ty tabor

VHS Archives #66: King’s X and the Dogman – Full band interview! (1994)

Join King’s X in the MuchMusic studios with Power 30 host Teresa Roncon!  All three members – Doug Pinnick, Ty Tabor, and Jerry Gaskill – sat for this live interview on the Dogman tour.

Lots of interesting subject matter is discussed.  Doug Pinnick had 4000 CDs in his collection in 1994 — I have just managed to catch up with him! Hear about influences, religion, and their hardcore following.

 

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REVIEW: King’s X – XV (2008)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 17 – the Final Chapter!


KING’X – XV (2008 InsideOut)

King’s X faced many setbacks over their long 30+ year career. Their last obstacle has been the hardest and most serious of all, and because of that, 2008’s XV album remains their most recent. That’s a tough pill to swallow, because for many fans XV was largely considered a return to form.

“Pray” immediately starts things right: face-crushing bass, a groove you can’t get out of, and a funky melody. You are transported back in time to the late 80’s and early 90’s, but with modern slants and production…and funk! The song boasts a soulful, powerful chorus just like the classics King’s X built their foundation on. What a satisfying opener. Peel yourself off the floor though, because it’s over before you know it and the next song “Blue” has launched. King’s X have always been successful at balancing their sound with soft songs, while maintaining their integrity.  It’s a great track sonically, though missing a killer chorus.  XV strikes me as the best produced King’s X album since the mighty Dogman.

Better than “Blue” is the gentle “Repeating Myself”, Ty Tabor’s first vocal outing on XV.  Everything is in its right place:  Ty’s delicate picking, the patented King’s X harmonies, and just a touch of Beatles-y psychedelia.  “Repeating Myself” is possibly the most perfect song King’s X had done in many years.  It melds perfectly right into “Rocket Ship”, a mid-tempo heavy rocker with “single” written all over it.  The 60’s psychedelia remains, but wrapped up in a heavy stomping riff. “Society-sanctioned brain-washing tries to wrap its arms around me,” sings Dug Pinnick, still unafraid to tackle issues in his words. Jerry Gaskill takes his first XV lead vocal on the lovely “Julia”. Another perfect song. It’s a ballad that reminds me of everybody from the Beatles to Shaw-Blades and Motley Crue, of all people. Then it’s foot to the gas on the irresistible “Alright”. This is a classic King’s X rocker, but this time with gang vocals on the chorus. It’s gangbusters. One of the catchiest King’s X songs yet.

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Greasy blues rock guitar kicks off “Free” with an unusually simple Gaskill beat behind it. This transforms into possibly the most soul-infused King’s X song ever, with it’s inescapable “Na na na na, yeah!” backing vocals. For the first time since Ear Candy in ’96, it seems King’s X just wanted to write and record some catchy songs. Of course this is done with all of their diverse influences and talents, but it does not mean the band stopped progressing in order to write some pop rock. “Free” is catchy indeed, and easily could have been on the radio, but it also has lyrical integrity. “The debt is rising, and you overload, because you’re broke, is this a joke? So go buy something, that you can’t afford, because you’re broke, is this a joke?” Musically, by turning the soul knob right up to 11, King’s X have progressed again.

Ty Tabor takes his turn on a mournful ballad called “I Just Want to Live”. A fine song, “I Just Want to Live” won’t be remembered as well as the previous tracks. Then the aptly titled “Move” has a pulse that you won’t believe. It’s Dug Pinnick’s bass that drives this thing, in a very 80’s kind of sparse arrangement. The awesome chorus seals the deal: it’s killer. Ty once again provides the soft side on “I Don’t Know”, another simply beautiful King’s X ballad, much like his Ear Candy material. His guitar solo here is a work of pure magic, and I swear to you that I did actually feel a chill go up my spine. Honest truth.

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Winding it down, Dug makes “Stuck” stick to your brain with some unusual melodies. It’s an unorthodox song and in that way it reminds us of early King’s X, though it sounds little like it. The return of the massive grooves on “Go Tell Somebody” turns this church singalong into a groove metal classic. “If you like what you hear, go tell somebody!” Yeah Dug, you said it! Word of mouth, baby. That’s kept King’s X alive through some difficult decades. They must have known, recording this song, that it was going to be awesome.

I’ve never seen a version of XV without bonus tracks, but my import digipack has ’em too. “Love and Rockets (Hell’s Screaming)” is an interesting song with a good riff. Dug sings the vocal with a calmness, as opposed to the wailing of “Go Tell Somebody”. Then “No Lie” is a jokey blues. “I’ve never sung this song before,” says Dug at the start. This one truly is a bonus track; although it has instrumental integrity, it doesn’t feel like a sincere part of the album. Another version of the album (probably Japanese) has a demo version of “Rocket Ship” as a bonus track. (Add to “Holy Grail” list)

XV is a solidly entertaining album with only a few moments that drag. For all the complaints about albums like Manic Moonlight or Black Like Sunday, XV sounds like redemption.

