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King's X

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Honorary Collaborator
5 stars King's X appeared like a breath of fresh air in the late eighties Rock/Metal scene. A band going their own way and doing something different to the myriad of hair metal bands that seemed to appear every week. What made them stand out for me, apart from Bassist/Vocalist Doug Pinnicks wild hair style was firstly Ty Tabors guitar playing and sound; very rich and full, heavy without being metallic and interesting chord progressions with a strong emphasis on melody. Pinnick has a great voice in the rock tradition but all the band sing, Tabor and Drummer Jerry Gaskill adding some great harmony work in the tradition of The Beatles and taking lead at times too.

Gretchen Goes To Nebraska is their second album and remains one of their very best, if not the best with a consistently strong selection of melodic heavy rock. For a listen to Tabors inventive playing just listen to his chord progressions at the end of I'll Never Be The Same, gorgeous arpeggios on Mission coming across like Cream's White Room incarnated and Summerland, still one of their most sublime moments and like all the album strong on melodies and hooks. To put it simply King's X write songs with the priority on strong tunes, not overly complex but they've got the musical skills to call upon where necessary.

Other highlights include Pleiades for Tabors subtle climatic build on guitar towards the end and album opener Out Of The Silent Planet, which was also the title of their first album setting the scene for what to expect for the rest of the album with those lush chords and harmonies.

Highly regarded by many Over My Head is pretty much a straightforward rocker and at the time received a fair amount of play on MTV. It has a good riff but there's much more interesting stuff here like Everybody Knows A Little Bit of Something; scratchy guitar on the verse giving way to another great Tabor riff on the chorus and an excellent groove from Gaskill in the drum department.

Don't Believe it (It's Easier said Than Done) features some of their best harmony work as well as simply being another great tune. And so it goes, I'm sure you've got the idea by now, the quality songwriting prevails for the entire album.

At the time it looked like great things were in store for King's X but for whatever reason major success has eluded them. Fortunately their still with us producing great music and Gretchen Goes To Nebraska remains one of the great relatively undiscovered gems of the eighties.

Report this review (#182711)
Posted Wednesday, September 17, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars From the droning sitar of the opening track, Out of the Silent Planet, to the huge dissonant pipe organ chord that is struck in the intro of Mission, there is something truly mystical and magical about Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, the second album by the Texas trio King's X. The title itself, which is based on the short story by drummer Jerry Gaskill about a girl and her adventurous journey to paradise, invokes an aura of mysticism. Add to that the uber-prog-influenced arrangements, the spot-on performances, and poetic lyrics of faith, and you have the makings of one truly amazing aural experience, one that sets the bar quite high for sophomore efforts.

The first star of the Gretchen show is guitarist Ty Tabor, whose tone on Gretchen is perhaps one of the most sought-after in rock history. Tabor himself was so secretive about his tone that he went as far as to change the logos on his amps (even his dummy amps!) while performing in order to guard his secret. Tabor's magic can best be heard in the aforementioned tracks, Out of the Silent Planet and Mission, as well as the straight-ahead rocker Over My Head, the riff-heavy I'll Never Be the Same, the MTV hit Summerland, and the funky Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something.

The second star of the show is vocalist Dug Pinnick. His gospel-trained pipes are what set him apart from other hard rock and metal vocalists of the era, and he's at his absolute best on Over My Head and Summerland. Pinnick's soulful shout is a refreshing alternative to the usual metal screamers.

The third star of the show is King's X as a vocal ensemble. Their tight harmonies are as prevalent as ever on Gretchen, especially on Out of the Silent Planet, Mission, the beautfiul acoustic rocker The Difference, and Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something. Pinnick, Tabor, and Gaskill have the same synergy that all great vocal groups have, from the earliest Doo Wop groups to the Beach Boys, and of course the Beatles.

