houston-area indie-folk band that played bible studies, worship services, and coffee houses.
Led Zeppelin - “Heartbreaker” (Led Zeppelin II, 1969)
It’s strange not hearing this song immediately followed by “Living Loving Maid.”
Whitesnake - “All Or Nothing” (Slide It In, 1984)
Jon Lord delivers an excellent Hammond solo amidst the drama that surrounded the recording and release of this album as Coverdale groomed the ‘snake for its big U.S. breakthrough. As big as the 1987 self-titled album was, I think this is the better album. My only problem is that I never know if I’m listening to the original version with Micky Moody on guitar or the re-recorded, remixed version with John Sykes since I acquired the album through dubious means at best after my cassette had long given up the ghost.
Ty Tabor - “I Know What I’m Missing” (Rock Garden, 2006)
This track from the King’s X guitarist’s fourth solo album (if you count his independently-released Naomi’s Solar Pumpkin, which I always do) actually sounds like two different songs fused in the middle by a weird instrumental break with backwards-looped vocals, neither half much resembling the other. Each part is quite good and could have both been fleshed out to create stand-alone tracks.
Caedmon’s Call - “This World” (My Calm // Your Storm, 1994) My Calm // Your Storm was originally released as a cassette-only demo in 1994 that has been re-issued twice since then. I got my CD copy at a show they played here in Memphis not long after they released their second major-label album. I actually prefer the more stripped-down version that appears here than the polished arrangement that made its way onto the self-title debut.
Friends, fans, and family are currently raising money to help King’s X frontman Doug (dUg) Pinnick pay for a much-needed hernia surgery. Ever the consummate professional, Pinnick has been “playing through the pain” as it were because, as with most career musicians, he doesn’t have health insurance. Just like with drummer Jerry Gaskill’s health scare last year, fans have stepped up to stand in the gap and help give back to someone who has given them so much over the years.
As of this writing, and with 84 days remaining in the fundraising campaign, 344 donations have been made, totalling just over $16,000 of the projected $25,000 necessary to cover the procedure. If you want to participate, head on over to GiveForward to pledge your support for the “sweetest guy in the industry.”
MAE - “Home” (Singularity, 2007)
I’ve been on a Dave Elkins/MAE kick lately since he dropped the first album from his new project Schematic. “Home” comes from MAE’s major-label debut, a solid effort which hit the charts at #40 on the Billboard 200 upon its release. Not bad for a band most folks have never heard of. If you haven’t heard Singularity (or MAE), you need to check it out. It’s a great album, and there’s not a bad song in the bunch.
Def Leppard - “Wasted” (Live BBC Studio Sessions, 1979)
My favorite NWOBHM-era Def Leppard track from a bootleg that my iTunes really seems to like dipping into lately. I won’t argue with today’s selection.
Gin Blossoms - “Mrs. Rita” (New Miserable Experience, 1992)
I can’t say I was a big Gin Blossoms fan back in the day, but I definitely had an affinity for their brand of tortured, jangly alterno-pop at one point.
KISS - “Makin’ Love” (Alive II, 1977)
I was a HUGE KISS fan from my adolescence on into my high school years. I honestly tried to like their output once the makeup came off, but by that point, my favorite member was gone (although, unbeknownst to me, he was largely absent way earlier than then), and I felt they had jumped the shark. Much of their work after Love Gun, including this “live” album complete with dubbed crowd noise (and excluding Ace’s excellent “solo” album and a few high points here and there), now seems cheesy to me at best, with most of it being absolutely cringeworthy.
PFR - “Forest” (Pray for Rain, 1992)
Another jangly alterno-pop band, this one from the CCM community, but with more Beatles influences than should be legally allowed. This song from their debut album is one of the better tracks and is a good representation of the album as a whole as well as the band’s sound throughout their career. I really used to love these guys, but at some point I just kind of moved on. I’m sensing a trend.
