Feature: Albums that time forgot – SHADOW KING

Shadow King (1991)

Atlantic (1991)

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 Vivian 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, ominously on Friday 13th. 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 melodic hard rock 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.

Ironically 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  When I interviewed Mick Jones in 2011 he wasn’t aware of any rivalry or subterfuge.

As with many post hair-metal bands of the early 1990s it is debatable whether Shadow King would have survived the onset of Grunge,  changing musical tastes, and not least in terms of record label investment.

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.

The album was remastered and reissued in 2011 by Rock Candy but with no bonus tracks.

Worth investigating
Original Soundtrack – Highlander II (second track credited to The Lou Gramm Band is in fact Shadow King) (Warner 9031-73657-2)

© 2003-2020 David Randall.  All rights reserved.

2020 Vision - Rock. Reviewed. Revisited.

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David Randall presents a weekly show on Get Ready to ROCK! Radio, Sundays at 22:00 BST (GMT+1, repeated on Mondays and Fridays), when he invites listeners to ‘Assume The Position’. This show was first broadcast on 26 September 2021 and includes the Top 10 albums at www.getreadytorock.com for that week.

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Featured Albums w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)

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12:00-13:00 LEVERAGE Above The Beyond (Frontiers)
14:00-16:00 JOE TILSTON Tightrope (Our Records)

Power Plays w/c 18 October 2021 (Mon-Fri)

ABOVE SNAKES Nothing To Lose (indie)
FRANKIE AND THE WITCH FINGERS Cookin’ (Greenway Records)
LEADFINGER The Fall Of Rome (Golden Robot)
FEMEGADES Stealing Numbers (Regent Street Records)
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INDYA Love Like Champagne (indie)
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