The final stars of the Gretchen show are the lyrics. Gretchen is much more allegorical than other King's X albums, which is part of the genius of Gretchen. King's X tell stories of faith in such a poetic way that they are never mistaken for preaching or attempting to convert the masses. On Out of the Silent Planet, the coming of Christ is described as simply as a Father speaking and the Son becoming the story. King's X even tackle their own mistrust of televangilism on Mission. They have the guts to ask, What is the mission of the preacher man? Thought-provoking indeed!

Gretchen Goes to Nebraska is truly magical and can only be described as the King's X magnum opus. For its interesting arrangements and tonal complexities that work in unison with all of the ear-pleasing melodies & harmonies, and for its poetic and insightful lyics, and soulful lead vocals, it receives the highest recommendation for fans of progressive music.

Report this review (#183144)
Posted Sunday, September 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
5 stars Wow, I can't believe it's been 20 years since I first heard this album. I was a die-hard rock/metal fan up until that moment. I am dead serious. This album single-handedly changed my taste in music. I still love rocking out, but I never had the feeling like I was being taken on a wonderful musical journey until I heard GGTN. Since that day I've had the joy of becoming acquainted with scores of great musical triumphs like Genesis, Pink Floyd, Yes, Rush etc. and I owe it all to the majestic power of this album. Thank you King's X.

Out Of The Silent Planet is an Amazing opener. The vocal harmonies in this song are used to such an incredible effect. Most notably in the chorus, where they play a repeating progression and the vocal harmonies are used to shape the tonality. They use this technique a lot on this album, but it never feels overdone or out of place.

Over My Head, I'll Never Be The Same, Mission, Fall On Me and Send A Message all lean towards the rock genre, but there are so many fresh applications from Ty Tabor, that the music takes on a quality that is hard to categorize. ( Which may explain why it took so long for them to show up on PA :P )

Summerland and The Burning Down are balladic in structure, while The Difference....well. Let's just say if you aren't blown away by the vocals on this song, you had better check your pulse.

Everybody Knows A Little Bit of Something and Don't Believe It, aside from being outstanding tunes, are both excellent examples of Doug Pinnick's gospel influences.

Pleiades didn't hit me right off. It has a long instrumental section that is built on power chords, but the part you need to pay attention to here is how Jerry Gaskill's drums set the tone here and build this section to an awesome climax.

This album occupies a permanent spot in the tape deck of my car. Yes a tape deck, all my other stuff is on CD. It's a nostalgia thing.

If you're a die-hard rocker but you're looking to expand your musical horizons, I can't recommend this album enough.

Five Stars

Report this review (#183150)
Posted Sunday, September 21, 2008 | Review Permalink
Honorary Collaborator
5 stars When I saw the first review of a King's X album last week, my heart jumped. Alright, here's some music I can write about before most others here at PA. ........ Then I sat down to start with this album ... er, mmm, aagghh ... I couldn't for the life of me think of how to start. So I gave it a few listens in the past few days, and I found out why. when this was released in '89, it was quite unlike any hard rock or metal out there. Ty Tabor's tone was the holy grail for many a budding guitarist. The secret, eventually revealed much later - pull back on the guitar's volume knob. Think La Villa Strangiato played on a Strat, with a bit more gain. Anyways, the group had it all. Raga like bass intro on Out of the Silent Planet, then the guitar crashes in, with Doug Pinnick quickly following suit. Heavy and heavenly. Spiritual, christian based lyrics, but no preaching. Tempo shifts, and something more than verse chorus verse basic blues structure, yet not quite abrasive to be truly metal. Over my Head was the song that got me into them. Heard it on the radio a few times and just had to get the album. Even in what, for King's X, is a straight ahead rocker, the band throw in more into this song than many rockers do in an album. Heavy riff for the verse, funky distorto guitar on the chorus and back again. Hey wait, Pinnick is singing about memories of his Grandmother praying and singing to him as a baby. Does the Heavy Metal Association know about this ? Anyway, to make the rest of this brief - You'll find hard edged rock, you'll find funky twists, harmony vocals matching the Beatles and Queen and many other groups of vocal reknown. You'll hear how good hard rock can be. How intelligence and melody can still sound heavy. If they had gotten a top 40 hit or video off this album, I say that instead of talking of Dream Theater or Queensryche, that most of the heavier prog fans would be raving about King's X. Alas, moderate success, critical raves, musicians' worship of their chops has meant a career. And finally, for what it's worth, if you like you music loud, and melodic, with variety in the sounds and styles without descending into a genre expose on a song by song basis, then please find it, borrow it , buy it. IT truly is that good. Hopefully, PA can make arrangements for a few MP3s from this album to give a glimpse as to what can be.
Report this review (#183257)
Posted Monday, September 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Mellotron Storm
4 stars I'm one of the few I guess who prefers their debut "Out Of The Silent Planet" to the fan favourite "Gretchen Goes To Nebraska". It's close though, but I find the more raw and aggressive sound of the debut wins out. The title of this record is like an analogy to the Christian's journey to heaven. The songs deal with the things we experience as we make our way to "Nebraska". They quote St.Augustine in the liner notes "for it is one thing to see the land of peace from a wooded ridge...and an another to tread the road that leads to it".