4.5/5 stars

Scan_20151201 (2)Jerry Gaskill suffered his first heart attack on February 25 2012. He required surgery but was feeling strong. King’s X had a tour booked to start only one month later, which had to be cancelled. Then in October of that year, his home was destroyed by Hurricane Sandy. Fans rallied and donated money to help the Gaskill family rebuild. As if all of this was not enough to deal with, Gaskill had a second heart attack two years later. This required a double bypass. Once again, King’s X cancelled all gigs. They released special live albums to benefit the drummer, and only now in 2015 have they managed to get back on the road and start work on a new album.

We have waited a long time, but we will continue to wait as long as we need. King’s X will return!

This series is dedicated to Dug, Jerry and Ty.  Long may they reign.

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)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)
Part 16 – Ogre Tones (2005)
Part 17 – XV (2008)

REVIEW: King’s X – Ogre Tones (2005)

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Complete studio albums (and more!), part 16


Scan_20151123KING’S X – Ogre Tones (2005 Inside Out)

The previous few albums split fandom.  Many found it hard to grab onto the loose structures of Mr. Bulbous, and the drum loops of Manic Moonlight.  For this review, we are trying an experiment.  I have never  heard Ogre Tones before (in fact I’ve never heard any of these 14 tracks), so this will be a first-listen review.  Does King’s X have the same impact on first listen as they do on 21st?  Probably not, but let’s find out.  In a sense this is a “live” review, so please join me as I listen!

“Alone” could have alienated fans again, starting as it does with distorted alt-rock screaming.  This introduces a short pop-rock duet with Doug Pinnick and Ty Tabor, not a bad little song.  Even though it’s only three minutes, it still boasts multiple sections and lush harmonies, as well as the trademark King’s X groove that only they can play.  Ty dumbs-down the guitar solo for the 2000’s, as it mostly consists of one note.  It’s over quick and then it’s into the even shorter “Stay”, a Doug pop ballad with balls.  Some of those balls come from the heavy detuned guitar, some of it is purely in the ragged soul of Doug’s voice.

Pleasant sailing is “Hurricane”, not too challenging.  The trademark Beatles-meet-King’s X backing vocals lend it a psychedelic feel.  Thankfully, the kind of massive grooves you crave return on “Fly”, the first King’s X Klassic on Ogre Tones.  Biting bass licks nicely accent a catchy rock tune, old-school style meets new-school production.  “If” is another good song, kind of similar to the pop rock delicacy Ear Candy.  Onto the jazz-metal of “Bebop”, Doug throws a very different song into the mix but the album is the better for it.  Just before the halfway point of the album, “Bebop” becomes a highlight.

I like Ty’s acoustic numbers, and “Honesty” is a bare, emotion-filled Tabor classic.  Sounding a lot like Faith Hope Love-era King’s X, “Honesty” is hit-worthy.  You need some heavy riffing after that, and “Open My Eyes” has a big, phat Sabbathy riff behind it.  The song is a bit disjointed though, at least on first listen.  Just a riff without a song.  “Freedom” goes in one ear and out the other (albeit with a great guitar outro).  Unfortunately like many albums with so many tracks on them, Ogre Tones starts to sag in the middle.  “Get Away” is another one.  The lyrics don’t hit the spot anymore:  “Hey God, I watched the news tonight, why are your people so fuckin’ mean?”

The only long song on Ogre Tones is “Sooner or Later”, at 7:00.  It’s a decent slow dirge that I suspect will require a few more listens to appreciate, and even if it doesn’t, there’s plenty of Ty Tabor noodling to go around.  Then there is another decent ballad in the oddly-titled “Mudd”.  I was hoping this was a song about the classic Star Trek character, Harcourt Fenton Mudd.  Sadly, it is not.  The strangest song of all might be a remake of “Goldilox” (from Gretchen Goes to Nebraska).  True to the original, but of course not as timeless and perfect, it is nonetheless a welcome inclusion.  After all, can you really fault King’s X for putting one of their best songs out for a second time?  Considering they tried, and tried, and tried to catch a break, why give up?  Of course I don’t need to tell you that “Goldilox (Reprise)” was not a hit in 2005, but maybe they should try again in 2020!  The album then closes with “Bam” which is exactly what it sounds like.  Bam!  A crash of instruments…followed by almost three minutes of feedback, noise, and the bizarre.

