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KROKUS Big Rocks

By Jeff Kerby, Contributor
Friday, April 21, 2017 @ 8:20 AM

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Big Rocks

Columbia Records

It seems like I spent the majority of time during my sophomore year during 3rd period trying to figure out whether I liked “Screaming In The Night” better than “Our Love”. Of course, this internal dialogue was inspired by the fact that I hated geometry while simultaneously being enthralled by Marc Storace’s chest hair. I mean, who needs the Pythagorean Theorem when you can just sit back, think about power ballads and imagine the other side of puberty? It’s common knowledge that besides belting out rocking jams, the lead singer of KROKUS didn’t really look like any other vocalist—instead, he had the appearance of a heavy metal Conway Twitty. It was like he had to be foreign—because no one else could pull off that afro and silk shirt combo the way he did otherwise. Think about it—he got mad groupies back in the day looking like that. It didn’t hurt that KROKUS brought the metal either. Hardware, The Blitz and Headhunter straight rocked. They are classics by any standard. What has followed is a career of this Swedish band consistently making music that combines both melody and a certain bite. This album, Big Rocks, is their nod to the current trend of older metal acts performing albums comprised of old standards. Some of them work, some of them don’t, but if any connoisseur of hard rock is going to give one of these records a chance, KROKUS would be a solid choice of which to take notice.

The album begins with an instrumental of SABBATH’s "NIB"---it is an interesting choice to kick off the album with, but it works, more as an introduction to the record than it does as a stand alone track although the guitars screeching along to where the vocals would have been is creative and effective. The first song featuring Storace is QUEEN’s “Tie Your Mother Down” which manages to sound inspired and possesses a great tone. The guitar work is stellar and the drums swing—not just on this track, but this is really true throughout the entire record. Not everyone can cover Freddie Mercury, but it is done here—with electricity and dexterity. The next two tracks are tremendous renditions of classic songs. The problem is, does the world need yet another version of “My Generation” or “Wild Thing”? When listening to “My Generation”, I can’t get over the fact that GREEN DAY once covered it, and as far as “Wild Thing” goes, I keep thinking that Charlie Sheen is about to walk out of the left field while this tune blasts like he did when he played Ricky Vaughn in Major League.

The crown jewel of this offering is “The House Of The Rising Son”. Hell yes it is better than the FFDP version. It really is. If there is there anyone out there who doesn’t think KROKUS would blow FIVE FINGER DEATH PUNCH off the map in a battle of the bands, I don’t want to know them. They probably stink of bro and have difficulty reading too. The next three tunes, Neil Young’s “Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World”, Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’” and ZEP’s “Whole Lotta Love” are all stellar versions. They all rock equally here. There is no question. Now, is KROKUS’ version of “Gimme Some Lovin’” better than GREAT WHITE’s? Or is their version of “Keep On Rockin'” better than the VAN HAGAR version that they would play during the "Right Here, Right Now" tour? Probably not, but they are well executed and the energy level and tone makes rocking out to it an imperative.

Of the last four covers on this album, the oddest selection is “Quinn The Eskimo”. It was a song written by Bob Dylan but is mostly known by its recording from MANFORD MANN. Anyway, it’s an oddball ass song about Quinn, this progressive Eskimo, who comes in and makes everyone feel good—especially the animals living in the forest.

“Let me do what I wanna do, I can't decide at all
Just tell me where to put it
And I'll tell you who to call
Nobody can get no sleep, there's someone on everyone's toes
But when Quinn the Eskimo gets here
Everybody's gonna want to doze.”

Why they chose to cover this I have no idea, but again, their renditions of “Summertime Blues”, The STONES“Jumpin’ Jack Flash” and “Born To Be Wild” are all inspired versions of songs that have been performed roughly one billion times. Not really into the first two offerings that much, but “Born To Be Wild” by STEPPENWOLF never sounded better than it did when performed by THE CULT. It’s not really even an opinion. It is a direct fact. You can Google it. The final song is actually one of KROKUS’ own tracks from 1980 entitled “Back Seat Rock N Roll”. It is a great track and it does an effective in showing how all the previous songs’ influence turned into the sound that we have come to know as KROKUS.

I never really did come up with an answer as to which song I preferred between “Our Love” and “Screaming In The Night”, but that’s ok because I never really solved all the mysteries of the inverted triangle either, and I know for a fact that I’ve needed KROKUS way more in my life than I ever needed geometry. I never tried to replicate Marc Storace’s chest hair either---hell, how would that even be possible? What has been possible though is that KROKUS has carved out a career with numerous personnel changes marked with usual band strife only to come out the other side of 40 years together as a band rocking with conviction and with a tone that is appealing to the ear while tickling your inner mullet. From a listenability standpoint, Big Rocks should get a solid 4.5, but again the major drawback is the song selection which would rate about a 2.5. Overall, I would give this album a solid 3.8 which I will round up to 4. Dammit, if they would have only included and acoustic version of “Long Stick Goes Boom" or Conway Twitty’s “Tight Fittin’ Jeans”, Big Rocks would have rated an absolute 5.

4.0 Out Of 5.0

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