When one looks at the careers of musicians, it’s not surprising that one finds projects that never materialized. In many cases—especially in the lives of musicians who find acclaim later—those potential detours prove to be quite compelling, leading to a “what if” scenario that will whet the appetites and imaginations of their fans. Warrior was just such a case, one of a hard rock band that scattered before the band really came together, with its members going on to greater acclaim elsewhere.
It all started when Boston-based hard rock band New England’s guitar player and vocalist John Fannon abruptly quit the group, right as the band was going to start work on its fourth album. In search of a guitarist, the band’s friend Gene Simmons recommended a young musician named Vincent Cusano, who had impressed him when he auditioned for KISS. Upon hearing Cusano’s demo tape, the band felt the same, and hired him as their new member. Feeling confident in their new member and the new direction, they changed their name to Warrior and they relocated to Los Angeles to begin work on their debut.
The six studio songs on Warrior show that indeed the match was a good one. Though rough and lacking polish, it’s hard to deny the talent and the songs that are there. It’s not hard to understand why Cusano was so interested in joining KISS, as the rockers “It’s Not Pretty (Being Easy)” and “Baby Oh Why” both sound like outtakes. “Boys Gonna Rock” features a scorching guitar solo and some impressive falsetto, a future hair metal classic in the waiting, and “I Need Love” is a down and dirty hard raunchy blues that would become commercial heavy metal’s stock in trade. It all sounded quite promising, and the band had other songs in the wings, such as the hard and heavy “Betrayed” and “Hot Nights,” a fast-paced rocker.
Yet the band wasn’t quite sure about Cusano’s singing. At one point, they brought in a friend, Fergie Frederiksen, as a potential replacement, though they decided not to hire him. One rehearsal was recorded with him, and is on offer here, even though it’s a really poor recording, he does well, but it’s not hard to see why it didn’t work out with him, as he doesn’t quite have the same connection to the songs as Cusano. Still, the rehearsal tape is the only recording of Warrior performing “Betrayed” and “Hot Nights” with vocals.
Ultimately, it didn’t matter, for during their rehearsals, KISS decided to hire Cusano; he changed his name to Vinnie Vincent, and the band parted ways. Bassist Jimmy Waldo and keyboardist Gary Shea would form a new group, Alcatrazz,–which would be the starting ground for two superb guitarists, Yngwie Malmsteen and Steve Vai–while Fergie Frederiksen would join Toto. Cusano’s tenure in KISS would be short-lived, and would go on to form Vinnie Vincent Invasion, which would record several Warrior songs and fulfill Warrior’s unrealized legacy—a promising legacy that Warrior clearly demonstrates, irrespective of how rough-sounding the recordings are.
Warrior Featuring Vinnie Vincent is available now via HNE Recordings.
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