The 1981 follow-up to Donnie Iris' debut, King Cool proved to be the commercial and critical peak for Iris and his band the Cruisers. The same cast returned from the first record with Mark Avsec again playing a pivotal role.
King Cool toned down some of the New Wave leanings of Back on the Streets and concentrated more on a classic rock sound yielded rewarding results. Three singles charted from King Cool including the melodic "Sweet Merilee," which featured some lovely harmonies. Two songs managed to go Top 40; the rollicking, percussion-driven "Love Is Like a Rock" and "My Girl," their biggest hit reaching number 25, which opted for a doo wop feel. Iris is a belter, vocally, and it worked to good effect on other infectious tracks like "The Promise," the punchy "Pretender," and the mid-tempo ballad "The Last to Know." King Cool managed to break no new ground, but served as a loving homage to crunchy, singalong rock.