King's X - Gretchen Goes to Nebraska
And this time on a masterpiece album by an excellent band, but in our opinion not well known and appreciated.
On June 27, 1989 "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska", "King's X" second studio album, was released.
This is one of the most important albums in its impact on the development of the progressive metal genre. A concept album that tells a short story conceived by the band's drummer Jerry Gaskill.
So for those unfamiliar with the band, "King's X" is a power trio from Houston USA, which was founded somewhere in 1979 in Springfield Missouri by bassist and singer Doug Pinnick, drummer Jerry Gaskill and guitarist and singer Ty Tabor.
The three called themselves "the Edge" and added rhythm guitarist Dan McCollam who was soon replaced by Kirk Henderson - Tabor's friend. The quartet played in pubs as a cover band that played mostly classic rock songs.
In 1983 Henderson leaves the band, and Phoenix, Gaskill, and Tabor decide to continue as a trio. They change the band's name to "Sneak Preview" and release their first album of the same name, back in the same year, self-funded and independently labeled. However, this album fails to arouse interest and the band finds itself without the possibility of releasing another album or funding from a record company.
In 1985 the band moved its operations center to Houston in an attempt to connect with the "Star Song" Records record company based in Houston. This attempt was unsuccessful however the band met Sam Taylor who was a member of the board of "ZZ Top" in Houston. Sam soon became the band's director, producer, and mentor, to the point that many see him as the band's fourth member. Sam was the one who convinced the trio to change its name to "King's X" and even pushed them to change their style to more complex and experimental music. With Sam's help, the band managed to sign a contract with "Megaforce Records".
In 1988, the band released, for the first time, an album under the name "King's X", this was "Out of the Silent Planet", which name was given from a book by the same name by the British writer C. S. Lewis. The album was praised by the fans and music critics, but also by artists who greatly appreciated the original sound and new style that the band brought with it. For example, Rex Brown and Dimebag Darrell from "Pantera" mentioned that this was the sound they were looking for in "Panthera" and that at that time they were listening to this album non-stop. This example illustrates well why later on "King's X" had the name of a band whose fans are artists themselves.
On "Gretchen Goes to Nebraska", the band took their all-too-unique sound and style a step further. The combination of the heavy progressive of another power trio - "Rush", together with singing that draws from the harmonies and melodies of "the Beatles", got an extra twist here with the addition of new instruments such as sitar, dulcimer, and flutes. The musical style also evolved and received further diversity, with a combination of psychedelic motifs, hard rock, and gospel mixed with progressive.
Lyrically, the album revolves around religion and Christianity, which will later lead to the band's cataloging under the genre of "Christian Rock", a move that will probably affect its future and undermine its publicity and success.
For example, "Over My Head" is a song in which the gospel and church atmosphere is well evident. The song was written by Pinnick five years before it was recorded for the album. He recorded it on a cassette in his home studio and when the band went over materials for the album he came across it. He was very surprised that his bandmates really liked it.
The lyrics were influenced by Pinnick's grandmother who brought the music to his life. Pinnick is an African-American and his grandmother exposed him as a child to gospel singing in church and at home. Pinnick noted that the structure of the song is influenced by the song "Let Love Rule" by Lenny Kravitz. He believed that Kravitz's song has "The Beatles" vibe, it's being built and evolving, but precisely when it comes to the chorus there is a kind of a drop. He noted that this was the first time he had heard an anti-climax chant that still managed to do the job.
In the song "Pleiades" the band confronts the injustices that can be done in the name of religion and specifically the burning of Giordano Bruno, a 16th-century Italian philosopher, mathematician, and cosmologist who was burned just because of his views.
Criticism from another direction can be heard in the song "Mission", which refers to the brainwashing that preachers pass on to television viewers in the name of Christianity.
It is interesting to note that the album's mesmerizing opening song - "Out of the Silent Planet" is identical to the name of the band's previous album, thus creating a kind of continuity between the two albums. The title of the song and album came from the title of the book by the British author C. S. Lewis, which bears the same name and is the first part of his science fiction trilogy. Well, the name of another song on the album - "The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne's-on-the-Hill)" is taken from a chapter in the third book in the same trilogy called - "That Hideous Strength".
The album also features "Summerland", a kind of ballad with a catchy, melodic, and sweeping arpeggio chord sequence, "Fall on Me" with the amazing vocal harmonies, "Don't Believe It" with Gaskil's excellent percussion work, and Tabor's innovative guitar sound, Which sounded in the solo as Dimebag Darrell's guitar would sound a few years later, and of course the amazing "The Burning Down" that seals the album and brings us back to the same atmosphere in the song that opened it.
This album is probably the pinnacle of the band's work. A masterpiece that contributed greatly to the development of the prog-metal genre, and forms a connecting thread between "Rush's" prog albums from the 1970s and "Dream Theater's" works in the 1990s. An album with a unique sound and style that is a must for fans of the genre.