The Beatles - “I’ve Just Seen a Face” (Help, 1965)
I love this song and find myself humming it at odd times for no reason at all.
Sugar - “Explode and Make Up” (File Under Easy Listening, 1994)
Another week, another Sugar tune, this time the closing track of Mould’s follow-up to Copper Blue, which in my opinion is just as strong and is actually the first Sugar album I heard.
KISS - “God of Thunder” (Double Platinum, 1978) Double Platinum provided the soundtrack of my imaginary concerts where I would mime to the music, pretending to be Gene or Ace. Lately I’m of the opinion that the album should not have existed as it screwed up and with the original (and in my opinion, much better) versions of most of the songs present. Also, I have a really hard time comprehending that Paul Stanley wrote this tune the full intention of performing it.
Pink Floyd - “Pigs on the Wing (Part Two)” (Animals, 1977)
I was well into adulthood and still discovering Pink Floyd’s back catalog when I stumbled onto Animals. For a short time, it and the excellent live cover of the entire album by Les Claypool’s Frog Brigade project provided the soundtrack for my mundane website markup monkeywork. It was a nice distraction. This short outro track adds a final statement to what I still find to be a very bizarre—but very good—album.
Devin Townsend Project - “Gato” (Ki, 2009)
I love how Devin lulls you in by playing something low-key, laid-back, and even pretty, and before you know it, he’s balls-out screaming his head off. And what’s with iTunes?! I get a Sugar track and a Devin Townsend track two weeks in a row. That’s 2 Sugars and 2 Devins in 2 weeks. Maybe 2 is my lucky number today?! Maybe I should go play the Powerball or something?!
Because, at the risk of sounding a little fruity, I believe that a life in which we habitually abandon the known Good Things in order to helplessly stab at ““managing”” a nebulous morass of chaoses that we can never control is not much of a life at all.
Rush - “Second Nature” (Hold Your Fire, 1987)
Since I largely like Hold Your Fire, I was surprised to find when I was fact-checking that it was a commercial disappointment for Rush, the first album since Caress of Steel not to reach platinum eventually. Sure, it’s no Moving Pictures, and at times it can seem a tedious listening exercise what with all the synth layers, but if you can accept it for what it is, it has some great songs, and Lifeson supplies some really tasty guitar parts. Unfortunately “Second Nature” is not one of the good songs and one that usually gets the fast-forward treatment from me.
The Devin Townsend Band - “Deadhead” (Accelerated Evolution, 2004)
Opening with a riff that sounds an awful lot like mid-90s Joe Satriani, “Deadhead” is a slow groove that eventually delivers Devin’s patented wall-of-sound production with equal parts heaviness and sweetness. This is the only track from the album I have, but if the rest of it is like this, I should really pick up the entire thing.
Def Leppard - “Glad I’m Alive” (Live BBC Studio Sessions, 1979)
This is a song I had never heard prior to grabbing this live bootleg by a hungry and determined Def Leppard. Overall it’s a good performance, and it’s a period of Def Leppard’s history I really enjoyed revisiting.
Spock’s Beard - “Thoughts (Part II)” (V, 2000)
This song features everything I loved about Neal Morse-era Spock’s Beard. The only problem is that at 4:39, it’s about 4 minutes too short.
Sugar - “A Good Idea” (Copper Blue, 1992)
Not sure what I can offer that hasn’t already been said about an album that every music critic known to man has gushed over since its release other than I love just about everything about it.
Have a great weekend Fivers. The copy of Sound City: Real to Reel that I recently won through a well-known nationally-syndicated radio interview show featuring a host with a very pirate-inspired-sounding name arrived yesterday, so I suspect the remainder of my day will be spent immersed in Grohlville.
After a week of vacation and a long week of after-vacation catch-up, I’m back with a Friday Five. I know you’re excited.
Dio - “The Last in Line” (The Last in Line, 1984)
One of my favorite Dio songs, and Vivian Campbell just rips on that guitar solo. Too bad the video was so cheesy. Cyborg overlords harnessing the power of teenagers playing video games?! But hey, it was the 80s.