The first three tracks are simply amazing songs, and I would add "Pleiades" and "The Burning Down" as my top five on here. "Out Of The Silent Planet" is the first song and the title of the previous record. It opens with sitar before we get some laid back riffs and vocals. Love the lyrics.The riffs get heavier. This really must be heard to be appreciated. Powerful but restrained. More sitar late. "Over My Head" is an uptempo song that is so catchy. Turn it up ! This is lots of fun. Check out the words "Grandma used to sing, grandma used to sing, everynight while she was praying, over my head, over my head, I hear music oh Lord". Ty lights it up on the guitar while Doug screams out. "Summerland" has a nice heavy undercurrent to it with reserved vocals. Nice harmonies too. Chunky bass 1 1/2 minutes in as the guitar then vocals cry out. Nice. Lyrically it's about summer coming to an end, and about getting older. I can relate on both fronts guys. Incredible tune.

"Everybody Knows A Little Bit Of Something" features a heavy soundscape with what sounds like processed vocals. Raw guitar 2 minutes in as the tempo picks up. A good heavy ending with laughter. "The Difference" is lighter with acoustic guitar and harmonies. Special tune. "I'll Never Be The Same" has a good crunchy sound as the vocals join in. When the vocals stop 4 minutes in they step up the power a notch. "Mission" opens with pipe organ before a ton of bottom end takes over. This song is a rant against religious hypocrites and liars. There's a sample of a preacher doing his act on the stage. "Fall On Me" is better, I like the grinding guitar in this catchy, uptempo tune. It turns spacey 3 1/2 minutes in.

"Pleiades" features some big fat bass lines. The vocals are reserved, they sound so good. Powerful riffs before a minute are held back. They come and go.The instrumental section after 2 minutes to the end of the song is emotional for me. "Don't Believe It" is an encouraging song telling us not to give up. Not a big fan of this one really. "Send A Message" is better. "The Burning Down" is the final track and it's really a cry to God when things are going badly. Words like "Where are you tonight ? I don't seem to know you. No i'm not heart is nearly gone, not much left to offer".

A solid four stars.

Report this review (#185089)
Posted Thursday, October 9, 2008 | Review Permalink
3 stars My son-in-law is a big fan of these guys and a host of proggers seem to enjoy their music so, out of curiosity and the lure of a relatively inexpensive investment, I bought "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska." I picked this album because it has the highest rating in their catalogue and pretty cool cover art, to boot. I figured if I wasn't impressed by their best then at least I'd be knowledgeable about who they are and what kind of sounds they manufacture.

After weeks of listening I was prepared to dismiss them as just another hard rock power plant with some slightly progressive tendencies but then I noticed the year this album was released and reassessed in a jiffy. The fact is that by 1989 the murderous MTV virus had thoroughly devastated Progland and had nearly wiped out the legacy of the innovative groups of the 60s and 70s, reducing our hallowed and once-noble genre to the status of a crippled vet strapped into a wheelchair on the street corner hawking cheap pens from a tin cup. Prog was on life support. Any band that even glanced in that direction had to covertly smuggle any smidgen of progressive character into their work as if they were shady secret agents, praying that the label fat cats wouldn't notice and thereby feel justified in tossing them out on their dumpsters. Especially a group based out of Texas! So, taking the whole ugly prog holocaust into consideration, I feel compelled to give these boys about 300 yards of leeway.

