ear candy

REVIEW: King’s X – “A Box” (1996 CD single)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 8.5


KING’S X – “A Box” (1996 Warner Germany CD single)

In 2022, the “King’s” are returning, so today let us look back on some of their fine 90s output.  1996 was the year of Ear Candy, the progressive giants’ most commercially accessible album to date.  It was produced by Canadian Arnold Lanni (ex-Frozen Ghost, Sheriff) and the songs were straightforward and hook-based compared to what came before and after.

Last year, we curated some King’s X lists with Martin Popoff right here, and he rated the single “A Box” in his top five.  The version included on this single is an edit, over a minute shorter than the album cut, with the cut material being mostly outro.  Dug Pinnick is always passionate but you can really feel him on “A Box”.  “There is no room inside a box,” goes the chorus, and one has to wonder if this box is one to break out of, to retreat to, or both.  The song gives voice to loneliness and anger, but also sings of “a place to run and hide, just a place to free your mind.”  It is a ballad with strong lyrics, unforgettable melody, Ty Tabor’s signature guitar glow, and an absolutely wicked Jerry Gaskill drum sound, thanks to the magical knob-twiddling touch of Arnold Lanni.

One album cut is included, which is “Looking For Love” from Ear Candy, another one of its strongest tunes.  This one smokes of anger and frustration.  It also contains the key lyric, “I guess I lost my faith,” which is true.  Dug was once Christian but left the church around Dogman.  Yet it’s also melodically one of the strongest songs, which helps back up that killer Ty Tabor riff.

The non-album B-side is a rarity called “Freedom”.  Unlike the album which was recorded with Lanni in California, “Freedom” came from a self-produced session in Houston.  Sonically it does not fit with the boldly in-your-face Ear Candy, but it does offer another Ty Tabor lead vocal.  It’s a bit more sparse and hard-hitting, but still boasts the patented King’s X harmony vocals on the chorus.  There’s a cool melody buried in the outro too.  Overall, it is not as strong as Ear Candy as a whole, but as a bonus track, it’s more than adequate.  Ty’s singing will be the highlight for many fans as he really goes for it.

Great single, and thank you Martin Popoff for inspiring the purchase.

4.5/5 stars

KING’S X review series:

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 8.5 – “A Box” (1996 CD single)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)
Part 13 – PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 Ty Tabor)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)
Part 16 – Ogre Tones (2005)
Part 17 – XV (2008)

REVIEW: King’s X – Manic Moonlight (2001)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 14


Scan_20151107KING’S X – Manic Moonlight (2001 Metal Blade)

Around this time, I stepped off the King’s X train.

A while after this album came out, a friend of mine from London (Ontario) named Edith-Rose came to help paint the new condo and hang out.  As part of the deal I was to take her record shopping in all our decent stores.  She bought a shit-ton of CDs.  From the HMV up in Waterloo that doesn’t exist anymore, to Encore Records, to our own stores, she spent a lot of money that day.  I came home with a few discs as well.  Among them was Manic Moonlight by King’s X.

I bought it because it was used and it was the first time I’d seen it used.  Truthfully, Mr. Bulbous lost me.  Buying their next album didn’t seem a priority.  We took the CD back to my place and gave it a spin.  Edith-Rose liked it, especially the track “Static”.  As for me, “Static” was the only song that stuck out.  I have not listened to the CD in well over a decade.  All I can really remember is that this is when Jerry Gaskill and the band started experimenting with drum loops.  That is not a bad thing, but that is all I can remember about this album.  Reviewing it with fresh ears, let’s have a listen, shall we?

The drum loops opening “Believe” are unlike anything on prior King’s X albums.  Fortunately, the steam-powered real-life Jerry Gaskill comes in soon enough for this funky slam-dunk.  The funk is emphasized by clavinet, and of course Doug Pinnick’s perpetually soulful voice.  This slow funkster is bass-heavy and melodic, with just enough of those heavenly King’s X harmonies.  There ain’t nothin’ wrong with this song, no!  Computer-ish loops open the title track, “Manic Moonlight”, which aside from the modern production isn’t a far stretch from the classic King’s X sound.  The psychedelic side of King’s X is out to play; lush 1960’s hippie vocals over a heavy 2001 rhythm.

