A maverick is usually defined as someone who goes against the flow of mainstream herd mentality. It derives from those unbranded cattle cowboys believed they had a right to take for themselves.
Over the last year or so one gets the impression that King King feel they’ve been taken advantage of once too often by others so more than ever are striking for independence.
Management, record label and US agency deals are one thing, what amounts to practically a complete overall in line-up since their last full-length release is another thing.
It sure as hell wasn’t a question of musical talent that’s resulted in this changing of the guard. Personalities perhaps? My bet lies partly with that US connection; if the plan is to spend more time across the Atlantic and you’ve a life that’s settled here; possibly with family, you might prefer that option, however hard the choice. I don’t know, and could be wrong. Of course, for many, this is superfluous as King King’s figurehead remains lead vocalist, guitarist and principal songwriter Alan Nimmo.
Mining similar early territory as the band that percussed them, The Nimmo Brothers, King King has evolved over the years. From blues rock roots they adapted a more classic rock approach, drawing from the natural timbre of Nimmo’s voice where comparisons with Paul Rogers and Frankie Miller have been made. They’ve also dipped their toes into a harder rock sound that’s come in handy when tour guests to larger acts. Throughout, even as the line-up itself changed, there’s been an overall identifying spirit to their collective sound.
Opening with the statement that is ‘Never Give In’ it grinds and stirs like Running With The Pack-era Bad Company, and tends to be the band’s default comparison. For this one you could easily imagine the younger Rogers of yesteryear spitting out these lyrics, though they feel personal, and his have always been more observational, even when sung in the first person.
Thus, Nimmo, and his brother Stevie, who co-wrote the lyrics and supplies backing vocals, relate the personal challenges, and by extension the band, has faced and where they stand now emotionally. In effect the lyrics solidify the band’s emotional essence, while the music is loud and proud; near the end it shifts up a gear and the listener holds-out to hear where it’s heading only to fade, and we might have to wait for such invites of delight live.
Perhaps it’s only in hindsight that one notices a musical change brewing from the next number on. Another co-write ‘Fire In My Soul’ is mid-paced rock with a little soul number with mellow use of keyboards that leads into a brief passionate guitar solo. Slowing down further, ‘Whatever It Takes To Survive’ sings the blues while keeping its soul near. Once more we’re treated to an emotive guitar solo, borne of a harmony duet one, and as we will find throughout, on record they’re tending to be well-crafted and not outstaying their welcome.
Then, with ‘I Will Not Fall’ the penny drops. We’re so far into an old school R ‘n B sound here, there are moments it feels like early 70s disco. Catchy it certainly is. Later we’ll get ‘One World’ that treads similar water before developing into something more akin to classic Robin Trower.
It’s not so much the notes they play but the way they deliver their groove that here we instinctively feel the rhythm section’s different. Is it slicker, more session like though? I’m not sure. Undoubtedly keyboard player Jonny Dyke makes his presence felt on this album, both in terms of song arrangements and a mellower percolating approach in his more supportive playing. That he has previously worked in such roles with the likes of Elkie Brooks isn’t surprising hearing the number ‘Everything Will Be Alright’ and his input to the pretty soul of ‘By Your Side’ where it is practically just piano and voice for a large section of it could prove to be a live highlight – There are lyrics waiting for audiences to make their own. The tune itself changes, Stevie Nimmo’s backing is more distinctive, and as the band calmly enter the picture it allows Alan to climb ever upwards in riffing solo.
The reflective ‘When My Winter Comes’ is piano based gospel, with a chord sequence not unlike Dobie Gray’s ‘Drift Away’ but slower. A song that looks back on how age will affect you and if you’ve made the right choices. An interesting nuance, as so many of the others imply one’s roots are where values are formed, recent times to be deplored but determination, if not a healthy ambition, are where the future lies. Fair enough, but if there’s bitterness, it needs to be left to one side here to move on.
For some these subtle or not style changes might not be what they want. More seasoned vets have suggested to me that the soul inflections have this being The Nimmo Brothers in all but name, after all new bass player Zander Greenshields served time with them too. The album concludes with ‘End Of The Line’ though I very much doubt it is, despite its soulful funk calypso groove possibly being a step too far for dyed in the wool old blues rock fans.
Personally, I like most of the tracks a lot, but then I don’t think King King could produce a bad tune if they tried. Yes, the lyrics, one after another, can be a little too earnest and the guitar solos while invigorating should stick around a few bars longer.
So, Maverick, King King with added soul. It may be just what we need in these uncharted times we find ourselves in. However, if you really need an anthem to get you through the day, try ‘Dance Together’ where King King give you all you’ve come to expect from them reconditioned with a solid groove.
This review comes in advance of the album being released and in fact the date for Maverick has been put back until Friday 27 November. In a statement from the band they announced that: “It is with a heavy heart that we as King King, have to let you know we have had a slight issue in regards to the artwork for the album which means that it has had to be recalled in order for this to be fixed.
“We have worked so hard on this record and we feel that you guys deserve the absolute best quality from all aspects of production that we are able to give you so…in simple terms it means now – especially with new restrictions imposed on all industries a few more weeks is needed to deliver the album to you.
“We understand that you guys have been waiting patiently to have the new album in your hands and we know this delay will be frustrating but if we can ask you to hang in there just a little longer, it will be worth the wait.
“We feel we have the best fans in the world and hope you will understand that this is disappointing and frustrating for us too but, we promise you the best album we have ever made. Take care and be safe from all at team King King!”
However, for those who can’t wait, King King release their third single ‘Dance Together (RadioEdit)’ on Friday 6 November. It will be sent as instant gratis track to everybody who pre-ordered the album.
If you’ve not done so already King King – Maverick will be released on CD, vinyl and in various bundles through Channel 9 Music and is available by clicking here.