Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Not Who You Think it is: Getting it Wrong with Kingdom Come

By the mid-1980s, the music listening public was so thirsty for a Led Zeppelin reunion, any rumor of Robert Plant and Jimmy Page, the lead vocalist and lead guitarist of Zep, respectively, working together again would spread like wildfire. Flash forward to 1988. Hard rock radio stations begin playing a song that sounds very much like Zeppelin—something in the spirit of “Kashmir.” At the time in the Los Angeles-Long Beach market of Southern California, KNAC disc jockey Long Paul would introduce the song saying “It’s not who you think it is.”

The song being played was “Get It On” from the German heavy metal band Kingdom Come. Reportedly, the buzz from the song was so strong, someone at the recording studio released a rough demo to several U.S. rock radio stations even before the final tracks for the album were completely mixed. Legend has it that Kingdom Come lead singer Lenny Wolf and producer Bob Rock were at the board at the famous Electric Lady Studios in New York City when they heard their track on the radio.

Not to be caught flatfooted, they quickly rushed the finished master tracks to the record label and Kingdom Come’s eponymous debut album shipped Gold (i.e., 500,000 units sold). To further capitalize on their unforeseen good fortune, they were quickly signed onto Van Halen’s Monsters of Rock tour. With Van Halen, Scorpions, Metallica and Dokken on the bill, Kingdom Come was instantly legitimized as a rock ‘n’ roll heavyweight.

Unfortunately, the comparisons to Led Zeppelin hung heavily on Kingdom Come, with some wags tagging them with the moniker “Kingdom Clone.” Others came up with an epithet even more unsavory that cannot be repeated in polite company. The band persevered with their tour and a subsequent followup album. But they quickly disbanded with only Wolf remaining into 1992 still performing under the Kingdom Come banner. By that time, any heavy metal bands from the 1980s not named Metallica were speedily swept into the ashbin of history caught under the undertow of Grunge. That’s too bad.

Kingdom Come’s debut album showed much promise. Beyond the Zeppesque “Get It On” there are several standout tracks including “Living Out of Touch,” “Now Forever After” and “Shout It Out;” all hard rocking and blues based without any pretentiousness of the Led Zeppelin supergroup mentality of the 1970s. Not one to give up the dream, Lenny Wolf/Kingdom Come continues to release albums, with the 13th studio release “Outlier” coming onto the market in May 2013.

-Derek Handova
Appreciative Listener

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