Released by: Manhaton
Release date: 21 October 2016
Genre: Blues rock
Alan Nimmo – Guitars and lead vocals
Lindsay Coulson – Bass
Bob Fridzema – Keyboards and backing vocals
Wayne Proctor – Drums
01. Lose Control
02. Wait On Time
03. Waking Up
04. Rush Hour
05. A Long History of Love
06. More Than I Can Take
01. You Stopped the Rain
04. All Your Life
05. Stranger To Love
06. Let Love In
Blues rock artists have always been a major part of the music scene since the days of The Muddy Waters Band, The Rolling Stones and Stevie Ray Vaughan to simply name a few. Recently, however, its becoming increasingly difficult to find contemporary blues rock artists outside of mainstream acts like The Black Keys. So when King King’s “Live” album, recorded at the O2 ABC in Glasgow, came to me for review alongside an invite to see them play at the Islington Assembly Hall in Angel, London, I eagerly looked forward to the listening pleasures that lay ahead. The Glasgow based quartet recently released their first live album on 21 October 2016 and have since been touring the country and Europe to promote their new album.
The opening track for the evening, Lose Control, is just the appetizer that sets the mood for the concert. Alan, with his thick and welcoming Scottish accent, introduces the first verse with a short but punchy guitar riff as his dominating voice takes control of the song. It being the first song on the album, there’s a measured execution to the track which, I’m sure for those who’ve seen them before in concert, was simply the foundation for a great evening. A simple blues rock structure to this track, with a captivating solo half way through offers a glimpse of the tunes and musicianship that lies ahead.
The timber of vocals in a band makes a huge impact on how full songs can sound when the instrumentation is minimal. Rush Hour, with its quiet high hat and single note keyboard opening line, allows listeners to appreciate the tone and power of Alan’s vocals. If vocal timbers were defined in terms of trees, Alan’s voice would be a Redwood, dominating, thick and matured to perfection. Such is the make-up of Alan’s vocal chords making them perfectly suited for this style of music.
Wait On Time, classically in the mould of a Stevie Ray track, kicks off with a tension building drum beat over which Alan cracks out some sweet blues notes from his Fender backed by Coulson’s bass providing a solid rhythmic backbone to the song. Tone is such a key element of getting the blues rock genre right and these guys seem to have that down for each of their tools. Most notably on this track, Bob’s work on they keys brings back memories of Ray Manzarek and Jon Lord not to mention his effortless solo composition. As with so many live blues shows, the frenzy of the solos gave way to some quite interplay between the drums, keys and bass while Alan welcomes the crowd and sets himself up with some neatly crafted hammer-ons building up into a frantic blues solo towards the end, all the while raising the energy levels. Classic blues tones and structures in this track which I’m sure Stevie would have been proud of.
Perhaps one of my favourite tracks on the album and from their Angel gig, though there are so may to choose from, is Waking Up. I’d have to say the tonal colours of each of the instruments on this track are what resonated with me the most. The clean twang of Alan’s guitars through the verse and chorus, Bob’s intricate keyboard compliments of the vocal melodies through the second verse and Coulson’s bumping bass come together to produce one fantastic track. As Alan’s overdrive solo kicks off, I can feel his fingers bending each string to make the guitar cry out and emote what every molecule in his body must have been vibrating to. This is one of the special songs on the album and the evening, although as I write this I’m sure I’ll be saying the same about a number of other tracks.
A Long History of Love, a down tempo classic blues tune with its church organ tones and mellow verse and chorus structure showcases the variety of sound that King King are capable of. A gripping solo by Bob builds in intensity as the backing instrumentation gets more involved finally giving way to a Strat toned solo by Alan which calls on many of the classic blues rock modes. For those who love solid instrumentation and extended solo work this one is a sure hit with its ebbs and flows in intensity throughout the middle sections of the track till Alan finally brings it to a close with a short verse and chorus. Buttery sweet tones on this track.
A fitting tribute to Stevie on the album is You Stopped the Rain. Perhaps most noticeable from the off is the push-pull nature of the bass line through the chorus which alternates octaves as a groovy bass line is delivered by Coulson throughout the track. Alan’s solo work following the last chorus of the song finds him attacking the fretboard, belting out melodies full of harmonised lead, long pitch bends and all the while building the tension in the solo as he climbs higher up the neck of his guitar as if reaching for the heavens. Maybe he was trying to reach for Stevie !
Crazy is yet another example of the compositional diversity of King King. A pounding bass line holds together the verse while Bob’s Hammond Organ at the outset reminds one of early Deep Purple tracks. The track airs on the darker side of blues rock mostly on account of the minor notes that make up the backbone of the track, the bass line.
As if the above were not enough, All Your Life is one funky track with its wah based guitar riffs and playful organ parts. The clean twang of the Fender through the verse is a definite recognition of the tones of yesteryear when electronics were yet to muddy the purity of quality pickups. The track features some great breakdowns and Bob’s organ solo builds and builds in intensity till Alan takes over the reigns and carries on in the same vein as he’s done through the album.
The penultimate track on the album is hauntingly groovy with the full sounding bass laid down by Coulson backed by gentle guitar swells and staccato organ melodies. As the bridge develops, one can sense early Allman Brothers melodies and songwriting, not to mention the similarity in timber of Alan’s voice to that of Warren Haynes when he shouts “don’t be a stranger to love“. It being a 12 minute track means listeners are treated to a fair bit of jamming as Alan and Bob improvise sections of their solos, feeding off the vibe and mood set by the rhythm section. Perhaps one of the best examples of each of their skills.
Overall, having seen them live just last week at the Islington Assembly Hall in Angel, London, I can confidently say these guys know exactly what ‘their’ sound is and how best to deliver that. Listening to ‘Live‘ and their show I can honestly say there is not much that separates the two in terms of sound, tone, execution and composition which is testament to their purity of their sound and abilities as a band.
Do yourself a favour, get the album, catch them live and your life will be all the better for it !
Written by – Karan Dutta