There's obviously a concept behind this recording but dang if I can comprehend what it is. There's an esoteric story for your reading pleasure in the liner about a girl named Gretchen on a spiritual quest to Nirvana, Nebraska (or thereabouts) but the convoluted tale comes off like it was written by committee because it continually veers off in several abstract directions and is as hard to follow as a movie by Fellini. I thought maybe the simpler lyrics would clarify things but they really don't. I'll give them this, though; the tracks are extremely tight and cohesive throughout, proving that they are a force to be reckoned with and a group to be taken seriously.

They open in a large way with "Out of the Silent Planet," one of the proggier songs on the album. A silky sitar chord strums, then their straightforward metallic power chord approach takes hold and boldly announces their arrival with gusto. Their fat, layered harmonies give the tune breadth and when the middle section drops into the wide open spaces for a spell with guitar and sitar whisperings streaming by one gets the feeling that great things are in store. Next up is "Over My Head" and, while it's little more than good old-fashioned drivin' rock & roll, it steams along like a locomotive on steroids and guitarist Ty Tabor's climactic chord that rings out on the end of the repeating riff is highly addictive. Lead singer/bassist Doug Pinnick has an Ian Gillian-type voice that's very appropriate here and the hot guitar solo is as fiery as a steel mill furnace. This is one catchy number, for sure, and its clap-along section must send their concert audiences into a frenzy. Lotsa fun.

"Summerland" is a half-time rocker built on a slick guitar pattern but it isn't terribly original by any stretch. The guitar break is pretty decent but Pinnick's overwrought vocal gets old fast. Styx-styled harmonies jump out of the gate for "Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something" and Doug's eerie, compressed voice lends some mystery to the proceedings. Ty successfully fuses the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and Richie Blackmore on the lead and drummer Jerry Gaskill gets to showcase his admirable skills on the way to the end. Their attempt at producing an acoustic guitar-based ballad on "The Difference (in the garden of St. Anne's-on-the-hill)" falls miles short of the mark, however. Their three- part harmonies are pleasant enough but the song is just lame. Zzzzz. Things take an upswing immediately with the riff-heavy sledgehammer of a rockathon, "I'll Never be the Same." The thick background vocals fill the void splendidly and Tabor's passionate ride is exhilarating. But it's the powerful descending guitar/bass progression sizzling through the second half that makes the prog monster in me stand up and salute. It's mesmerizing, magnificent and you don't want it to stop.

The faint organ heard at the beginning of "Mission" promises more than it can deliver as it merely lulls the listener with false expectations. The group then barrels into a Cream-inspired arena that ventures perilously close to plagiarizing "White Room" in its basic essence. Doug strains his tortured soul-in- agony voice much too often for comfort and the fire-and-brimstone spoken interlude in the middle is woefully ineffective. Yet, in the midst of this churner they deliver one of their better phrases. "Who are these people behind the stained glass windows?/have they forgotten just what they came here for?/was it salvation or 'scared of Hell?'/or an assembly of a social get-together." they intone. "Fall On Me" is next and it's a speedy flier, by golly, but by now Pinnick's anguished vocals as he screams "pain, don't fall on me" are becoming downright. well, painful. Ty comes through with yet another soaring solo (this dude has some amazing chops) before they drift into a semi-psychedelic segment that might've gone somewhere intriguing had they not cut it so short. "Pleiades" is a slower-paced dirge of a tune that at least gives you a break from Doug's hysterics. Either Tabor or Gaskill are responsible for the smoother and more-under-control singing and Ty's guitar has a nice blend of crispness joined with grit running underneath as it slowly rises above writhing, demonic cries wafting up from below.