There seems to be a theme playing out.  Songs seems to open with loops, every time, and this is becoming a predictable drag.  Fuzzy electronics open “Yeah” which basically a chorus without a song.  It’s a great chorus, and if only it had some more meat on that bass heavy skeleton, it could have been a King’s X classic of the ages.  It is cool to hear King’s X digging deep into the funk; Doug slappin’ da bass as best he can.  The soft sounds of tabla are the loop of choice on the dreamy “False Alarm”.  The production of the day seemed to be to distort Doug’s deep voice, which is a shame.  Anyway, “False Alarm” is a King’s-Beatles-X strawberry field in the sky with diamonds, and it’s just shy of being great.  Very close to the mark but not quite there.

“Static” is just as intense as I remember.  You can hear why it jumped out to Edith-Rose and I years ago.  For the first time on the album, the loops (tabla again) seem to be an integral part of the song rather than just an intro.  Tense and direct, “Static” is bare-bones and absolutely nothing like King’s X of old, and good on them.  Music is not about standing still.  Music is about emotion, and “Static” is not short of those.  Without a doubt, “Static” is the centerpiece of Manic Moonlight, and coincidentally (?) this is at precisely the point where an album would be split between side A and side B….

Down with the funk again on “Skeptical Winds”, plenty of new ground was being broken with this band.  Strangely this song has a vibe similar to a 1994 Kim Mitchell rap-rock song called “Acrimony”; coincidental I’m certain but if you know the song then you can imagine “Skeptical Winds”.  Doug’s spoken word vocals (distorted again, but that’s OK this time) are reminiscent of Kim’s, but the sparse and uber-funky bassline is 100% Doug.  It’s a very different song, but cool.  Although it isn’t loaded to the gills with time changes and riffs like King’s X of yore, it is still a long bomber jam session at almost seven minutes.

Having a knack for ballads, “The Other Side” has some beautiful moments built into it.  It doesn’t hit the ball out of the park, but it has quality and ambition to spare.  “Vegetable” has more cool funk, and importantly a soulful chorus that kills.  “Jenna” has one of the heaviest riffs on the album, but doesn’t stand out…which is a shame as it is the last song.  The final track, “Water Ceremony” is a joke track, closing the album on a burp!  That’s…odd!

Of note: the always lucky Japanese fans got two bonus tracks.  These were longer versions of “Believe” and “Vegetable”.

Manic Moonlight was a surpise to revisit, and with only a few sluggish moments (“Jenna” among them), it’s certainly a lot better than I remember.

3.5/5 stars

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)
Part 12 – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)
Part 13 – PLATYPUS – Ice Cycles (2000 Ty Tabor)

REVIEW: King’s X – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 12


Scan_20151017KING’S X – Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous (2000 Metal Blade)

Starting with 1998’s Tape Head, King’s X would write and self-record new material in the studio.  The following album Please Come Home…Mr. Bulbous was done the same way, in a quick time frame of under two months.  On Tape Head they captured tremendous energy and groove with that method.  Perhaps the drawback to this approach is that you have less time to live with and tighten up the songwriting.  On the other hand, on Mr. Bulbous it sounds like songwriting was a minor concern next to instrumental experimentation.

Songs like the opener “Fish Bowl Man” sound like several loose ideas floating together.  It is a chorus without a song, unfortunately, because that chorus is a King’s X winner.  The beat poetry section of the song is very interesting indeed, but it’s not among King’s X’s finer moments.  Darkly simmering is the next song “Julia”, but its soft pulse is not enough.  Two important ingredients are missing, and they are Doug’s soul singin’, and the patented King’s X groove machine.  “She’s Gone Away” also fails to lift from the runway (although it sounded better live).  This is more like King’s X for the dreamtimes.

