Ken Tamplin is the former guitarist, vocalist, leader of Shout. After Shout broke up, several bands pursued Ken to be their vocalist including Motley Crue. Ken's vocal range is amazing and he is a great guitarist and songwriter to boot. He has also co-written songs with Gene Simmons for Kiss as well as helped produce a number of projects, including the first Angelica CD. In more recent years Ken's music has mellowed way beyond my tolerance, so I have lost interest in his music. Most of his original early 90's discs are very hard to find.
Tamplin & Friends-An Axe To Grind (Intense) 1990
This was the first of many solo albums by Ken Tamplin. It's actually quite good and pretty heavy, in comparison to other 80's melodic metal bands. It is also very commercial. If Ken had more financial backing and a bigger label, I'm sure that "Living For My Lord" or "Straight Between the Eyes" could have been a huge hits in 1990 as these are both monster commercial metal tunes. The whole album has some killer guitar playing on it, but what can you expect when you have some of the best studio musicians playing on your album. Lanny Cordola & Ken Mary (ex-House of Lords) both make guest appearances as does Joey Tafolla (Jag Panzer), Mark St. John (ex-KISS) and a bunch of other artists. Of course Lanny and Ken would later get together and form Magdallan. This disc was very rare and at one time I was offered $50 for it, but in 1998 it was reissued by KMG with "Soul Survivor" as double disc making the value go way down. (Darn, I should have sold it when I had the chance.) Of course the reissue has none of the original artwork or liner notes and is missing a few songs, making it worthless in my opinion. Also my original copy is autographed by Ken Tamplin, so I am sure it is still worth something.
Ken Tamplin - Soul Survivor (Intense) 1991
1. "Media Mania"
Usually this album is lumped in with the hair bands of the early 90's, but 'Soul Survivor' is much more diverse than most pop metal from this era. As a matter of fact, this album isn't even pop metal. The album starts off with a bluesy hard rock song called "Media Mania" but from there gets very diverse with touches of blues, jazz, and even flamenco. However, the entire album holds together well and is one well executed hard rock/metal album. The production, while slick, still has some grit and girth unlike Ken's Magdallan release that would appear the very next year.
I bought this album as
a new release, unfortunately I bought it on cassette. (What was I thinking?)
Fortunately it wasn't as hard to find as I thought it would be. "Soul Survivor"
went out of print but was released as on a single disc together with "Tamplin
and Friends" by KMG Records. However, the KMG release was missing several
tracks from both albums and has inferior
Probably my favorite Tamplin CD as this disc is much more focused than any of the others. While I have always praised Ken for his diversity on his solo material, I much prefer this more straight forward heavy metal/hard rock disc. It's really a shame that Ken didn't have the right label backing and management because his material is as good as anything that was on rock radio at the time. His musicianship is stellar, as is his songwriting and vocals. "In the Lap of Legends" is perhaps one of Tamplin's heaviest tracks and one of my favorites as well. While this CD doesn't necessarily sound like any band I can think of at the moment, I'd say the closest comparison that I can come up with is Skid Row. The music doesn't really sound like Skid Row, but what they have in common is that they are both heavy and semi-technical yet retaining an upbeat, commercial appeal as well.
Tamplin - In The Witness Box (Renaissance) 1995
1. "Feed Me "
A heavier project for Ken. I remember at the time I, and many other metal fans, were in search of heavier Christian music. Bands like Mortification were the flavor of the day, and I must confess, I followed the trend here. For some reason I never even gave this disc a listen, even though before this time I had been a fan of Tamplin's discs. I suppose I had grown tired of the style. I also recall people telling me this album was not very good. In retrospect, those people were probably like me and never gave the disc the time of day, because this is album is quite good, and as I said, a bit heavier than most other Tamplin releases. There are some mellower moments, that give the disc some variety, however, for the most part this is Ken's most full-on heavy metal/hard rock platter. Guest guitarists guitarists include Joey Taffolla (Jag Panzer) and Lanny Cordola (ex-Giuffria/House of Lords). Lanny is also given several writing credits, so this disc can almost be considered a Magdallan disc, with the exception of the fact that "Witness Box" blows "Big Bang" out of the water. I'd prefer to put on this crunchy disc any day over the spit-shined polish of "Big Bang." As usual the musicianship and vocals are outstanding. "Signed, Sealed, Delivered" is a cover but I can't remember who right now. "Sing Hallelujah" is a phenomenal praise song. I found an American copy of this disc used for $2.99 on SecondSpin.com., but eventually replaced it with this German version that contains five bonus tracks. Of the bonus tracks, "Big Bang", "Radio Bikini" and "House of Dreams" are from the Magdallan CD "Straight Between the Eyes" is from Ken's debut solo release. "Now that You're Gone" is the only track that I am unfamiliar with.
