Glasgow rockers King King finally get to see their fifth studio album Maverick released on Friday 6th November 2020 via Channel 9 Music (King King’s new independent label). Delayed more than once because of Coronavirus, the 10-track album, released on CD, vinyl and various bundles, is available for pre-order from www.kingking.co.uk.
Maverick follows 2017’s critically acclaimed album Exile & Grace and includes the new line-up featuring Alan Nimmo (vocals/guitar), Stevie Nimmo (guitar), Jonny Dyke (organ/piano), Zander Greenshields (bass) and Andrew Scott (drums). The album was engineered and mixed by Liam McCluskey at Morsecode Studios in Glasgow.
It’s an important moment for King King, the band had developed real momentum back in 2018, having been saluted as “the best blues-rock band in the world” by Blues Rock Review on the evidence of Exile and Grace. The band was certainly not planning to rest on its laurels, they saw their work as far from complete, and toured extensively throughout that year and 2019, before beginning work on the new album, complete with new line-up that includes leader Alan’s brother Stevie. As I understand things, the album was basically ready at the start of 2020, with a promotional tour already lined up. As Alan says, “recording the new album with the new line-up has been a whole lot of fun and very interesting – It’s great watching the guys using the great talent they have bringing the songs to life.”
However, things change, and here we are, approaching the autumn. The second single from the album was released recently, and with the title Never Give In – it’s very apt!
And so to the music: All the songs bar one were co-written by all the band members, while all arrangements were co-written by Alan and keyboardist Jonny Dyke, and it’s clear that they all value that collective spirit. I’m not massively familiar with King King’s previous work but I get the feeling that this is a denser, smoother mix of sound, layering guitars and keyboards in nice fat slabs, possibly less bluesy than before? Alan’s voice is interesting, he reminds me hugely of Paul Carrack, and the band’s style of song-writing is compatible with that slightly 80s, almost AOR sound. I guess this is where Jonny Dyke’s influence is more noticeable. It’s also beautifully produced, with a classic simplicity and richness to the arrangements that also has echoes of Bob Seger, and Joe Bonnamassa’s band.
The opener Never Give In is the perfect choice for single, it’s a great, rousing, album starter, with great guitar chords and swirling organ. It’s followed by Fire In My Soul, which is heavily 80’s in style but with added blues ‘beefyness’. A bit of everything, led by smooth, strong vocals and huge chorus line, this will be massive live!
The pace and timbre gets turned down a few notches with Whatever It Takes To Survive, which is a slower quieter start before another big chorus. Alan’s vocals on the verses here are SO Paul Carrack – and I really do mean that as a compliment, PC having a voice like honey! It’s made all the more powerful by the chorus being lower, revealing a deeper strength to Alan’s voice. A superb guitar solo (Alan or Stevie?) brings this song to a soaring conclusion, great stuff all round, probably my favourite track on the album.
I Will Not Fall is led by a fine, funky, bubbling keyboard riff, with smooth vocal harmonies then another ringing guitar solo. Its impeccably arranged and produced, the overall feel is of some of the great, polished, mid-West American bands. By Your Side is another slower love song, with the piano in the forefront a la Bob Seger. This is the one to wave your lighters to!
One World has another funky keyboards lead, it’s nicely produced but I think Alan struggles with his voice here, its a bit strained. Everything Will Be Alright follows, it isn’t a bad mid-tempo track but I do find the lyrics VERY cheesy, there are so many over-used ‘catchphrases’ (I can’t think of the right term) but I can’t help thinking the whole song is a deliberate exercise in cheesiness! “Believe in me, Hold on, We can take our chances, I can take you higher” etc! The cheese-o-meter just crashed!
When My Winter Comes takes the tempo down again, a singer-songwriter bluesy piano-led track. It just goes to show that Alan is a master of several styles, he’s basically solo on this apart from Jonny on the ivories. Dance Together takes things back up again, Bob Seger style, classic blues-boogey, the band are clearly loving playing this one! End Of The Line then brings the album to an end, it’s a return to that smooth, big-band sound that you might hear from Paul Carrack. But it’s topped by some quite beautiful guitar work.
Sorry to keep harping about PC, but the vocal comparisons are obvious – and very complimentary for King King as a band and for Alan as a singer.
The result is a collection of songs that is perhaps more mature and more complex than their previous records, but it also has the simplicity of catchy songs that people will want to sing along with. The energy and essence of King King is still very much there, married to a smooth production that echoes the 1980s with the very highest standards of musicianship.
From what I’d previously heard from this band, I was expecting more of an outright blues sound, but I was very agreeably surprised by the maturity of the overall sound, it simply shows this band are capable of many things!
I really like this album, despite the occasional lyrical cheesiness!
King King are also well known for their storming live performances, and they are no doubt rearing to go in support of Maverick.
The poster on the left shows the revised dates for the band’s 2021 tour – should be a lot of fun!
King King’s new album Maverick is released by Channel 9 Music on Friday 6th November. The CD and bundles are available for pre-order from www.kingking.co.uk.