This band is always been interesting instrumentally, and that holds true on Mr. Bulbous.  Exploring laid-back musical landscapes while only blasting occasionally is more than fine.  “Marsh Mellow Field” for example has a rock-heavy chorus featuring Doug in full lungs.  The issue is that the songs are loose and sparsely arranged affairs that don’t sound coherent.  It’s a challenging listen, and there are moments of riff and solo brilliance, but one must be patient.

Album highlights:

  • Jerry Gaskill’s drums on “When You’re Scared”.  This guy is such an underrated drummer.  “He plays with his whole body,” said my friend Uncle Meat.  You can hear that, too.
  • “Charlie Sheen”.  No idea what the words are about, but this is about the only true “song” on the album.  It’s really good, with one of those Ty Tabor choruses that you remember for days.  “Kill the king, strip the queen, are you my friend dear Charlie Sheen”?  Who cares, it sounds good and that’s what works.  The song also has a very twangy Morse-like guitar part that makes this the catchiest track of the bunch.
  • “Move Me” parts 1 and 2.  Although Doug’s vocals are mixed in a nasal John Lennon fashion, this rocker has some movement to it.  It’s one of the most constructed songs on the album, with the light and shade finally making sense within the structure of a song.  An epic triumph almost worthy of the classic period of the band.

It’s a mixed affair but because it’s King’s X there is always going to be quality to it.

3/5 stars

Scan_20151017 (2)

PLATYPUS_0001Next in this series: a previously published review of a Ty Tabor side project named Platypus. Platypus are a band consisting of Ty Tabor – Guitars & vocals. John Myung (Dream Theater) – Bass. Derek Sherinian (Dream Theater, Alice Cooper, Kiss) – Keys. Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs, Winger) – Drums. Their second album, Ice Cycles, was loaded with fun time progressive hard rock. Ty gets a chance to shred jazzily and in other different contexts, and it is just delightful. You can check out that review now by clicking here.


Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)
Part 10 – Tape Head (1998)
Part 11 – POUNDHOUND – Massive Grooves from the Electric Church of Psychofunkadelic Grungelism Rock Music (1998 Doug Pinnick/Jerry Gaskill)

REVIEW: King’s X – Tape Head (1998)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 10


Scan_20151016KING’S X – Tape Head (1998 Metal Blade)

You never knew what you’d get with a new King’s X album.  Monstrous musicianship, intelligent lyrics, and integrity certainly; but they like to fly in all sorts of directions.  Tape Head, following the sweet pop rock of Ear Candy, was a monolithic slab compared to that earlier album.  In many regards Tape Head is a brother record to Doug Pinnick’s solo project PoundHound (more on them later).  The focus here is the groove.

Witness, the first song “Groove Machine”.  “Welcome to the groove machine,” sings Doug, letting his bass lay it down.  “Music oh music, such a funky thing. The closer you get, the deeper it means.”  He’s right.  Ty Tabor lays on a heavy wah-wah for his guitar solo, but not to be left out drummer Jerry Gaskill gets a bit of a solo too.  It’s simple, straightforward and unpretentious.  “Groove Machine” has but one purpose.

“Fade” continues the heavy groove direction, slower now, and with Ty Tabor taking the vocals in the chorus.  From the ultra-heavy bass to Jerry Gaskill’s beats, everything hits you exactly in the right spot.  A break in the groove occurs on “Over and Over”, a Doug ballad with sincere soul.  When Ty joins him in the chorus, the song becomes timeless.  Heavy again again but with the same kind of powerful chorus is “Ono”.  When you have an album as single-minded as Tape Head, you tend to grasp onto standout melodies like this even more.  King’s X let their 1960’s flag fly a little bit on “Cupid”, which doesn’t let up in the groove department, but does have shades of their hippie melodic bent.  That’s an appropriate way to lead into “Ocean”, a mellow Ty Tabor song that sounds like Ear Candy, but turned up to 11.  Doug’s hella-sonic bass just crushes, even though you could fairly call this song a ballad!  The difference between this and Ear Candy is all in the production.  Tape Head is self-produced and you can tell they just wanted to hear everything heavier and lower!