There is a video included on the first run of the CD, which you can still buy.  “Alone” has girls shaking their hair for no reason.  This video is now on Youtube, of course.

Ogre Tones strikes me as a good album, one that should deliver more on further listens.  However I wonder if the sluggish middle section will be a difficult obstacle.

3.25/5 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)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)
Part 15 – Black Like Sunday (2003)

REVIEW: King’s X – Black Like Sunday (2003)

quiz

Complete studio albums (and more!), part 15


 

KING’S X – Black Like Sunday (2003 Metal Blade)

After a couple albums that were…well, they were pretty far out, man…King’s X may have needed to get back to basics a little bit.  Mr. Bulbous was undoubtedly a very experimental beast, and then Manic Moonlight introduced the drum loops.  A number of fans had dropped off the train, this one included.  It is only now that I have purchased 2003’s Black Like Sunday.

The concept of the album was pretty simple.  Fans had been begging for Jerry Gaskill, Doug Pinnick, and Ty Tabor to re-release their very first indi album when they were still known as Sneak Preview.  It is estimated that fewer than 500 copies of this album exist, but the band have never been eager to release it again.  Indeed, rumour has it that the band destroyed over half of the original 1000 themselves.  What they chose to do instead was re-write and re-record some of the old Sneak Preview songs, and release them as King’s X.  There is no explanation of this inside the CD, so unless you were paying attention to the press, you might just think this was an ordinary everyday King’s X album.*  Armed with 14 mostly shorter songs, they once again switched gears.

Laying it down right from the start, “Black Like Sunday” kicks rumps and gets ’em shakin’.  Without having a clue what these songs might have originally sounded like, “Black Like Sunday” is admirable for its stock solid rock groove.  Nobody in rock can groove like King’s X, but this is more straight than they normally play it.  Jerry Gaskill is uncharacteristically laying down simple 4/4 drums and Ty has a nice rockin’ riff to hammer out.

“Rock Pile” is…different…takes some getting used to…but once you do?  It’s in your head.  It’s like two songs jammed together.  A weird Van-Halen-esque unmelodic spoken word chunk, welded to a chorus from a corny Beatles song.  On first impression, I thought “This is awful”.  On third listen, it was, “Oh yes, this song!  The heavy one with the catchy chorus…” and I was hooked.  “Danger Zone” is also on the weird side, melding an oddly melodic vocal with a hair metal ballady electric chug.  Much like “Rock Pile”, initial impressions are not good.  Further listenings reveal that these songs stick in the memory, and that Ty’s rich guitar sounds are an absolutely highlight.  His solo on “Danger Zone” is right out of the Neil Young book of awesome.

It has nothing to do with Rush, but “Working Man” rocks at mid-pace with many shades of the 80’s.  “Dreams” has an odd reggae vibe, but grafted onto a heavy detuned King’s X riff.  It’s not the greatest tune and probably the first that really fails to make an impact.  Up next is “Finished” which is a pleasant pop rock tune.  Nothing special once again, but instrumentally King’s X always have something to offer, and this time it’s Doug’s busy bass runs.  Then things do get black like Sunday, on “Screamer”, an exotic vintage-Sabbathy stormer.  Deep Iommi string bends meet tribal drumming meets Doug Pinnick.  It’s a challenging listen but it has plenty to offer.  “Bad Luck” is more down the alley of traditional King’s X, and it kills with its heavy groove.

King’s X have always been capable of tender ballads, so though unremarkable, “Down” will appeal to fans of that side.  In contrast, “Won’t Turn Back” is stuttery chunky heavy metal.  All of these songs have some strangely melodic vocal parts, and “Won’t Turn Back” is like that.  It often feels like a chorus from a pop song has been  transplanted onto a heavy metal song on this album.  It’s one of the factors that makes Black Like Sunday hard to digest on first listen.  At times it’s hard not to ask, “What the hell were they thinking?”

Steering the ship back on course once again, the song “Two” could have been on Tape Head since it has that bass-heavy stripped back kind of sound.  “You’re the Only One” does not sound much like King’s X, but it does sound like quality hard rock.  Maybe even pop punk.  The Beatles harmonies work well here overtop a song that could have been written by Weezer.  I wouldn’t doubt that Rivers wishes he wrote this song!

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The only long song on the album is the incendiary, 11-minute-plus “Johnny”.  Very Rush-like, “Johnny” is smouldering King’s X goodness with a big fat bow on top, so get ready to get down.  Most of the 11 minutes is a long jam, a laid-back one in fact, but just listen to the interplay.  Fantastic stuff.  After an exhausting listen like that, what you really need next is the pop-punk-country-funk of “Save Us”.  Ending the album with a short pop rocker really snaps you back to attention, and then it’s all over.

