Out of the Silent Planet

REVIEW: King’s X – Best of King’s X (1997)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 9


Scan_20151021KING’S X – Best of King’s X (1997 Atlantic)

Alas, it was inevitable.  After six stunningly good albums, but none of them gold, in 1997 Atlantic dropped King’s X.  In the mid-90’s it’s amazing that King’s X hung around as long as they did.  Many labelmates has long since been dumped, or broke up.  King’s X did not break up, but instead continued to work on their own, self-producing a new album.  Atlantic meanwhile prepared the calculable “best of” package for release.  Whenever a band gets dropped from a label, a “best of” is bound to follow.  It’s a law of science.

It’s a pretty straightforward release.  Chronologically, you get most of the major singles and hits from all six albums.  Then you get the three requisite unreleased songs.  Finally, a 10 minute live blowout from Woodstock ’94, previously unreleased.  In an unusual touch of quality for a release like this, Ty Tabor himself remastered all the tracks for the album.

We already took a close look at most of these songs earlier in the series, and there are no real duds.  The CD is weighted too heavily to the later albums, leaving Silent Planet and Gretchen under-represented with only four songs between them.  Hearing “King” opening the album is perfect, and the inclusion of “Pleiades” earns respect.  The other two tunes, “Summerland” and “Goldilox” are awesome but predictable inclusions.  The self-titled album and Dogman are represented by two tracks each.  We could have done with more Dogman.  “Shoes”, for example, or “Pretend”.  Three songs from this set come from the more commercial Ear Candy.  Again, you can’t really criticize the choices too much, because all the songs are great.  How do you squeeze more in?

Well, one way would be not including the unreleased songs, but these are record company bait to entice fans to shell out for it.  The three studio cuts are self-produced demos from 1996.  Appropriate to that era of the band, these are more commercial sounding than typical King’s X.  The production is not lush, but they have a lively quality.  “Sally” is nothing to write home about, but it’s a concise King’s X pop rocker with plenty of cool noodling by Ty.  Both “Sally” and the next song, “April Showers” feature fuzzy wah-wah guitar, always a treat.  Doug Pinnick sings the funky “April Showers”, which sounds a bit more King’s X.  Possibly the best song is the sparse ballad “Lover”, also sung by Doug.  It just depends on whether you prefer the mellow hippie sounds of “Lover” or the funk of “April Showers”!

The closing piece of the album was a surprising but important inclusion, and that is the live version of “Over My Head” from their opening set at Woodstock ’94.  This 10-minute track features a passionate singing rant by Doug Pinnick. He has often spoken about his difficult upbringing, and how he never heard the words “I love you” as a child. “This is a song about my grandma…she raised me from a child…she was a very religious lady…she went to church every night…she read her Bible all the time…” begins the painful rant. It still gives me chills, but it has a positive note.  If you have kids, make sure they know that you love them, more than anything in the whole wide world.

Yes it’s an odd way to take up 10 minutes of a “best of” CD, but it had to be on here. It was a historic moment for this band. Anybody in the crowd that day who wasn’t completely blasted on drugs would remember that moment forever.

Opening up Woodstock ’94 should have propelled King’s X into the stratosphere. They just couldn’t catch a damn break.  They couldn’t even be given a decent album cover for their own damned Best Of!

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)

REVIEW: King’s X – Kings of the Absurd (split bootleg with Faith No More)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 3


KING’S X – Kings of the Absurd (split 1990 Metal Crash live bootleg with Faith No More)

Live bootlegs vary in quality, but usually have one thing in common: they are almost always interesting.  Kings of the Absurd, a split live bootleg from Italy, raises a curious question.

Why put Faith No More and King’s X together on one CD?

No reason.

The King’s X set is from London at the Astoria; Faith No More’s from a festival set in Italy many months later.   It’s an odd pairing, with no common musical denominator.  If anything, both bands share critical acclaim, but that’s about it.  Why are they together on one CD?

No reason!


Absolutely no reason.

The Faith No More portion of this CD will be reviewed at a later time, probably as part of a Faith No More review series.  For now we’ll just examine the four songs presented by King’s X, which, believe me, are enough to melt your face off without the help of Mike Patton and co.  I found this CD in the racks of the used CD store in which I started working, in early 1995.  Loving both bands, and stickered at just $11.99, this was an easy winner once you figured in my staff discount.  I was just lucky to have snagged it before Thomas, also a massive Faith No More and King’s X fan.

“What is This?” is the only song lifted from their debut album Out of the Silent Planet.  The original set was 10 songs, and this was the second, but it works as an opener as well.  The heavy groove and the slick backing vocals of Ty Tabor and Jerry Gaskill are intact.  Doug is more impassioned live than on album, which is the way it is with any good soul singer.  Doug’s take on “What is This?” is very different from the album; he just lets the vocal come out as it does.  Even on this crappy sounding CD, you can hear that the bass is hella-heavy, and that Jerry Gaskill is one of the most underrated drummers you will ever lay ears on.

Doug addresses the crowd between songs.  “We’re going to try to do almost everything that we know tonight for you,” he teases, with no idea that these words would end up on a live bootleg with only four songs!  Next (and the next song played that night) is “Out of the Silent Planet” from their then-current Gretchen Goes to Nebraska album.  The complexity of the backing vocals doesn’t seem to present them a problem.  It’s clear that this is one hell of a trio, as if you were in any doubt.  The CD doesn’t have “Sometimes”, the next song played, but instead goes to “Summerland”, also from Gretchen.  The poor sound hampers the song slightly, since it’s lighter and doesn’t slam as hard as the others.  Doug is again outstanding, not only one of the greatest singers in rock but also a top notch bassist.  “Fall On Me” (Gretchen) ends this short set.  It was a great song on album, but live it’s just as amazing.  Doug’s lungs sound as if diesel-powered.

The fact that King’s X only got tacked onto the end of a Faith No More bootleg CD is sadly not unexpected.  They got boned by the music business, so why not by bootleggers too?  The whole set is out there, and it sounds like an amazing show.  Just check out this article and the comments section, over at our friends Every Record Tells a Story.  A few readers were there that night.

You gotta give King’s X a 5/5 stars for a set this hot, but Metal Crash get 0/5 stars for the CD

KING’S X review series:

Part 1 – Out of the Silent Planet

Part 2 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska

REVIEW: King’s X – Out of the Silent Planet (1988)

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SERIES DEBUT

Join us for a serious look at every King’s X studio album!…and more.

Scan_20151018KING’X – Out of the Silent Planet (1988 Atlantic)

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.

5/5 stars

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