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Skull: Skull II: Now More Than Ever

If you’re thinking, hold on… Skull only ever released one album, then you’d be correct. However, with Cherry Red/HNE not only reissuing that stand alone release, but also augmenting it with an alternative version and copious demo tracks, now feels as good as time as any to unleash Now More Than Ever, a collection of Skull recordings intended to be album number two.

Formed by the trio of ex-Balance men Bob Kulick (Meat Loaf, Michael Bolton Alice Cooper and session work with KISS) on guitars, Chuck Burgi (Rainbow) on drums and Dennis St James on vocals (but who was the bassist in Balance), alongside MSG bassist Kjell Benner, the band quickly recruited Bobby Rock (Nelson,) to replace Burgi, who opted to return to Meat Loaf’s backing band. With a failed deal with Enigma leading to the original version of the eventually 1991 released No Bones About It debut being re-recorded and released through Music For Nations, the band’s timing couldn’t have been worse as the strongly KISS and WASP flavoured outing fell on ears quickly turning their attention to Seattle. Hence it was no massive surprise when Skull quickly called it a day after failing to capture public imagination, even if their album was a hugely convincing, if derivative, example of US arena rock.

However, unbeknown to most, a second set of songs was also recorded before the quartet split. And even allowing for the recordings that are revealed on this two disc offering being of (decent) demo quality, arguably they were slightly superior in construction to No Bones About It. Having backed a host of famous names, there’s no doubt that Kulick was a stupendous, fiery guitar talent, while Benner and Rock proved a solid rhythm section. However, as on the debut, it’s singer St James who grabs the attention and refuses to let go. Landing somewhere between Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley, there’s no doubt that the KISS flavours come just as strongly from behind the mic as they do Kulick’s fretboard. Although with Bob and his brother, then KISS guitarist Bruce Kulick, teaming up with KISS collaborator Adam Mitchell to pen “Now More Than Ever” and “All Night Long”, that either track could have slipped seamlessly onto albums like Creatures Of The Night or Crazy Nights shouldn’t shock anyone.

However, it’s “Cave Of The Heart” that possibly provides the most intriguing writing team, Bob sitting down with a certain Jon Bonjovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child to create this releases’ opener. More aggressive and gritty than anything Bon Jovi would ever record, it would still have been interesting to hear what that band would have done with this track, as was originally intended. Unsurprisingly Bob Kulick provides the majority of the songs, but the Burgi composition “Three Words Away” is a catchy slice of pop rock, while the St James/John Siegler penned “Children Of Paradise” is a pumpingly proud pout of Survivor like proportions.

With Burgi credited as composer on what was intended to be an album released long after his departure, if there’s one frustration here it’s that, while acknowledging that both Burgi and Rock appear across the 37 tracks presented across this two discs set, working out who is playing where and what the chronology of the demos is, proves impossible to unravel. There’s also no denying that there’s a huge amount of repetition across the two simultaneously released Skull retrospectives, with some songs featuring as many as four or five times across the pair. However, as a fan of Kulick’s writing and playing, there’s no denying that I’m pleased to have as much of his work at my disposal as possible.

Across these two Skull reissues, there’s a mind boggling 72 tracks and while many are different versions of the same songs, that’s an impressive bang for your buck. Factor in that this outfit were as good, if not better than many of the outfits who made it big from this scene back in the day and checking Skull out becomes a no-brainer.


Track Listing
DISC ONE: SKULL II: NOW MORE THAN EVER
1. CAVE OF THE HEART
2. I WALK THESE STREETS
3. CHILDREN OF PARADISE
4. TROUBLESHOOTER
5. NOW MORE THAN EVER
6. THREE WORDS AWAY
7. HEART OF STONE
8. ALL NIGHT LONG
9. A PLACE IN THE SUN
10.AT THE END OF THE LINE
11.VELVET TOUCH
12.EYES OF FIRE
13.THE HEART IS A LONELY HUNTER
14.STREETFIGHT
BONUS TRACKS
15.CHILDREN OF PARADISE (ORIGINAL DEMO)
16.TROUBLESHOOTER (ORIGINAL DEMO)
17.I WALK THESE STREETS (12 TRACK DEMO)
18.NOW MORE THAN EVER (12 TRACK DEMO)
19.SKULL RADIO ADVERT


DISC TWO: BONUS TRACKS & DEMOS
1. I WALK THESE STREETS (INSTRUMENTAL 4 TRACK DEMO)
2. NOW MORE THAN EVER (12 TRACK DEMO)
3. STREETFIGHT (12 TRACK DEMO)
4. I LIKE MY MUSIC LOUD (DEMO)
5. HEAD OVER HEELS (ORIGINAL DEMO)
6. GUITAR COMMANDOS (ALTERNATE DEMO)
7. LIVING ON THE EDGE (ORIGINAL DEMO #1)
8. LIVING ON THE EDGE (ORIGINAL DEMO #2)
9. KING OF THE NIGHT (ROUGH MIX)
10.LITTLE BLACK BOOK (12 TRACK DEMO)
11.BREAKING THE CHAINS (LIVE REHEARSAL)
12.I WALK THESE STREETS (REHEARSAL)
13.THIS SIDE OF PARADISE (ROUGH)
14.GUITAR COMMANDOS (ORIGINAL DEMO)
15.HEAD OVER HEELS (ALTERNATE DEMO)
16.STREETFIGHT (ALTERNATE DEMO)
17.LIVING ON THE EDGE (ROUGH MIX)
18.LITTLE BLACK BOOK (ALTERNATE DEMO)

Added: September 3rd 2018
Reviewer: Steven Reid
Score:
Related Link: Skull II @ Cherry Red
Hits: 639
Language: english

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