This is the feature
where we revisit bands or albums that are worthy of attention but may well
have been overlooked over the years we also signpost the definitive
CD versions and related albums worth investigating.
If you have your
own neglected band/album send us a
Shadow King was Lou Gramm’s first foray in a band format since his departure from Foreigner in April 1991.
The charismatic vocalist had been working on songs with Bruce Turgon for a third solo album and these developed
into a full band possibility. To make this a reality, Gramm and Turgon recruited Viv Campbell (Dio,Whitesnake) on
guitar and Kevin Valentine (drums).
As Shadow King their debut album was much-trumpeted on US classic rock radio and the label had high hopes with an
extensive European and US tour scheduled for 1992. Unfortunately this only got as far as their one live appearance
at the London Astoria in December 1991. Here the band performed steaming versions of Foreigner hits as well as most
of the album, and one of the encores included Free’s ‘Fire and Water’.
Shortly afterwards the band imploded, Viv Campbell went on to join Def Leppard. Valentine played gigs with Cinderella,
Gramm eventually got back with Foreigner in 1993 taking Turgon with him.
Freed of the strictures of the AOR Monolith that Foreigner became in the late-eighties, Gramm’s short-lived band really
kicked ass with punchy, commercial songs and a hard rock sensibility punctuated by Turgon’s deft keyboard fills and Campbell’s
understated guitar. Gramm’s vocals were as distinctive as ever.
There could have been at least three singles from the album. ‘What Would It Take’ with it’s hungry opening and impassioned lyrics recalls classic
Van Halen, ‘I Want You’ a brash no-nonsense slice of semi-Whitesnake snarl and the more Foreigner-esque ballad ‘Don't Even Know I'm Alive’
are all standouts. Production values by Keith Olsen (better known for his work with Whitesnake and Ozzy Osbourne in the eighties) are high, and the thunderous intro
to 'Boy' is well worth the entry-price alone and one of the best ways to test, and break, any newly-purchased hi-fi speakers.
Gramm has had his fair share of health problems in recent years although
he released a new album in June 2009. However, temporarily freed from
Foreigner's corporate rock
shackles his work with Shadow King is exemplary and this is a blueprint for how well-crafted gutsy rock 'n' roll should sound.
One small gripe might be that the album is
a touch weighted towards power rock rather than ballad, but this apparently is why Gramm got fed up with latter-day Foreigner.
it seems that Shadow King succumbed to record label politics as their continued success may have jeopardised the Monolith, whose post-Gramm album 'Unusual Heat'
disappointed. More tantalising still is the knowledge that the band had recorded several tracks for a proposed second album which may never see the light of day.