In which the King King boys go unashamedly rocktastic. But then, is that really such a departure?
Alan Nimmo says Exile & Grace has a rockier feel and sound to it than their earlier output. But the truth is that there’s always been a hard-hitting side to King King. Go back to debut album Take My Hand – and hey, if you’ve only recently got on the KK bus, you really should – and you’ll find that it bolts out of the traps with three blasts of rocked-up blues headed up by live favourite ‘Lose Control’. And they’re backed up later by ‘I’ll Fight My Way' and 'Broken Heal', just in case
Well okay, so they’ve traded a measure of bluesy swing for a dollop of sheer rock oomph. But trust me, the oomph works on the likes of ‘(She Don’t) Gimme No Lovin’’ and ‘Long
Time Running’. There’s simply no arguing
with the lead single, which rides in merrily on a neck-snapping riff, jackhammer drums from Wayne
Proctor, swathes of Jon Lord-ish organ from Bob Fridzema, and
a brief but squealing guitar solo from Alan Nimmo. Lyrically it’s not Shakespeare, but that never
stopped ‘Tutti Frutti’ being a rock’n’roll classic, did it? ‘Long Time Running’ bursts into life with a catchy riff, interlaced with endearingly
music box keyboard frills, and features some changes of gear from Wayne Proctor to keep you on your toes. But more to the point, both songs
have dynamite hooks that will have all and sundry singing their little heads
off when they’re played live.
|Exile & Grace - laid back it isn't it|
There’s a dark undertow present too though, to complement these grabbers. The key words to describe both ‘Broken’ and ‘Betrayed Me’ are “tough and tense”. ‘Broken’ explores state-of-the-world lyrical territory, in a fashion that’s the bleak flip side of brother Stevie Nimmo’s similarly gritty ‘Chains Of Hope’. Meanwhile ‘Betrayed Me’ kicks off with interesting guitar tones from Nimmo played off against delicate piano colourings from Fridzema, which then develop into brooding swells of organ as the tension builds. It’s a grower in a similar vein to ‘Stranger To Love’, with an intriguingly bitter lyric, and has the potential to become something mountainous live.
‘Find Your Way Home’ is a big power ballad, with a vibe carried largely by Fridzema’s Hammond, that draws on 80s AOR as much as the blues. As it progresses it develops an epic quality, but the big finish it hints at is never quite delivered. Young Bob also has a Stevie Wonder-ish hand in the funkiness of closing track ‘I Don’t Wanna Lie’, which offers another earworm of a melodic chorus. It brings the album to a close in oddly perfunctory fashion though, which suggests the sequencing could have been better.
Elsewhere, 'Heed The Warning' is full of muscular swagger, built on sturdily dovetailed chords from Nimmo’s guitar and Fridzema’s organ, and is a good each way bet to take over from ‘Lose Control’ as a set opener of choice. ‘Tear It All Up’, celebrating the live experience of supporting Thunder in big venues, has a chunky riff pushed along by Lindsey Coulson’s pulsing bass, and is elevated by a decidedly Thunder-ous mid-section, but it begs for a more roof-raising chorus. And 'Nobody Knows Your Name' is a low-life-in-high-places type tale, set to a jagged Bad Company style riff over more bubbling bass from Mr Coulson.
As a card-carrying member of the Standing In The Shadows Appreciation Society, I know King King are capable of more emotional depth than is evident here, and there's a studio album coming some time when they give us everything they've got and leave us gasping on the canvas. But Exile & Grace, like Reaching For The Light before it, takes a big stride towards conquering the broader horizons of classic rock. So for maximum pleasure, turn the volume up. Louder. I said LOUDER! Go on, you know it makes sense.