Kane Roberts - 'Kane Roberts' Reissue (Yesterrock/Atlantic) Print E-mail
CD Reviews
Written by Gaz E   
Saturday, 12 May 2012 04:00

kane176When Alice Cooper recruited a guitarist in the mid-eighties who, you'd have guessed, was recruited for his looks rather than his talent then the truth would surely have presented your hat on a plate, knife and fork readied. Much like his recruitment of female guitar sensation Orianthi in recent times, Alice Cooper hit something of a home run when he drew first blood with the acquisition of muscle bound six stringer Kane Roberts.

 

As Cooper rode the coattails of the stalk 'n' slash horror flicks that were immensely popular at the time back into more familiar commercial success, he did so with Roberts at his side. While first appearances - a Rambo-like behemoth throwing out riffs on a guitar that looked way too small for him - littered the mind with thoughts of Cooper edging towards the theatricality of his stage show (which was about to get interestingly OTT yet again) with the securing of the axe-slinger's services, the surprising truth was that Kane Roberts was a gifted songwriter who would co-write every one of the tracks on the two Alice Cooper albums that he appeared on - guest appearance on the song 'Bed Of Nails' on 1989's 'Trash' notwithstanding.

 

1986's 'Constrictor' and 'Raise Your Fist And Yell', its follow up a year later, benefitted from the song writing prowess of Roberts and, leaving to concentrate on his own music at almost the same time as then-Cooper bassist Kip Winger, the toned hair metal mutha tried his hefty hand at solo success but, while Kip's band climbed quickly to the upper reaches of the lauded ladder of commercial acceptance, Roberts appeared to slip on, ironically, the head of a snake.

 

His two solo albums, this self-titled affair from 1987 and 1991's 'Saints And Sinners', scaled the heights briefly, a version of the Desmond Child/Diane Warren/Jon Bon Jovi/Richie Sambora-penned 'Does Anybody Really Fall In Love Anymore?' (which had previously been recorded by Cher for her 1989 album 'Heart Of Stone') from the latter troubling the charts, but it was in the guise of song writer and session guitarist that Roberts would continue to take steps as in the rock world, appearing on albums by Berlin, Rod Stewart, Status Quo and Steve Vai before co-writing the track 'Take It Off' with Paul Stanley and Bob Ezrin for the 1992 Kiss album 'Revenge'.

 

So, what caused Kane's machine gun guitar to jam just as solo success seemed a certainty? His self-titled debut solo album - re-released now by Yesterrock/Atlantic - spells it out in just under forty minutes, its refusal to settle on one winning direction its own worst enemy.

 

Opening track 'Rock Doll' plays out like a Gene Simmons-penned Kiss track and, immediately, you realise that Roberts is looking to play on his look and unleash a rock demon....then the second song eases its way into your life and you suddenly realise that he isn't. 'Women On the Edge Of Love' commits Hara-Kiri by going for the heart and falling so short it hurts the knees just to listen, the parped keyboard of the chorus already sounding dated in 1987, its stabs gutting the song. 'Triple X', oddly, manages to combine both of the directions that the first two songs pulled at each other to take; a dodgy Simmons-esque lyric - "it's only sex when it crosses the line" - side by side with softer-edged musical accompaniment.

 

What better way to pull things together on the fourth track of side one of a record - an all-important album position at the time - than with a guitar solo? Yes, 'Gorilla' provides a spectacular misfire of that gun-guitar, a shredding instrumental that says it all about the style over substance, flash over flesh attitude of the 1980s. Sure, guitar heroics were in vogue at the time but, positioned where it is on the album, there will be no prizes for guessing why this album treaded water.

 

'Outlaw' wakes the album out of its self-imposed slumber with a ridiculous opening lyric - "I was born with a shotgun in my hand" - that makes The Who's plastic spoon seem rubbish. Sort of. The song itself is a spirited rock stomper that forces the album back on course. 'If This Is Heaven' follows and, with its Van Halen-style (read rip-off) guitar, is a song massive of hook and potential - who said that track sequencing was important?

 

'Out For Blood' fuses the riff from Kiss's 'War Machine' to a prime W.A.S.P. style verse and throws a timeless heavy metal gang vocal into the chorus, before 'Full Pull' (with lyrics by former employer Alice Cooper) threatens to throw the good work of the previous trio of songs away with a keyboard poisoned verse, its big chorus just about saving it.

 

'Too Much (For Anyone To Touch)' has a chorus that sounds remarkably similar to 'Poison', officially the worst Alice Cooper song ever, yet predates it by a couple of years, throwing up an odd little rock 'n' roll curio. 'Tears Of Fire' is the first of two tracks to feature the song writing talents of Kane's former bandmate Kip Winger; the cheesy keys and awful lyrics - "She had a hand in my sex education" the classy opening gambit - almost kill the song and listener, the tune does throw up comparisons to the likes of Foreigner and Mr Mister though, the qualities of those bands never matched, however. More of the same follows with the album's final track, 'A Strong Arm Needs A Stronger Heart', which steals the intro to 'Wild Child' before settling into a formulaic melodic rock fest that every two bob band were peddling at that point.

 

Kane Roberts was, as this debut album appears to cement in the mind, a gentle giant. While he looked like he could pull the heart out of your chest with a mere flick of his mighty wrist, he actually wanted to merely tug at your heart strings with a collection of songs that were more AOR than TKO.

 

Hindsight makes it easy to point a crooked finger at where Roberts went wrong on his quest for commercial success as an artist, especially when others without the foot-up from a celebrated star like Alice Cooper behind them went on to sell millions of albums. Instead of capitalising on his stint in the Coop's band Roberts thought that he could win hearts with his melodic rock meanderings when, perhaps, a harder edged sound broken up with a couple of tasty power ballads could have propelled him onto a wholly different career path.

 

As a throwback to another time, the debut from Kane Roberts is decent; its main selling point, however, will be the appearance of Cooper and Kip and their appeal with collectors and completists who may not already have this album in their alphabetised collections.

 

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