King King's second long player picks up where their first left off, and Alan Nimmo goes bold by covering such legends as Frankie Miller (who's Jealousy is the album's first single), and Paul Rodgers, (by way of Free on Heavy Load, from the band's classic 1970 release, Fire and Water) - and he totally pulls it off in grand fashion. Standing In The Shadows covers a lot of bases, and its gorgeous mix of soul, blues, and classic rock makes this one of the best records I've heard this year. This is another one of those records that I consider to be not unlike a greatest hits album by an act I had somehow missed along the way.
There's not many records that I write about these days in which I can state that I like the vocals as well, if not better than the guitars. Alan Nimmo? Now, let me just say - the guy is a killer, killer guitar player. It's taken me two weeks to get this review written, because I can't help but at some point pick up a guitar and start playing myself, and that's one step higher than dancing for me. But, I digress - Nimmo takes on some legends here, and he does them proud. He has tone, phrasing, and just a damned good voice fin which to listen. He's powerful, and his vibrato is velvet and honey. A great singer.
Wayne Proctor brings not just some seriously swinging drum chops, but also his fine ears and skills as co-producer on this, and I thank him not just for the cool stickwork, but also for placing it perfectly in a superb mix. Any time a guy can separate a bass, Hammond organ, and kick drum this well, I consider him a friend, and myself a fan. This record sounds great - it is a joy to listen to sonically speaking, great performances aside.
More Than I Can Take sounds like it might be a straight blues riff until the band comes in swinging and then when Nimmo's vocal comes in, it's straight soulshine. These guys groove, and they groove hard. They play like grown men, not needing to fill every space possible, no, this stuff breathes. Nimmo takes a two part guitar solo, and when he kicks on the wah pedal for the second half, the whole thing takes off to the stratosphere. Bennett Holland's organ playing is well up in the mix, and bassist Lindsay Coulson (who co-writes with Nimmo) is rock steady.
Nimmo evokes the legacy of the classic Brit blues rock shouter across the whole of the album, and nowhere better than on Taken What's Mine - it's a well written mid-tempo piece that seems familiar upon first listening. You may know where it's going, but it's a hell of a great trip. Nimmo kicks in some power chords on the ending, and solos over it in a way that reminds me that guitar solos are supposed to build, they are supposed to have a beginning, a middle, and an end.
Three songs in and they keep getting better - A Long History Of Love is a gorgeous soul song that takes you to the church of heartache, heartbreak, and the hope of redemption and reconciliation. This is one of those songs that you hear, and you wonder how someone hadn't already written it. Dynamics figure big on this record - the fellows slow down magnificently, and when they build, they soar. Listening to the band build up to the guitar solo gives me goosebumps - they do exactly, exactly what they are supposed to do - they make Nimmo play better, and you hear it in his bends, which are some of the coolest I've heard in recent years. Great stuff. Proctor's drums are a wonder on this one, listen close.
Frankie Miller is one of the greatest singer/songwriters that ever lived. He was singing his life, he wasn't sitting around trying to write a hit, though he wrote a few, and the track that Nimmo tackles is Jealousy, one of Frankie's best. Nimmo knocks it out of the park - when he sings the chorus, surrounded by some very nice harmonized guitar parts, he owns it. At 1:50 into the track, he hits the best guitar note on the album, and maybe of the year - it's a single note D at the 5th fret, and Nimmo squeezes it at tightly as a lover for the next sixteen seconds, before turning it into a crushing power chord that announces another chorus. Another blazing solo follows and Alan isn't a chops heavy player, but what he plays is exactly what should be played. Frankie would so dig this.
Bennett Holland tinkles some nice electric piano to ring in What Am I Supposed To Do, on which Coulson plays some very cool percolating bass as Nimmo unwinds another tale. Throughout the song that electric piano keeps showing up and filling the spaces with some seventies magic - a great touch. When he gets a solo it's a joy. A stone cold groove, my man.
Big rock's next on the menu, and Proctor makes an unholy racket that makes you think he means it - I've long since given up on exciting drum performances in general, but it's good to get smacked by the evidence that it's still out there, there are still great drummers playing great drums. One More Time Around isn't the record's strongest track, but it rocks and probably plays out better on stage.
Nimmo shows off his clean rhythm chops on Can't Keep From Trying, and it's a strutting number that reveals some serious soul chops all around. The drum fills and intros are masterful, more Wrecking Crew than 2013, and everyone plays so well that the whole thing is over before you know it, and too soon.
Coming Home (Rest Your Eyes) wouldn't sound out of place on a Squeeze box set - another trick up there sleeve, and another rhythm mastered. A more song-centered time is evoked. Nimmo sings his ass off again, and he gets the concept that as a song goes along, you build it, create some drama. Is it my imagination, or are things getting more musical again? Again and again, this record reminds me of music's more noble traits.
The snare drum build that introduces Heavy Load ought to win Proctor a Grammy Award. I'm guessing that he knows that if you're going to do a Free song, you'd damned well better approach it with gravitas. It's not a task for the timid, and these guys brilliantly own it. Going into the solo, Nimmo pauses, and I can't help but wondering if he's not wondering about Paul Kossoff - his solo is very respectful, and he brings his own voice to it nicely. He doesn't try to do some silly fast runs, or anything out of context to the proceedings, he plays for the song. If you didn't know who Free was, it wouldn't matter, and you'd just think this was another great number by another great band. Nice work - damned nice work.
Let Love In is a strong toe tapper, but I'm left feeling that it may have been mis-sequenced - it's a cool tune, but following what just came before asks too much. This will have you missing the quasi calypso swing of Robert Palmer. Hell, it's well written, well played, and contains another nimble Nimmo solo, so what am I bitching about. The more I hear it, I think this song could have clocked Heavy Load if they had kicked it off with the chorus - the beginning of the song isn't powerful enough, but if you go to the 2:50 mark and hear that as the beginning, it would be huge. Then again, I could be full of shit.
What I do know is that I've been digging this record for a while now, and it is to be released in America on June 18th on Manhaton Records - I understand it's in the top twenty in Europe, and I'm hoping that this thing catches on in the States and we get to see this bunch play live.
Great music is being made, and while it may be harder to find than it was in years past, it's worth the search. Your life will be better with the inclusion of King King.