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Pure ear candy is “Little Bit of Soul” which sounds like it should.  Heavy rock knows no singer with as much soul as Doug Pinnick.  He even brings soul into “Hate You”, which is pretty straightforward in the lyric department!  Then “Higher Than God” is one of the mightiest choruses on the album, thanks again to Doug, with Ty and Jerry backing him.  Only King’s X can infuse R&B with their rock the way that they do.  Listen to Doug’s low vocal crooning on “Happy”.  Then he turns it up, lets it loose.  There is only one Doug Pinnick and he is a rock and soul treasure.

You might not expect the slight twang that starts off “Mr. Evil” but like most King’s X songs, it mutates into different forms.  (Nice steel guitar solo by Ty.)  If you were craving just one more killer chorus before it’s all over, then “World” delivers that and some heavy-ass grooves too.  The highlight here is a blazing rock n’ roll guitar solo, very different for Ty.  That’s not the last song though; there’s a surprise at the end that defies description except to say it’s pretty funny!

Tape Head is an impressive monument of rock indeed.  It bleeds pure gobs of soul, and it rocks the brain really, really hard.  It’s slimmer in the catchy melodies stockpile, but the relentlessness of direction draws you back in for another listen.  Some may lament that with Tape Head, their progressive metal past seems long behind them.  I think that was road they already turned from, with 1994’s Dogman.  They transformed into a heavier band, with echoes of their past but a sound that blends it all up.  The songs are not as distinct, but the groove is king on Tape Head.

4/5 stars

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review
Part 8 – Ear Candy (1996)
Part 9 – Best of King’s X (1997)

REVIEW: King’s X – Ear Candy (1996)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 8


Scan_20151015KING’S X – Ear Candy (1996 Atlantic)

This is actually the album that sparked this review series in the first place.  I had to re-rip it to my PC.  Enamoured, I forged on with an entire series of King’s X, because they deserve it!

By the time King’s X hit album #6, any hope of them being a mainstream success was in the distant past.  1994’s Dogman was an artistic triumph, and considerably heavier than past albums, but still nothing.  King’s X even played the noteworthy, critically acclaimed opening set at Woodstock ’94 (more on that next time), to no avail.

Ear Candy was their last album for Atlantic and I don’t know if it was record company pressure or simply natural creativity, but it was different for the band yet again.  The heavy tunnel-vision sound of Dogman was severely toned down, in favour of melodic composition.  Canadian hitmaker Arnold Lanni was on board for production, his only outing with King’s X.  (The Canadian connection was manager Ray Danniels who was handling King’s X for a brief time.)  Even guitarist Ty Tabor had stepped back up to the microphone, after being notably absent on Dogman‘s lead vocals.  Some fans naturally rejected some of these changes.  For others, Ear Candy was a high water mark.  The 90’s were a confusing time!

This reviewer is in the high water mark category.  Although Ear Candy eschews progressive rock tendencies in favour of catchy tunes, I don’t think the end result was a bad thing.

“Step up and step aboard, your seat is to the left. Leave all your bags and tighten up your metal belt.” That voice is Ty Tabor’s and what better way to usher in his vocals with the first song on the album? “The Train” is a duet between he and Doug Pinnick who sings on the choruses. Classic King’s X trademarks are in place: harmonies, sweet 60’s melodies, hard guitars, and soul. The train is departing on a journey called Ear Candy, and it is a welcoming song.  Continuing with the 60’s vibe, “(Thinking and Wondering) What I’m Gonna Do” is sweet and summery.  Acoustic guitars, tabla, and Doug’s soulful throat are the focus.  Drummer Jerry Gaskill refuses to play anything simple, and so his drums and percussion are spare but unorthodox.  Backwards Tabor guitars add to the psychedelic trip.