Assigning a rating to a King’s X album is difficult when you haven’t had years to absorb them and grow into them.  Having said that, Black Like Sunday” makes a good impression.  The songs are adventurous if a bit awkward, and there are enough gems here to warrant a purchase.  Added bonus:  the booklet doubles as a 2003 calendar!  An amusing touch.

3.5/5 stars

*There’s no such thing as an ordinary everyday King’s X album.

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)
Part 14 – Manic Moonlight (2001)

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

quiz

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)

quiz

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

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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)

quiz

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 – Best of King’s X (1997)

quiz

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 – Ear Candy (1996)

quiz

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

REVIEW: King’s X – King’s X (1992)

quiz

Complete studio albums (and more!), part 6


Scan_20151104KING’S X – King’s X (1992 Atlantic)

The end of an era: the self-titled album.  When you self-title a record, it’s usually meant to be a statement.  Who knows if King’s X knew that theirs would be the end of the classic era of the band?  Tensions with producer/manager Sam Taylor were increasing and this would be their last collaboration.

King’s X, the album, seems to hone in on songwriting.  There are no long bombers, just short and taut King’s X songs.  “The World Around Me” exemplifies this.  The main ingredients are intact: Doug’s soulful but pained lead vocals mixed with the lush backing of the other two, the heavy but uniquely constructed riffs, and the diverse assortment of influences.  This song, and the next (“Prisoner”) get in and get out quick, delivering the necessary hooks with integrity.  They don’t spend time noodling or meandering.  The songs are more direct this time, without selling out.  You still can’t mistake what band this is.  There is only one band that sounds like King’s X, and that’s due to a unique vocal blend, and playing that sounds like no one else.

“The Big Picture”, the first ballad, doesn’t sound all too different from the Faith Hope Love material.  Good song, but a retread.  Then we’re “Lost In Germany”, with Doug and Ty Tabor sharing vocals, but this is one song that annoys more than it entertains.  Something about that chorus.  “Germany, lost in Germany!”  Maybe it’s the fact that my old boss at the Record Store used to make fun of this song, or maybe it’s just corny.  It has a tricky little Steve Vai-esque guitar lick, but I don’t want to be “Lost in Germany” any more.  Having found the autobahn, we get off next at the “Chariot Song”.  Accelerating breakneck, this song kicks ass.  Time signatures and keys change left right and center, but it’s a cohesively awesome song.  All I dislike are the self referencing lyrics: “Out of the planet comes Gretchen with faith, hope and love.” You’ll love the psychedelic Beatles section in the middle. Fave tune “Ooh Song” blows out the speakers. The stuttery riff and dark melodies hint at where King’s X were headed. “Ooh Song” and “Chariot Song” are a whopper of a one-two punch, 100% King’s X, no selling out.

“Not Just for the Dead” is uplifting, with hints of piano and sitar. It has a proud, anthemic quality before it too ventures into psychedelia. An album highlight for sure. Then, “What I Know About Love” (the closest thing to a long bomber on this album) has a long Ty Tabor solo section; very cool. “Black Flag” was the lead single but never a favourite of mine. Like “Lost in Germany”, something about the chorus just isn’t happening. Seeing Doug flying around in his underoos, in the music video, is entertaining however. There are also some King’s X puppets — somebody made actual puppets of the guys for props in this video. I sure hope somebody hung onto those!

Winding down the album, Ty’s mellow “Dream in my Life” just kind of sits there. It doesn’t have the drama I crave in King’s X. Fortunately, the closer “Silent Wind” kicks ass completely. The verses and chorus are equally excellent. This is a powerhouse of a song, and though a closer, could have made a much better single than the two they picked!

King’s X created another solid album, but for the first time it felt like they had not progressed. King’s X feels like an amalgam of previous King’s X albums, and maybe that was the point. Still one of the greatest rock bands of all time, they spun their tires a little here. But change was afoot.

4/5 stars

DOGMAN FRONTThe only King’s X album I reviewed prior to this series was Dogman (1994), and that review is the next chapter in this series. You can read it by clicking here now!

As stated above, Kings’s X, the album, was the end of an era. Dogman would be dramatically different. There were no lead vocals by Ty Tabor, and they had gotten much, much heavier. Putting the emphasis more on the groove, and installing Brendan O’Brien at the console, King’s X delivered a punishing sledge of an album. Dogman rates 4.9999~/5 stars, just shy of a full 5/5. Check out the full review for that.  Also previously published is a mini-review for a promotional CD single for the track “Pillow” from Dogman, complete with two then-unreleased live bonus tracks.   Click ’em both.

 

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)