Join us for a serious look at every King’s X studio album!…and more.
The Texas Trio, the soul-bringers of progressive rock…call ’em what you want (I just did, I made those two titles up), King’s X are too important for you to ignore any longer. If you have been aboard the King’s X train already, then you know what I am about to tell you. If not, then realize that this band has been tragically ignored for aeons. Since 1983 in fact, as Sneak Preview, a glammy rock band who released one record before changing direction and name to King’s X. Even though Sneak Preview were certainly not hinting that there was more beneath the surface than just some good sounding rock and roll, it was obvious that they had the ability to write and to play. They made a few music videos, and “Linda” depicts them delivering hooks more typical of Bon Jovi or Van Hagar.
Supposedly, the band were not happy with the way the Sneak Preview album turned out. Of 1000 copies made, half were reportedly destroyed on purpose. Today copies sell for over $200.
Newly christened as King’s X, the band and producer/manager Sam Taylor went into the studio for Megaforce, a division of Atlantic, the label that launched Led Zeppelin. They emerged with one of the most startling and important debut albums of the 1980’s, Out of the Silent Planet. Starkly original and different, King’s X took the critics by storm. If only the record buying masses followed their lead.
According to esteemed scholar and Sausagefester Scottie Geffros, “From Out of the Silent Planet right up to Tape Head (1998), there is so much good stuff that the world in general should be embarrassed that ‘music fans’ never caught on to the greatness that is King’s X.” Adds fellow ‘Fester Johnny Cheddar, “I remember the first time listening to Out of the Silent Planet with Dr. Dave…we had been on a music buying mission, and he found an elusive vinyl copy; going cheap if I recall. It was a hard album to come by in those days. I was amazed to hear such a heavy riffy metal sound, but without the sinister vibe that goes with it.”
Starting with a dramatic space rock intro, “In the New Age” soon introduces the core King’s X sound: The soul, the dual vocal talents of Doug Pinnick and Ty Tabor, and their unique cross of influences. Ty and Doug have voices on opposite sides of the rock spectrum. Ty sings high and clean with a hint of Lennon, and Doug goes deep to the howling limits of his soul. Their trio format, with Jerry Gaskill (another talented singer in his own right) on the drums still allowed them to create expansive rock. They were not writing anything simple or pandering anymore; “In the New Age” boasts daring changes and a progressive bent that major labels weren’t usually hawking.
The central song might be the ballad “Goldilox”. On this track, the band have married a knack for a good pop song without compromising their integrity. “Golidlox” is a spring-like, bright song of hope. Doug Pinnick has a voice to be envied by anyone, with power and the ability to evoke the classic soul singers of an era gone by. The other two back him to form a lush curtain of slightly psychedelic harmonies.
“Power of Love” has a pop rock chorus, but punched up by the hard hitting band. Vocally, this is a soul anthem. Musically, it’s anthemic rock and roll, good for head-banging or banana-dancing. It’s up to you — and that’s the “Power of Love”! Although hard rock songs not unlike this were getting played on the radio, King’s X were probably too smart for radio. “Power of Love” melds seamlessly into “Wonder”, a song about divisions between us. “There’s a wall between us, a partition of sorts.” Yup, too smart for radio. Chunky like good peanut butter, and still fresh today, “Wonder” is indeed still a wonder. “This is church, this is state, rock and roll, Amazing Grace.” Then, “Should I go to the front, should I go to the back? Should I just pray or should I attack?” Considering it’s Doug singing (Doug is black), I wonder if some folks of limited intelligence might have found those lyrics just a little scary? This is some powerful shit.
Doug sounds wracked with pain on “Sometimes”, again tormented by the world he sees around him. As King’s X progressed, so too would Doug’s subject matter and way of approaching it. In 1988 he was deeply religious. “I stand here waiting for new Jerusalem, I know it’s greater than the world outside.” The pain subsides on “King”, which is an incredible high water mark of songwriting…and it’s on a debut album. Consider that for just a moment. Again Doug is using Biblical imagery in his words, but King’s X did not seem to preach. Even if some were starting to suspect that the titular “King” was Jesus Christ himself, hey look an awesome guitar solo!
The rumblin’ bass of Pinnick shakes your teeth on “What is This?” Heavy and melancholy until the chorus kicks in, “What is This?” nails it again. “Far, Far Away” ceases the slamming temporarily, for some 60’s textures and dreamy Van Halen-esque chops. “Shot of Love” has a slight but noticeable jangle to its marching riffage. Out of the Silent Planet boasted numerous styles of rock on one album but also usually within a single song too. “Shot of Love” recalls gospel, marches, Queen, Judas Priest and Supertramp. Finally, “Visions” is heavy on riffage, combined with heavenly choirs of vocals. Sabbathy riff changes, Motorhead tempos, Eddie Van-shred, and Beach Boys harmonies. Put that in your pipe and smoke it.
1988 came and went, with King’s X winding up on many critics’ top 10 lists. As luck or perhaps just taste would have it, that did not translate into sales. But in 1988 that didn’t mean the end. That just meant you go back into the studio and make another album. A better album.