Skull – II : Now More Than Ever – The ‘Lost Album’+ bonus tracks/ 2 CDs


Skull exposed . . . 

Reviewed by Brian McGowan. Released by Cherry Red Records 24 August 2018.

Skull II comprises 22 demos/rough mixes and the 14 track “lost album”, over 2 CDs, all recorded c.1992.

There’s always a commercial motivation behind the release of such excavated material, but still, it takes a certain amount of courage to lay yourself bare in this manner. Now More Than Ever emerges from the Skull rabbit hole with everything – apart from No Bones About It – they ever committed to tape.

And in the cold light of day . . .

The “lost album” starts off interestingly. Opener, the clumsily titled ‘Cave Of The Heart’, a Kulick co-write with Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora and Desmond Child, bears the familiar hallmarks but little of the melodic flair you might expect from that collaboration. ‘I Walk These Streets’ hints at the pomp and anthemic majesty of Magnum and indeed of Steve Walsh’s band, Streets. ‘Children Of Paradise’ pursues more of an AOR direction, marrying urgent vocals and a declamatory chorus to emphatic keyboards. You can almost forgive the painfully cliched lyrics. Almost.

Apart from these, only the resounding melodic rock of ‘Heart Of Stone’ and a faithfully bluesy cover of Mark Farner’s ‘Streetfight’ overcome the slavish adherence to formula otherwise prevalent.

CD2 comprises a huge variety of demos and mixes, glimpses of the refining process, what works and what doesn’t, mis-steps, mis judgements and inspired choices.

The more fascinating of which are the instrumental 4 track demo of ‘I Walk These Streets’ – revealing it to be a backing track just waiting for a powerful vocal melody to do it justice. Further on, the “with vocals” rehearsal version sounds disappointingly weak and watered down, compelling you to jump back to CD1’s final version, where you are reminded that the raw material had subsequently been sculpted into an imperious arena rock song.

Putting aside the sheer banality of the lyrics, the original ‘Living On The Edge’ and ‘Head Over Heels’ demos suggests that both these song had real promise, sadly processed out of them by an emasculating studio mixing monster.

Despite Kulick’s pedigree, it’s arguable he knows that Skull will end up no more than a footnote in rock’n’roll history. The extended versions of No Bones About It and Now More Than Ever are the musician laying it bare for all to see. Bravo. To that extent, the liner notes could perhaps have been a little more annotated and a little less puff piece. That would have been giving Kulick the respect he deserves.


CD1 :

  1. Cave Of The Heart
  2. I Walk These Streets
  3. Children Of Paradise
  4. Troubleshooter
  5. Now More Than Ever
  6. Three Words Away
  7. Heart Of Stone
  8. All Night long
  9. A Place In The Sun
  10. At The End Of The Line
  11. Velvet Touch
  12. Eyes Of Fire
  13. The Heart Is A Lonely Hunter
  14. Streetfight
  15. Children Of Paradise (original demo)
  16. Troubleshooter (original demo)
  17. I Walk These Streets (12 track demo)
  18. Now More Than Ever (12 track demo)
  19. Skull Radio Advert

CD2 :

  1. I Walk These Streets (instrumental 4 track demo)
  2. Now More Than Ever (12 track demo)
  3. Streetfight (12 track demo)
  4. I Like My Music Loud  (demo)
  5. Head Over Heels (original demo)
  6. Guitar Commandos (alternate demo)
  7. Living On The Edge (original demo 1)
  8. Living On The Edge (original demo 2)
  9. King Of The Night (rough mix)
  10. Little Black Book (12 track demo)
  11. Breaking The Chains (live rehearsal)
  12. I Walk These Streets (rehearsal)
  13. This Side Of Paradise (rough mix)
  14. Guitar Commandos (original demo)
  15. Head Over Heels (alternate demo)
  16. Streetfight (alternate demo)
  17. Living On The Edge (rough mix)
  18. Little Black Book (alternate demo)