Welcome to the musical meandering insights of Aaron Joy, aka the Joyful Gadfly! Musician, podcaster, writer, historian ... here you'll find 600 reviews of CDs & DVDs of rock & metal in all its variations, mainstream & indie. What they all share is that the album is unique in some way. Please share these reviews or link to them if you like what you read. Reviews are no longer being posted here but feel free to e-mail Aaron & post comments. (Formerly the Roman Midnight Music Blog)

Sunday, April 8, 2012

King Kobra ~ Ready To Strike

(Click on heading to visit official website.)
Style: hard rock
Label: Capitol
Year: 1985
Home: n/a (disbanded)

Members: Carmine Appice ~ drums/b. vocals
Mark Free (Marcie Free) ~ vocals
Mick Sweda, David Michael-Philips (David Henzerling) ~ guitar/b. vocals
Johnny Rod ~ bass/b. vocals

A bit of a cult following has grown up around KK, pushed mostly by the who's who versus the music itself: legendary drummer Carmine Appice leads the pack in reputation; bassist Johnny Rod went on to W.A.S.P.; singer Mark Free, or Marcie Free after coming out as transgendered, formed Unruly Child with members of World Trade, a band that featured future Yes guitarist Billy Sherwood; guitarist David Michael-Philip, aka David Henzerling, played in the sessions for Lizzy Borden's climactic solo release Master Of Disguise & guitarist Mick Sweda formed the Bulletboys. Later members include singers Johnny Edwards of Montrose & Foreigner & future Baton Rouge/Trans-Siberian Orchestra singer Kelly Keeling. KK was formed by Appice after spending some time with Ozzy Osbourne & was a four album bridge before he dissolved the band to work with Blue Murder featuring the Firm bassist Tony Franklin & Whitesnake guitarist John Sykes. Though, by then, only Appice remained as the only steady member as after the first two releases line-up changes became common with King Kobra III even hitting the shelves sans a band to tour it. KK returned in 2010 with the original line-up for a new album but now with famed New York vocalist & producer Paul Shortino, once of Quiet Riot. Ready To Strike is KK's debut with what is considered the best line-up, but that doesn't really say much ... neither does the fact that by the time of their second album, with this same line-up, they were getting MTV buzz & opening for Kiss, Iron Maiden, Queensryche & Ted Nugent. If it says anything it's that KK has strong musicians, a popular sound & a good PR machine, helped in part by Appice's reputation & by getting a song in the Iron Eagle movie soundtrack. But, in hindsight KK is more a historian's band. For many, both now & potentially then, it's just another L.A. glam/hair metal band culling from the Hanoi Rocks influence from the sound to the looks, almost embarressingly in hindsight, even if they were based somewhat in New York. The music has all the trademarks of MTV hair metal - lots of guitars, slow acoustic power ballad love songs, rock'n'roll themed lyrics (i.e. "Ready To Strike", "Shake Up"), songs about courting danger (i.e. "Shadow Rider", "Breakin' Out"), common high pitched vocals, lots of chorus backing vocals & some synthesizer touches. If it wasn't for their membership they'd probably fall into anonymity more than they have as so many bands that sound just like them, better & worse, have. Though, it should be said that given a different or more interesting musical context, or at least a less cliched one, or perhaps with more distinctive musicians, some of the more unique lyrics would be drawn out more. "Second Thoughts" is an interesting twist on a love song about a guy watching his girl getting dressed up to go out with some friends "but with that perfume that you're wearing/those friends make no sense" & he's asked "honey, try to understand". While "Touch Guys" is about the contradition between no tears masculinity & being sensitive, with "I'm hard on the outside, that's how I survive/but baby deep in my soul is where you had complete control/but you'll never see a teardrop in my eye" that reeks of Appice's Long Island roots. The really strange thing, & I almost hate to say this given his reputation, is that it's hard to figure out what makes Appice such a great drummer from this release. Drumming styles might be the hardest instrument in a band to decipher, but there are still some drummers that grab you like no other with or without being seen. Appice just seems to be taking a standard approach not out of the ordinary ... & I say this having heard other releases with him. Perhaps its something behind the scenes, such as his ability to bring together top musicians or maybe it's his composing which is a hard thing to judge in a group setting. I'll confess I picked this up cheap recently, on cassette no less, because of Appice's involvement & I've met Rod & Keeling. Yes, I was willing to go backwards in audio technology to hear the band ... & support a local record store ... & enjoy the nostalgic experience of listening to a cassette like I did near daily growing up. Though, it might be folks of my mindset that will pick up KK, sadly.


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