Must Have CD's

by Donn Swaby



As the title suggests, this is the progressive rock trio's fifteenth studio release, including two Best Of compilations and one double disc live offering. King's X has always been a band of contradictions; they have been hailed by many mainstream, more well known musicians (i.e.: members of Pearl Jam, Living Colour, Anthrax, Alice in Chains) as not only a major influence, but simply one of the best American rock bands ever (they were honored in the number 83 spot in VH 1's 100 Greatest Hard Rock Artists several years back) and yet, perpetually find themselves eluded by major, mainstream success. They were heartily embraced by Christian rock radio circuit even though they themselves did not claim to ever be a Christian rock band and then were “Dixie Chick-ed” when the lead singer came out publicly as a homosexual. They remain relatively obscure and yet were chosen to start off the 1994 Woodstock Festival, giving what some called one of the night's best performances. Through all the ups and downs of a cut throat, amazingly fickle music business, King's X has still to this day remained true to themselves while continuing to explore in their music who they are as artists and as human beings.

For those unfamiliar with these unsung legends of American Rock royalty, VX will certainly highlight what has become, even as it continues to evolve, the classic King's X sound: crisp, Beatle-esque harmonies, amazingly tight musicianship, off-beat time signatures, soul-searching, introspective lyrics, and a mixture of flavors ranging from soul to groove rock to jazz to gospel.

The guys create musical magic with a variety of songs at various tempos and tones. On up-tempo, high voltage songs like Pray , Move, Go Tell Somebody , and Rocket Ship, Alright , they keep the positivity and good vibes flowing. The riffs are catchy (as always) and unlike many songs from the past, the backing vocals have a decidedly more “big group of people in the sound booth singing at once” feel as opposed to the delicately layered harmonies we usually hear. Lead singer and bassist Dug Pinnick goes to church on the lead vocals, wailing away with all the gut-wrenching soul he can muster.

One thing “missing” from this particular CD, is the technical virtuosity heard in the typical Ty tabor guitar solo. He simply isn't ripping here as he has done in the past; There are a few songs where it even sounded like a set-up to fret-burning solo, only to settle for sparse, yet equally effective phrasings that still in no way detract from King's X famous (to their fans) “wall of sound.”

After fifteen albums and over twenty years of playing together, the only thing more wonderful than a new King's X CD is the chance to see them jam out live, as they truly shine on stage. As a long time fan who has also been heavily influenced musically and personally by them, it's what I look forward to with each studio release. For me, going to see King's X is like goin' to church.




Cyndi Lauper, the original 80's odd girl is back with a new CD titled bring Ya to the Brink, a mixed bag of upbeat techno, disco, neo-soul, and a few ballad pop tunes reminiscent of the some of Lauper‘s best stuff from back in the day.

Giving other pop-dance club divas like Kylie Minogue and Fergie a run for their money, Lauper breathily delivers uber-sexy vocals over high energy, hypnotic, synth-laden techno beats on songs like Livin' High and Mighty, Into the Nightlife , Raging Storm, Lay Me Down , Same Ol' Story , and Give It Up. In the seduction song , Rocking Chair, Lauper has fun with the song's title's euphemistic meaning while she rhythmically pants for a few bars in the break. In the title track, Lauper brings on the soul a la Eryka Badu over a cool, mid-tempo hip-hop beat, even doing a psudo-rap in the break. The fast tempo disco tune, Set Your Heart , shows Lauper offering a friend positive attitude advice in line with The Secret: “…said you can't say much about today, just a dark cloud comin' back your way… better stop all that talk before it starts happening”

Then there are the songs that prove to be pleasant throwbacks to the familiar pop-synth hits of the by-gone era of spandex, mile-high, over-sprayed hair, and neon colored… well, everything. In Grab a Hold , Lauper shares knowledge of wisdom found within paradox: “…If you wanna grab a hold, let it go.” In Rain On Me , she achieves a sense of catharsis with deeply introspective lyrics: “…All the time I had it all, it's just I couldn't see.” In the tragically beautiful song Can't Breathe, Lauper slows things down quite a bit. Over a sparse, yet powerfully effective musical arrangement, she bares her soul, revealing raw, emotional honesty: “…I'm bursting apart at the seems of whatever I hoped it would be… when heart is what you can't give but you just did… and words are too big for my head, some words that should never be said, and it‘s hard to let go” This is by far my favorite song. Yes, it reminds me somewhat of her classic ‘80's hit, True Colors, but in all the best ways. Far from repeating herself, Lauper has continued to musically expand her horizons and reinvent herself in the process, all while remaining true to her own beating heart.


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© Melt Magazine 2007