"Don't Believe It (it's easier said than done)" is a treat. Its Trapeze-like hardcore riff is infectious, they throw in plenty of smart accents on the memorable chorus to keep the energy flowing and Tabor's brief harmony guitar lead is right out of the Blackmore school of fills. But just a few seconds into "Send a Message" you realize that this trio is getting to be disturbingly predictable at this juncture. The tune suffers from acute sounds-the-same syndrome and is virtually indistinguishable from the majority of the cuts that came before. Ty shreds out another barnburner of a guitar break but even that can't save this sub-par ditty. Thank heaven the progressive cavalry arrives just in the nick of time for the closer, "The Burning Down." Jerry's military snare gives the track a different flair and the calmer voice of reason sliding atop the excellent background harmonies is like a lungful of pure oxygen. They wisely find the patience to elongate the spacey finale, adorning it with echoing, volume-pedal-enhanced guitar whiffs of smoke to create a wonderful floating sensation. If only more of the album was like this. But, then again, in anti-prog '89 it may never have seen the light of day if that was the case.

I like these fellas in a kind of Deep Purple-meets-Rush kind of way but I can only recommend it if you're one solidly into the power trio motif. An occasional keyboard would have been beneficial and might have offered some needed variety but that's just me. The plain truth is that in those dark days only a handful of bands like King's X were courageous enough to raise the crumpled and charred colors of progressive rock when doing so risked ridicule and scorn from the zombie-like, pop-pacified, video- obsessed public in the late 80s and they should be honored for their bravery. 2.9 stars.

Report this review (#207305)
Posted Sunday, March 15, 2009 | Review Permalink
5 stars I am ashamed to admit that I bought this cassette back in 1989 because of a quote by Jon Bon Jovi in an ad for this album in which he predicted King's X would fill stadiums one day. I am not ashamed to admit that my love for the music of Bon Jovi remained stuck in 1990, but my love for this album continues to grow, placing it firmly in my top 10 of all time.

On Gretchen Goes to Nebraska, the band takes the solid blueprint formed on Out of the Silent Planet and expands upon it, creating a masterpiece of 80's prog hard rock/metal. Where the songs were streamlined and stripped down on OOTSP, tempos shift, textures are added by sitar and organ, and vocal harmonies blossom into full-blown Beatle-esque choirs. There is also a variety of mood, from the pastoral acoustic piece "The Difference," to groove rocker "Over My Head," to head bangers like "Mission," to proggy numbers like "The Burning Down" and "Out Of The Silent Planet."

Again, there is no central prog piece (that would be corrected on the next album, Faith Hope Love), but all of the elements are there in shortened form. The band effectively puts the "power" back into power trio with this release, as former powerhouse bands like Rush continued to slide into the synthesizer and new wave overload of the eighties.

Report this review (#266545)
Posted Tuesday, February 16, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars For the best part of ........... well, since this album was released..... I have tried to really get into this band. I have bought most of their albums. But I have so far failed to crack this nut.

Gretchen Goes to Nebraska is the second album from King's X. Their debut album detonated in the scene as an elephant landing in a swimming pool and King's X became an instant favorite among music critics and the intellectual university & college crowd. Unfortunate, King's X never became a stadium seller band and that is a great shame.

The music on this album is very intelligent crafted. The songs has it's base in the world of Beatles. Add Black Sabbath, Jimi Hendrix, Rush and Pearl Jam to the mix too and you have this album and this band. All the songs on this album are great. My favorite and this is one of my favorite songs from the 1980s too is Pleiades with it's mix of Sabbath and Beatles. Other songs again are more slower while most of this album really rocks out. This trio creates a lot of noise with bass, drums, guitars and vocals.

This album with the strange album title is a great album which is both intelligent and rocking good. This is one of the best albums to come out of the 1980s too. In short; it's great.

4 stars

Report this review (#308126)
Posted Wednesday, November 3, 2010 | Review Permalink
4 stars How to review an album with almost a zillion songs... well 12 How do you describe that sound and feel that you jsut know when it's Floyd or Genesis of Yes. Well, I suppose that's one of the tihings with King's X. Their sound is so distinctive. Bass I can't find a comrator. The guitar at times reminds me of Simple Minds or Rush or ... well whatever ..