Queen - “You Take My Breath Away” (A Day at the Races, 1976)
Beautifully melancholy tune that is reminiscent of Sheer Heart Attack’s “Lily of the Valley” in places.
Led Zeppelin - “Hots on for Nowhwere” (Presence, 1976)
Boogie number that I nearly always manage to skip when listening to Presence. It’s not that it’s a bad song, but how in the world can you top “Achilles’ Last Stand”?!
Poundhound - “Rev” (Massive Grooves From The Electric Church Of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music, 1998)
“Have you ever been to the electric church?” 21-second opening track from Doug (dUg) Pinnick’s Poundhound solo project that may have been the inspiration for his “Welcome to the First Church of Rock ‘n’ Roll” speech during the middle section of “Over my Head” on recent King’s X tours. I love Doug in the context of King’s X and even most of his side-projects, but for some reason I’ve never really been able to fully get into his solo stuff. By the way, he has new solo album called “Naked” due out in May. Not necessarily my cup o’ tea, but it might be yours. And with that, I have written more about a throwaway intro track than any other song in my Five. Meh.
Anthrax - “Packaged Rebellion” (Sound of White Noise, 1993)
Some Bush-era Anthrax closes out today’s Five. I didn’t quite get this album at the time, what with the departure of Belladonna and the change of style, but I’ve grown to really like it over the years. “If you say it, mean it; if you mean it, do it.”
Dio - “Shoot Shoot” (Sacred Heart, 1985)
Not my favorite tune from Sacred Heart. That honor would have to go to album opener “King of Rock and Roll” or the title track. One of the weakest tracks on the album, “Shoot Shoot” was probably not the best choice for an album closer, and while his playing was always phenomenal in Dio, Sacred Heart was probably not the best way for Vivian Campbell to have departed the band.
Eagles of Death Metal - “Don’t Speak (I Came to Make a Bang)” (Death by Sexy, 2006)
This has all the hallmarks of a Josh Homme project. I was just never able to get into it enough to really care despite the rave reviews from music sites and friends. My favorite part on this track is probably the drums. Silly me, I figured it was Joey Castillo behind the kit, but it turns out it’s Homme on this one. Go figure. He’s one super-talented dude.
Queens of the Stone Age - “Give the Mule What He Wants” (Queens of the Stone Age, 1998)
Another one from Homme, this time the pre-Oliveri Queens of the Stone Age. I really like the groove on this one. I came late to the QOTSA party, Songs for the Deaf being my introduction, and I doubt Homme will ever top that effort in my opinion.
Counting Crows - “I Wish I Was a Girl” (This Desert Life, 1999)
Counting Crows closes out this strange Five with one of Duritz’s trademark tunes made up of deep, almost depressive lyrics about Elisabeth, Hollywood, and being alright (when he’s really not) with a sleek, glossy, sticky-sweet coating of pure pop that makes you almost overlook the darkness beneath. Almost.
Coheed and Cambria - “Keeping the Blade” (Good Apollo I’m Burning Star IV, Vol 1: From Fear Through the Eyes of Madness, 2005)
I was unsure if I should count this one, but since it’s as long as some of the SST tunes I’ve covered here, I figured why not. Sounding very much like something from the movie Halloween—and very unlike what you might imagine from the title—“Keeping the Blade” is a pretty little intro to Coheed’s third album, the first of the two-album fourth and final section of Claudio’s The Amory Wars storyline. Confused yet?! Meow.
Hayseed Dixie - “Christine Sixteen” (Kiss My Grass: A Hillbilly Tribute to KISS, 2003)
Hayseed Dixie makes another Five appearance with their excellent rendition of a KISS song that reveals Gene’s disturbing attraction to a teenaged schoolgirl. Seems oddly appropriate for them to cover.
