What happened to the good ship King Kobra? Hilarious misspelled name, silly coordinated hair colours (all but veteran drummer Carmine Appice, who complimented their red and blonde with his red and black), and production by the guy who brought you Quiet Riot — what could possibly go wrong? They even had their own “kobra” signature hand gesture, and weird complementary stage moves in an expensive music video.
When you have lyrics like, “I’m ready to strike, I’m cocked and loaded tonight,” but you’re not David Lee Roth or Gene Simmons, you’re already fighting an uphill battle. Carmine saw the sudden success of bands like Quiet Riot, and decided “why the hell not”? He picked up some great players for this project. Bassist Johnny Rod ended up in W.A.S.P. later on. David Michael-Phillips played with Lizzy Borden after Kobra. Mick Sweda formed BulletBoys. Mark Free formed Unruly Child, and ultimately became Marcie Free. She still fronts Unruly Child today. Meanwhile Carmine Appice reformed this lineup of King Kobra, substituting in Paul Shortino for Free, and getting good reviews for it.
So talent aside, there’s no worries there. There are two major issues with this record. One: the muddy Spencer Proffer production which lays a muffly blanket over the band. All but Appice of course, who bears a very Frankie Banali-like sound on this album. The guitars are empty transistor radio renditions of what guitars should sound like. Two: filler material kept Ready To Strike from fulfilling its potential.
It’s not all filler of course — much of it is damn good. The first three tracks in a row (“Ready to Strike”, “Hunger”, and “Shadow Rider”) are all really good, actually. Famously, “Hunger” became a minor hit, although it was actually written by Canada’s Kick Axe, and recorded by them under the name Spectre General, for Transformers: The Movie in 1986! I prefer the King Kobra version, because Mark Free really nailed that vocal.
Other decent tunes include “Shake Up”…I mean, it’s OK. It has a good pre-chorus, “And the beat goes on and on and on…”, but the lines about home work and yard work were pretty goofy even back then. Like that one, “Tough Guys” is also a good tune (mid-tempo mellow rocker) sunk by a bad lyric. “The world’s greatest lie, is that all of us tough guys don’t cry.” No thanks, not cranking that one with the windows down.
Crummy tunes: “Attention”, “Piece of the Rock”, “Breakin’ Out” and “Dancing With Desire”. Stinky. I can’t decide how I feel about the overwrought “Second Thoughts”.
Overall: Middle of the road album that neither astounds nor repulses. It has enough good tunes to warrant a place in my collection. How about you?