The vocals .. well that's simply Pinnick although if you search Goldilox on youtube you;ll find the crowd filling in competely.

I think this is a great album but it's not essential: Faith Hope Love is. And, I suppose once you listen to Faith Hope Love you think this album is needed. That's how I did it. This is a band that creeps on you. Start with FHL and then the rest follow.

Pleiades, the difference and out of the silent plant are great, surely enough to justify purchasing the album but merely a hin of what FHL has in store.


Report this review (#500785)
Posted Tuesday, August 9, 2011 | Review Permalink
2 stars For me, this album is a big fat pile of I Don't Get It. I find the production lukewarm, the performances uninspiring, and the overall aesthetic and atmosphere insipid and irritating. A few attempts here and there at Beatles-like vocal harmonies don't amount to much; nor does an attempt to make the guitars sound a little like sitars. And when the band do attempt to rock out, it just sounds like ugly 80s hair metal. On the balance, the album exhibits everything I find distasteful about hard rock and is perhaps one of the most deeply uninteresting musical experiences I have ever endured.
Report this review (#975383)
Posted Monday, June 10, 2013 | Review Permalink
The Crow
4 stars King's X consolidated their sound and status with this very good second effort!

In my opinion this album does not reach the outstanding song writing levels of their debut, but it sounds better and the band is even more consolidated than before. And more varied too, because they increased the progressiveness of the songs and they also incorporated some new-age and psychedelic elements.

The production is a bit strange, because it not really homogeneous. Some tracks just sound different, and I'm not talking about the style, just the production. I don't know if it's deliberated, but strange nonetheless.

Out of the Silent Planet is a surprising mid-tempo with a psychedelic interlude and even sitar on it, with some kind of weak sounding guitars and Ty Tybor on vocals. And Over My Head, on the contrary, contains some incredible guitars and very original riffs, making this track on of King's X finest. A real classic!

Summerland starts with some mellow guitars which automatically bring Goldilox to mind. But this track is harder and more intense, despite being not so good. Pinnick's voice is also different on this album. His singing is higher pitched and rough this time, and I prefer his style on King's X debut which was more gospel oriented. Just my personal taste! And don't take me wrong? His voice is still incredible here.

Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something is a more typical hard rock track, with some nice riffing and great bass lines at the verses. The chorus is a bit repetitive, but the song is still pretty good, specially the instrumental section and the solos. The Difference is a mellow acoustic track with Ty Tybor again on the vocals, who sings great vocal melodies this time. But the guitars are even better! Splendid track.

I'll Never be the Same is another hard rock mixed with some prog elements and another very good solo, just like Mission, a song which talks subtly about religion. Fall on Me follows the same path. Just good hard rock with splendid musicianship and some experimental elements towards the end.

Pleiades is another slower song with Ty Tybor on vocals, also in the style of the hit Goldilox at the beginning, but harder and more progressive after that. Don't Believe It is another competent hard rock song with fine choirs which will appeal to Extreme fans, and Send A Message is a very catchy tune with great verses, funky elements and funny lyrics wonderfully interpreted by Doug Pinnick.

The Burning Down has also Ty Tabor on leads vocals, and it has some incredible guitar melodies. The final part is just a little masterpiece with some new age influences and flutes on it. What a good way to give to end this album!

Conclusion: Gretchen Goes to Nebraska is not as cohesive as Out of the Silent Planet, and sometimes is even too long and repetitive. But it contains a lot of great songs and very innovative ideas, making it a very interesting listening for every prog rock and hard rock fan.

I still honestly prefer their debut, but that's just my personal taste because from an objective point of view this second effort is just as good, if not better. Strongly recommended!

Best Tracks: Over my Head, Summerland, The Difference, Pleiades, Send a Message, The Burning Down.

My rating: ****

Report this review (#1781927)
Posted Thursday, September 14, 2017 | Review Permalink

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