Bill Evans - “Mother Nature’s Son” (In Good Company, 2012)
From one bluegrass cover to another, this time a very, very short nod to the Beatles.
Five O’Clock People - “Now I Sing” (The Nothing Venture, 1999)
I have never found it as difficult to uncover information about a band as with Five O’Clock People. I discovered this act through a friend, and immediately fell in love with their acoustic flavor of CCM, a little like early-day independent label Caedmon’s Call, but without the aspiration to make it as the next big thing in modern pop Christiandom. It looks at this point as if their music is no longer available anywhere unless you can luck up and find a new or used physical copy at a specialty store somewhere. As such, I posted this song to my blog so you can hear it for yourself.
As part of its First Listen series, NPR is streaming the new Real to Reel album from Dave Grohl and a collection of the artists featured in his Sound City documentary, affectionately known on their recent mini-tour as the Sound City Players. The album sees Grohl and members of Foo Fighters collaborating with such notable figures as Stevie Nicks, Rick Springfield, Rick Nielsen, Josh Homme, Trent Reznor, and Sir Paul McCartney.
So far I like what I’m hearing. Sure, Dave’s fingerprints are all over this, but what did you expect?! Stand-out tracks for me are “The Man That Never Was” with Rick Springfield, “You Can’t Fix This” featuring Stevie Nicks, “Mantra,” a collaboration between Homme, Reznor, and Grohl that unsurprisingly sounds exactly like you would imagine, and “From Can to Can’t,” which I previewed earlier here.
Real to Reel is set for a March 12 release, and you can pre-order the album at Amazon.com or on iTunes.
Add “A Trick With No Sleeve” and “If I Were Me” to the list.
Queen, KISS, King’s X, Spock’s Beard, and Saxon? Hard to ask for a better Friday Five!
Queen - “Flick of the Wrist” (Sheer Heart Attack, 1974)
I have expressed my love of Queen’s Sheer Heart Attack here, haven’t I?! I thought so. I have absolutely nothing bad to say about anything on this album, especially the 3-track mini-suite in which “Flick of the Wrist” is sandwiched. Stellar performances throughout by all the members of the band.
KISS - “Got to Choose” (Alive, 1975)
From my favorite Queen album to one of my favorite KISS albums. I love the solo Ace lays down on this one. It shows his genius as a guitarist despite his lack of technical prowess. And please let me continue to pretend that this was completely live with no overdubs.
King’s X - “We Are Finding Who We Are” (Austin Acoustic, 1991)
This comes from a 10-track bootleg of a 1991 in-studio recording of King’s X at Austin’s KBLJ 93.7 FM. If you can overlook the piezo “quackiness” of the guitars, it’s a great performance of a collection of tunes up through Faith Hope Love.
Spock’s Beard - “Waste Away” (Beward of Darkness, 1996)
My discovery of King’s X in the late 80s raised the bar for me and completely changed how I viewed and judged music. That band, combined with a few others that I had been listening to at the time like Metallica, Anthrax, Queensrÿche, and a few SST bands, opened me up to an appreciation of music with complex rhythms, thoughtful lyrical themes, and in some cases, completely oddball song structures. This appreciation led me later to bands like Dream Theater, Atomic Opera, and Spock’s Beard, one of my favorite bands of the 90s prog revival. Founder and frontman Neal Morse—my primary reason for liking the Beard—has since moved on, and unfortunately, so has my love of the band. “The Doorway” is my favorite from this album, but “Waste Away” is another bright spot, catchy, driving, and a bit more of a rocker than the rest of the album.
Saxon - “Voice” (Into the Labyrinth, 2009)
NWOBHM front-runners Saxon have been slogging away for 35 years. Later this month they will release their 20th studio album, and based on what I’ve heard, it sounds like a great one (minus a couple of so-so songs and one dud), proving they still have something to bring to the table. As for “Voice,” it’s one of the better tunes from a somewhat mediocre Saxon release—not bad, but not necessarily all that good either. Your mileage may vary.