Friday, May 28, 2010

Kings Go Forth- The Outsiders Are Back

What makes R&B sound authentic? Good question. There is a whole crop of newish musicians who are staking a claim on the legacy front; Sharon Jones, Raphael Saadiq, Ryan Shaw etc. have all made credible stabs at producing modern R&B that sounds like the stuff from the 60’s and 70’s. Some get it better than others. David Byrne’s Luaka Bop label has offered up a band called Kings Go Forth who really get it. As I listened to their debut album, The Outsiders Are Back I was stunned by the very real sounding R&B emanating from the speakers. There were Stax style horn arrangements, Gamble and Huff-like productions with strings and soaring vocal choruses, and a searing energy on every track. The more I listened the more I was able to pick out what made this group different. Aside from the familiar style of songwriting and strong arrangements, the production of Kings Go Forth is truly special. Whoever engineered this album deserves some credit because the thing that makes this album so special is the way the drums and vocals are recorded. Unlike most modern recordings, the keyboards and guitars are buried deep in the mix, and the drums, which are simple and straightforward, just explode. At times they almost seem on the verge of being over-recorded, but then they carry the tune to a new level and you realize it is just right. Slapping, whacking, thumping and bumping, it is real muscle, holding real sticks and kicking out real jams. There is no whiff of electronic pads or processed beats. Similarly the vocals are real and in your face. Nothing has been pitch corrected or sweetened up. It really sounds like a group of people giving it their all - straining at times, but belting it out with guts and feeling.

I had this CD in my car for the last week and I would just let it run. Everytime I would get in the car, The Outsiders Are Back would pick up where I left off. Each time I would have a moment of “Who or what is this?” Each time I would think it was something different - world, reggae, gospel - it was just a wash of soulful sound coming from the stereo. My inclination was never to turn it off, but to turn it up. Kings Go Forth manage to take elements of all the music they love and grind it into a mighty tasty R&B sausage. It has the ring of old school, but they are clearly sophisticated modern listeners who are able to integrate all modern music into their purist soul vision. -- Paul Epstein

No comments: