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Issue 1088

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Review

King King: Standing In The Shadows (Manhaton Records)

King King CD Cover Pic

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UK release date 25.03.2013

So. This is a relatively new band who have had a hell of a lot said about them already. There has been lots of fuss in the British blues media, following their debut album release which scooped "British Blues CD" in the British Blues Awards 2012. They also won the "Best British Blues Band" gong too. They have sold out many of their gigs, and are a firm favourite on the festival circuit here and in Europe.

Fronted by Scot' Alan Nimmo on guitar and lead vocals, King King were formed in the wake of the celebrated Nimmo Brothers, which featured Alanâs bruv Stevie. They for me were always slightly in the shadows of The Hoax, but were stunning on stage all the same. (King King now managed by the same outfit who were behind The Hoax.)

So. Their difficult second album is here. Could it ever live up to all the hype and the furore surrounding 2011âs âTake My Hand,â and this bandâs fast track achievements of the last two years? A tough ask, for sure. Ten tracks. Eight co-written by Alan. A cover of âJealousyâ by Frankie Miller. A cover of Freeâs âHeavy Load, âpenned by Andy Fraser and Paul Rodgers. Produced by Alan and drummer Wayne Proctor - now part of the band, and you may know him from his days with young blues hot shot axe slinger Oli Brown, (now residing in Canada.)

King King are Alan Nimmo on vocals and guitar, Wayne Proctor on drums and percussion, Bennett Holland on keyboards and backing vocals and Lindsay Coulson on bass. This CD also features backing vocals from Mike and Elayne Forster and Liz and Egly Lucas.

Well, King King have a heap more soul than The Nimmo Brothers did, and Alanâs vocal has developed in leaps and bounds since those days. This album offers ultra classy soul blues with a core value that channels Free and Bad Company in parts. From the off, Alan Nimmo is in full control of the talent button and of the lever that notches up the emotion track by track. He knows when to sing sweetly and when to really go for it and use that back of the throat rasp. His vocals here are an even listen, and can sometimes make the difference between a decent song and a great song. Dare I say it ; he is world class. His guitar playing is definitely among the best in Britain, and the band deliver an understated but vital contribution to underpin Alanâs sublime talents. The material is versatile and overall pretty strong. There are a couple of corking commercial tunes here that could well have a chance to see them popped onto the Radio 2 daytime playlist, away from just guaranteed spins by King King fan Paul Jones at 7pm on a Monday night.

But this album owes its main strength to one thing: Alan Nimmoâs vocal. It really is that special. This Glaswegian blues rocker squeezes out every ounce of soul - as natural as breathing or wearing a kilt (he does so on stage and on the album cover, and no I am not asking him what he wears underneath!) But do not get me wrong; I am not saying itâs a solo record disguised as a band record and Alan is all that matters. Not at all. The band are the right guys and everyone does a great job, but his vocal really is unique for a British blues or rock band. Honestly.

On the production values: I like the fact the drums sound like drums and the guitars sound like guitars. A very live sound. Iâd have liked to have heard more of the organ and keyboards maybe. The vocal is crystal clear and obviously didnât need stacks of reverb or effect. The guitar cuts through nicely on all but one track, and his tone is spot on.

âMore Than I Can Take,â has a fine hook as the opener and is a relentless uptempo blues rocker. The slower âTaken Whatâs Mine,â is a lovely relaxed vocal but even the ballads and mids here have balls. âA Long History Of Love,â is an excellent song. The cover of âJealousyâ is a nice job. I can recall a night of hard drinking with Frankie Miller and Mr Rod Stewart in the late 1970s, after working a Blondeâs Have More Fun tour date as a photographer, and being invited out with those two repribates and a few other tour folk, as Frankie and his band were in the same hotel as the Stewart clan. Ouch my head!

âWhat Am I supposed To Do,â is another well crafted song. âOne More Time Around,â has that hard edged Hoax/Nimmo Brothers wall of sound to it. âCanât Keep from Trying,â is a Nimmo/Coulson co-write and sits on a bed of funky rhythm guitar. I love this track. A great vocal from Alan too. It has a poppy feel and could be a surprise summer radio fave. âComing Home (Rest Your Eyes)â is yet more skill on the songwriting side of things, with another fine vocal and a track Paul Carrack could cover and get airplay with Iâd bet.
Freeâs âHeavy Load,â is another example for me, of how much Alan admires Paul Rodgers as a singer. But he doesnât try to emulate Paulâs vocal phrasing, and lifts the words off the page so we believe he is carrying that heavy load. The closer, âLet Love In,â had an Andrew Strong vibe to the vocal. A good thing.

This album could so easily have been all about a retro sound, like so many British blues records these days. But this is very relevant to today and moves the blues on - very much King Kingâs own sound and style. The Hoax made a solid dent in the US market, and I think this album and this band could do as well over there. If this doesnât win the best British Blues CD of the Year in whatever year's BBA it is eligible for, Iâll wear Alan Nimmoâs kilt and nothing else on stage at those very awards as a single protest.
Words SIMON REDLEY

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