King’s X first came to my attention through an article in Kerrang, of which I was a regular reader, they certainly sounded intriguing. This was proven when I found a promo copy of their debut album ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’ in a local record store, well it was actually a tiny shop tucked in a very narrow street, Swordfish in Needless Alley in Birmingham City centre. Neither of these exist there now and have been replaced by another shopping mall. Swordfish relocated, as I discovered last year, and is still an interesting place to visit.
Back to King’s X , this set is a collection of their first six albums for Atlantic, ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’, ‘Gretchen Goes To Nebraska’, ‘Faith Hope Love’ , ‘King’s X’, ‘Dogman’ and ‘Ear Candy’, along with a whole slew of single versions and live tracks that complete the package. There is also a tasteful and informative booklet that gives more information about the band and the history surrounding these albums.
The music is, in the main, sensational, although I do feel that the band made a misstep with the overly grungy ‘Dogman’, an album that disappointed me greatly upon its release, time to see how I feel about it twenty-plus years later…
The debut and sophomore releases albums both sound excellent and prove that this group had value and that they could deliver live on stage, as was proven when I saw them at Nottingham Rock City in the early 1990’s. They were crafting a different sound, one in which melody and harmony were met with real crunch and power to make something special. The distinctly Beatles influence in the harmonies and voices made for a very unusual sound and one that really worked, along with the fiery and often psychedelic guitar of Ty Tabor and the solid whump of Doug Pinnick’s muscular bass driving the music forwards, this was a new style of rock, a very impressive one too! ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’ contained some great songs like Goldilox, which has great vocals and great guitar tones and solos. This was 1988, to be fair, but listening again thirty-four years on you can still sense the sheer brilliance and innovation the group offered the casual rock fan. Unsurprisingly the U.K. took them to their hearts and, whilst they may not have become huge, they certainly garnered much acclaim.
Even better was their sophomore album, ‘Gretchen Goes To Nebraska’, which carried the style further, marrying crunching guitar and multi-part harmonies in a truly exciting amalgam, as displayed on the blistering rocker Over My Head and the gorgeous Summerland, both of which had the magic combination. Also of note is the funky take Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something, which is another fiery performance. Over all of this you hear all sorts of influences, apart from the Beatles you can detect the funkiness of Sly Stone, Jimi Hendrix like guitar virtuosity and James Brown, to name but a few. There are also delicate acoustic parts like in The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne’s-On-The- Hill) that allow this band to make one of the outstanding albums of the late 80’s and one that still impresses today.
King’s X continued by making the third excellent album in three years with ‘Faith Hope Love’ in 1990. Opening with the strong, stirring We Are Finding Who We Are to kick things off in style. Doug Pinnick’s bass and vocal really drive this track along, the Beatlesesque It’s Love follows with its blend of vocal harmonies melded to a solid riff. I have to say this album has its moments but is not a strong as the previous two, maybe they were running out of ideas or the touring had taken its toll. Moanjam is still a great workout/jam for the band and things improve with I Can’t Help It, Talk To You. We Were Born To Be Loved and the nine minutes of Faith Hope Love with its spirituality clearly present. Whilst King’s X had christian faith, they wisely didn’t let that define them. These things are individual and personal, they recognised that and acted accordingly.
The next we heard from the band was their self-titled, fourth album which was another strong set of songs, although heavier and moving towards the grungy sound that they would explore more fully on the ‘Dogman’ album. This album brought changes, they split from long-time friend and manager Sam Taylor and opted to employ Brendan O’ Brien’s services as producer. He had previously produced albums for the likes of Pearl Jam and The Black Crowes and he bought a 90’s grunge rock sheen to the band. This the album on which I lost interest in the band as I didn’t feel their sound worked for me any longer. That was 1994, so nearly thirty years ago now, and, in retrospect, that was possibly a misjudgement on my part as upon rediscovering this album, it is far better than I recall. Whilst the sound may be more brutal and harsh, it still rocks strongly. In addition, much of what endeared me to those earlier albums is still present in places. The song Shoes, for example, rocks with a vengeance. In fact, overall, the album is a slow burn that sneaks up and overpowers you making a solid impression and I actually like it now.
The final album in this set is 1996’s ‘Ear Candy’, an album I completely ignored despite my friend Steve saying it was a good one. Well, surprise, surprise, he was right. Although it disappointed the critics, ‘Ear Candy’ is a great album full of psychedelic touches, strong songs and inspired tracks like opener The Train, that has more than a whiff of Enuff Z Enuff about it. A Box is anther fine song on offer here but, sadly, this album was to be their last for Atlantic after which they spent most of the next two decades on independent labels, releasing a lot of albums that sank without a trace until 2005 when they were signed to Inside Out (prior to that becoming part of Sony Music) and released the excellent ‘Ogre Tones’ and ‘XV’ albums and a live set. Recently they have released ‘Three Sides Of One’ which is a definite return to form.
King’s X continue still and, whilst much older now, they are still making good music that mixes psychedelic rock, some progressive elements and fabulous harmonies. This set is an excellent summation of their days with Atlantic as you will find much strong, vibrant music and is highly recommended, especially for fans of the band.
Released 10th April, 2023
Order from Cherry Red here:
King’s X: In The New Age – The Atlantic Recordings 1988-1995, 6CD Box Set – Cherry Red Records