King’s X – Dogman (1994)

In your face. That sums it up. Dogman – King’s X fifth album since 1988 – is a milestone for King’s X, leaving the more esoteric rock genre behind for a more groove oriented approach. And it pays off. Produced by Brendan O’Brien, this album is heavy with a capital H (title track Dogman, Black the Sky, Don’t Care). Sensitive with a gracious s (Flies and Blue Skies).
On Black the Sky and Pillow a proverbial guitar Wall of Sound is perfectly balanced. Yes, it´s heavy but in a tingling kind of way.
Ty tabor’s guitar playing is special as ever, Doug Pinnick’s bass is low as never before. On this record he seems to have misplaced his 8-string bass (four resonating ones). Oh no, I stand corrected, I think I hear it on Fool You. Gaskill’s drums sound great with a slightly gated snare. Although Jerry Gaskill is not the best drummer of the world, he is like Ringo to The Beatles.
What is consistent in the sound of King’s X throughout their career is the vocals and the vocal harmonies. It is a special thing, unique to King´s X: heavy rock but with Beatlesque vocals. One thing though, Ty Tabor doesn’t do lead vocals in this record, but leaves all to Pinnick who has a more raw and black gospel style. Apparently to give the King’s X sound more consistency because two lead singers could confuse the audience too much. Duh. On later albums Tabor returns as co-lead singer again.

Mike Keneally – Hat.

First heard of Mike Keneally on a radio show by Co de Kloet celebrating Frank Zappa’s music. It must have been around the 1988 FZ tour. This is his first full-blown cd, very eclectic, spontaneous. Maybe a musicians’ cd, but who cares. It definitely has a Mike Keneally feel to it already. It ranges from harmony vocal popsongs, heavy rock, experimental fooling around. Songs don’t have the standard lyrics: listen to The Car Song. References go back to the 70s (Eno and the Actor), and 80s (cf. XTC). Definitely one of my all time favorites.

The hat – if I’m correct – he received from a fan in the Netherlands during a Z tour. Just as the Beatles  got their hats (cf Help) from the 1964 canal tour in the Netherlands .

 

Mike Keneally and Beer for Dolphins – Sluggo! (1997)

Ah, this one is nice. Mike Keneally is one of my all-time favorites. There are some artists you always buy the next record of, regardless. This, again is a mix of catchy, yet quirky pop / rock song, and some reaaaaaaaally weird stuff.

Some say his guitar playing resembles Frank Zappa’s. Well, he has rough edges in his playing and he definitely likes to solo. Which here works great. He also plays the piano, which makes this album quite diverse. His voice, although not one of the best vocalists, is quite pleasing to hear. Many would say his music is particularly appreciated by musicians. That’s probably true, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

Some highlights: Why am I your guy?, Potato, Tranquilado. Two special songs are Chatfield Manor and Beautiful.

The band rocks. Some long time members such as Bryan Beller, Toss Panos and Joe Traver. But also Mike Mangini who payed with Steve Vai. Well, Keneally played with Steve Vai regularly…

 

Mick Karn – The Tooth Mother (1994)

The other day I listened to Mick Karn’s The Tooth Mother and realized that this type of music – he called it Feta Funk – will not be created any more. For two reasons this is a shame. Firstly, Mick Karn has died recently due to cancer. That, in it self is very sad. Secondly, the music was unique. Two important factors plays a role in this. One is Mick Karn’s exceptional bass playing. A self-taught bass player, making his name in the band Japan,  he ended up with a style that has no comparison and no following in the world. His sliding notes on the fret-less bass gave his style some ethnic edge. He also played the bass clarinet, which featured his music frequently. The other characteristic of his music wa the frequent participation by David Torn.

This CD is feta funky for sure. If CDs could smell this would smell gorgeous, like a Mediterranean dish. The opening track Thundergirl Mutation clearly presents what this music is about: funk, prominent bass, experimental guitar tracks. The second track -Plaster the Magic Tongue- introduces bass clarinet and vocals. The vocals are not that OK, to be honest.

But the best has yet to come. Well basically the rest of the tracks are very good, maybe a bit inaccessible. But hey, who said that listening to music should be easy?

 

 

King Crimson – Starless and Bible Black (1974)

This record is one of the few responsible for my enduring love for music. When I heard it for the first time, I was amazed this was even possible in music (I was about 14 years at that time). Especially the title track and Fracture are complex but so adventurous, and agressive. Trio, on side one of the record, is also a very beautiful piece of music: a very romantic improvisation by four musicians. From what I understand is that Bill Bruford decided not play, probably because he felt he couldn’t contribute something substantial to the improvisation. Still, he is rightfully so credited for it along with the other that did play along. The Nightwatch is yet another beautiful piece of work.

Robert Fripp  as always developed some intricate guitar parts and contributes some raw lines. John Wettons is responsible for Fender bass (using a plectrum) and vocals, which I like a lot. David Cross plays the violin, a contribution characterizing KC in that particular period. Bill Bruford has learned a lot from Jamie Miur (member at the time of Larks’ Tongues in Aspic) playing a lot of (tuned) percussion, as well as the drums.

It was years later that I found out – because KC didn’t mention it anywhere in the liner notes – the record was recorded at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, the Netherlands. Later, in 1997, the entire concert was released on the cd Nightwatch.