Ken Tamplin - We the People (Rugged Records) 1995
1. "Save Me"
Much, much different than any Tamplin disc from the past. This one has not even a trace of heavy metal, or hard rock for that matter. This time around Ken went for a much more acoustic, adult contemporary sound, that occasionally also touches on pop rock. When it first came out, I didn't like it at all. As a matter of fact, I have owned this disc several times only to trade it off when a better offer came. However, over time it has grown on me and I now enjoy it. Honestly though, this is still not something I spend a whole lot of time listening to, but if the mood is right, "We The People" makes for a good listen. As a matter of fact, this disc almost has a spirit of peace, adoration and worship that I enjoy at certain times. On this disc, Ken handles almost all the instruments, including lead vocals, backing vocals, electric guitars, acoustic guitars, banjo and bass. Pretty impressive. Not only is Ken a talented songwriter, but he is obviously a talented and well versed musician as well. Ken is helped along by Stefan Svensson on drums. I actually met Ken on a promotional tour for this album in which he gave me an autographed promo poster for this disc, which I still have.
Ken Tamplin and Friends - Wake the Nations (Mascot) 2003
It has been many years since we've heard a hard rock record from Tamplin. He's been doing everything from commercial jingles, to television soundtracks, to Christmas music. (Basically, making a living.) However, Ken is indeed back, sounding like his old self once again. "Wake the Nations" hearkens back to "An Axe To Grind" in that "Wake the Nations" is a commercial, hard rock record with tons of hooks, layered background vocals, and has a slew of guitar solos and impressive guest musicians. Guest vocalists include Jeff Scott Soto and Philip Bardowell. Guest guitarists lending their talent to this record include Marty Friedman, Doug Aldridge, Reb Beach, Kee Marcello, Ritchie Kotzen, and Ken's longtime sidekick Scott Van Zen. While the "Axe to Grind" comparison is certainly valid, the production and even some of the ideas here and there are a touch more modern sounding. That is not to say that this disc should even remotely be labeled "modern rock." On the contrary, this is just good, melodic, hard rock. The heaviest songs on this record include the first single, "The Story Of Love". A good song that will unfortunately never get any national radio play due to lack of label support. I think even if Ken did have the support, his style here would probably not be welcome on the current rock radio formats. However, I am impressed that Ken stands his ground and continues to put out music that sounds like Ken Tamplin, rather than trying to emulate the current radio trends. The lyrics this time around are pretty interesting. He has some humourous type songs this time like "Cell Phone Freaks" and "Seven Eleven People." "Jihad Enough" and "Hare Kristians" offer some interesting plays on words, some humor, but also some serious social commentary as well. Both excellent songs to boot. "God In Heaven" is a slightly different song, offering a slower, bluesier sound that is quite different from the rest of the upbeat, happier sounds of the rest of the tracks. I must confess, that I think this CD is a bit long. There are enough songs on this CD that it could have been broken up into two excellent albums. This disc also contains a bonus DVD with the videos for "The Story of Love" and "Falling Houses," along with some extras. The two videos are decent and enjoyable to watch, although the extras aren't much to speak of.
Ken Tamplin - Brave Days Of Old (Z Records) 2003
1. "Never Stop"
Ken Tamplin is an amazing talent. His wide vocal range is as impressive as his wide vocal abibilty. Whether it be in his heavy metal years, or doing AOR or melow ballads, Ken sounds amazing. He also has a keen ability to shred on a guitar. As a recording artist, Tamplin has seventeen records to his credit. Tamplin fronted the band Shout and Magdallan as well as put out several solo albums throughout the '80s and '90s, obtaining sever Dove award nominations along the way. This compilation is an overview of all of this. Unlike some compilations, however, the years of work don't sound at odds with each other making for a good listen from beginning to end. This would be a great disc to introduce yourself to Ken's body of work.