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Skull: No Bones About It (2 CD expanded edition)

It’s a travesty that guitarist Bob Kulick is probably best known for ghosting a host of Ace Frehley’s guitar parts on a clutch of KISS albums, or indeed for being the older brother of one-time permanent KISS fret-master Bruce Kulick. His 70s band, Balance, with the help of Peppy Castro and Doug Katsaros, saw Bob produce enough high octane AOR to launch a thousand careers, while what came after the hush-hush Ace Frehley aping - Blackthorne and Murderer’s Row - while tougher and rougher, were also top notch rock and no doubt. Preceding those later bands and supplemented by side-man slots with Meat Loaf, Alice Cooper and WASP, were Skull, a band so named because of the guitarist’s unmistakably smooth head. Initially formed by Kulick and latter day Balance drummer Chuck Burgi, the pair would quickly recruit another of their ex-band mates in the shape of bassist Dennis Feldman, who would go under the name Dennis St James in Skull; moving over to stand behind the mic as he did so. Taking the bass slot was Kjell Benner, but with Burgi quickly departing, it was ex-Vinnie Vincent Invasion and Nelson drummer Bobby Rock who completed the foursome that would release the band’s fatally timed 1991 debut.

Sporting a sound that showed exactly why KISS had asked Kulick to get them out of a Space Ace shaped hole and mixing a little WASP with, well, basically a whole host of late 80s influences (Mötley Crüe, Ratt, Quiet Riot, etc), Skull were mighty. But, as you’ll doubtless know, by 1991 grunge was announcing itself as the death knell for good ol’ hard rock and with the writing on the wall for many an established act, for a new kid on the block - even one with some pedigree and talent on board - dead in the water was possibly the only outcome. And so it proved for Skull, the liner notes of this two disc re-release of the band’s one and only album, No Bones About It, telling an all too familiar tale of dwindling budgets, record label wrangling and a lack of tour support. Having caught the eye of KISS man Gene Simmons, the hope was that Kulick’s friend would welcome Skull onto his burgeoning record label, but it was Enigma who would finally put a deal in front of the band. However, after the album was recorded, things quickly went south between band and label, and the finished article was indefinitely shelved. Convinced they were on to something Skull eventually teamed up with respected UK label Music For Nations and re-recorded the whole shebang.

As ever, the musical wheel had been turning and by the time the album came out Skull were just one of many acts pedalling a great album full of yesterday’s news. And as such, it pretty well sank without trace and, along with it, Skull were no more. An all too short time together providing a long forgotten legacy that undoubtedly deserves a second chance.

And what a second chance this reissue is, the Enigma and Music For Nations recordings presented side by side, along with a further 15 demo and alternative takes. In fairness, that does mean that there’s a huge cross-over of songs, some turning up as often as four times across these two discs. And yet, if this sort of powerful, commercial, memorable hard rock is your thing, the opportunity to follow the evolution of songs such as “Little Black Book” through demo versions and two finished takes is immensely interesting and rewarding. Starting out in its embryonic stage with (a rather excruciating) “Girls Girls Girls” (Mötley Crüe) like back and forth about pretty girls (what else??), by the time it makes the MFN release, those embarrassing rough edges have been smoothed off and a pulsating rocker with the hookiest sing along chorus lands in its place. “I Like My Music Loud” may be a thinly disguised “I Love It Loud” (KISS), but it’s still an irresistible hit of 80 rock that proves too good to ignore. Something which can pretty much be said for “Breaking The Chains” and its high-tempo, mid-era Quiet Riot meets Van Halen vibe and the almost Winger like “Guitar Commandos”. Although there’s no denying that the heaviest influences hanging over the whole album are those of non-make-up era-KISS and a more commercial WASP.

In Dennis St James, Skull had a hugely talented frontman, and with the supreme Kulick alongside him, had No Bones arrived five or so years before it did, it could have been huge. However, it didn’t and as such was - and understandably so - dismissed as a rehash of old ideas. And if there’s one criticism of this energetic, catchy album, it is that it does tend to sound like, well, everyone else that had been making it big with this style of music for a good few years.

With 35 tracks and both versions of the album (the Enigma attempt being the grittier and slightly better of the two), if late 80s arena rock is your thing, then No Bones About It comes highly recommended. And interestingly, a second two disc set from Skull, crammed with more unreleased material, and the Murderer’s Row album are also being unleashed by Cherry Red/HNE Records!


Track Listing
DISC ONE: NO BONES ABOUT IT (1991)
1. EYES OF A STRANGER
2. BREAKING THE CHAINS
3. I LIKE MY MUSIC LOUD
4. LITTLE BLACK BOOK
5. LOSER’S GAME
6. LIVING ON THE EDGE
7. HEAD OVER HEELS
8. GUITAR COMMANDOS
9. THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
10.KING OF THE NIGHT
BONUS TRACKS (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
11.I LIKE MY MUSIC LOUD (8 TRACK DEMO)
12.LIVING ON THE EDGE (8 TRACK DEMO)
13.KING OF THE NIGHT (8 TRACK DEMO)
14.GUITAR COMMANDOS (4 TRACK DEMO)
15.HEAD OVER HEELS (4 TRACK DEMO)
16.LOSER’S GAME (ORIGINAL DEMO)
17.BREAKING THE CHAINS (ORIGINAL DEMO)
18.THIS SIDE OF PARADISE (12 TRACK DEMO)


DISC TWO: EARLY ALTERNATIVE VERSIONS OF NO BONES ABOUT IT
1. I LIKE MY MUSIC LOUD
2. BREAKING THE CHAINS
3. LIVING ON THE EDGE
4. LITTLE BLACK BOOK
5. LOSER’S GAME
6. EYES OF A STRANGER
7. HEAD OVER HEELS
8. GUITAR COMMANDOS
9. THIS SIDE OF PARADISE
10.KING OF THE NIGHT
BONUS TRACKS (PREVIOUSLY UNRELEASED)
11.I LIKE MY MUSIC LOUD (24 TRACK DEMO)
12.GUITAR COMMANDOS (24 TRACK DEMO)
13.LIVING ON THE EDGE (24 TRACK DEMO)
14.KING OF THE NIGHT (24 TRACK DEMO)
15.HEAD OVER HEELS (12 TRACK DEMO)
16.THIS SIDE OF PARADISE (ORIGINAL DEMO)
17.LITTLE BLACK BOOK (ORIGINAL VERSION)

Added: September 3rd 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: No Bones About It @ Cherry Red
Hits: 345
Language: english

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