One of the draws to King’s X has to be Doug’s 8 and 12 basses.  “Sometime” (another Doug song) has some of the baddest, lowest, most ass-rumbling bass you’ve ever heard.  You have to love the sound of those big phat strings shakin’.  Mid-tempo and sweet, “Sometime” is hard enough but with those Beatles-like harmonies.

There was one single released from this album, the very rare “A Box”.  (This single had a bonus track called “Freedom” that is missing the LeBrain HQ rock library.)  A brilliant selection for a single, “A Box” has that “Goldilox” sound from the first King’s X album. Pinnick had been dealing with his own personal issues and you can hear this in the words. Also worth noting: the drum sound. Arnold Lanni has a knack for finding a killer snare drum sound. Just listen to Our Lady Peace’s first album Naveed. Jerry’s drums have never sounded better than they do on Ear Candy. That snare just snaps!  Then “Looking For Love” blasts.  Doug is not seething in anger, but you can hear it between the lines.  “Religion burned me at the stake,” and  “I guess I lost my faith,” sings the once-devout Christian.  You can also hear it in the tempo; straining at the lead.  Then, following “Looking For Love” is possibly the album highlight…possibly.  Because next is Ty’s “Mississippi Moon”, which is impossible to hate.  Ty sometimes writes these pleasant, 60’s-pop-like songs in his solo material, and with King’s X.  The layered vocals are like a little sugar on top.  Just delightful.  The only stumble is “67”, which is plenty chunky but not memorable.  The freakout guitar noise outro is pretty cool though.

That sounds like a side closer, and the next song “Lies in the Sand (The ballad of…)” would work nicely as a mellow start to a second side.  Ty ballads are sometimes very special, and “Lies in the Sand” is special indeed.  His earnest singing and playing are basically the song; the other two guys take a step back and just let the song pulse.  Things pick up again with “Run”, with Doug sounding cast-down and dejected, but bouncing back again.  The pain also runs through “Father”.  “My brother’s on crack, my sister’s a wreck, our mother she tried, our fathers are lies.”  But the message is clear:  “Every one of us loves every one of us.”  Blood is thicker than water.

Jerry Gaskill takes a rare lead vocal on the ballad “American Cheese (Jerry’s Pianto)”.  The 60’s are recalled once again with a very Beatles-like piano pop ballad.  This sets up “Picture”, possibly the most upbeat pop rock moment on Ear Candy.  It has a drive to it, and instrumental integrity, which takes it levels high and above most examples of pop rock.  Doug sounds happy, and the band rock with glee.  It’s a great precursor to “Life Going By”, the finale.  It has a quality that sounds like a bookend to “The Train” at the start of the album.  Tabor weaves a bright tapestry of acoustic and chiming electric guitars, and also takes the lead vocal for this last song.  Layers of harmonies take us out on a sweet, soulful note.

What an album.  What’s not to like?  Fear not the pop, for King’s X took it back to heavy for 1998’s Tape Head….

5/5 stars

Shortly after Ear Candy, progressive rock fans who craved a little more got their wish partly fulfilled.  Doug Pinnick did an excellent guest appearance on the hella-cool song “Lines in the Sand”, from Dream Theater‘s Falling Into Infinity album from 1997.  Doug sang accompanying vocals with James LaBrie, lending the song an additional edge.  A 10 minute long-bomber, “Lines in the Sand” definitely supplied a taste of the heavy complex rock that fans may have missed.  Even if Doug was just a small part of it, he was an integral part.

KING’S X review series:

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)
Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska (1989)
Part 3 – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)
Part 4 – Faith Hope Love by King’s X (1990)
Part 5 – “Junior’s Gone Wild” (from 1991’s Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey soundtrack)
Part 6 – King’s X (1992)
Part 7 – Dogman (1994) + bonus “Pillow” promo single review

Part 117: Promos (FIRST EVER VIDEO BLOG!)

RECORD STORE TALES Part 117:  Promos