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December 2004 Pick of the Month

Live All Over the Place
Artist: King’s X
Label: Metal Blade
Length: 25 tracks (2 discs), 132.45 minutes

Twenty-four years, ten studio albums, and hundreds of acclaimed live performances would have yielded several official releases by other bands at this stage of their career. For die-hard King’s X fans, it’s certainly something we have been hoping, sometimes pleading, for. (Cue my standard whine about never seeing this band live due to my antipodean location!) 

With the long wait now rewarded by this double album, I am left speechless by what is a planet-sized gift to the faithful fan base. 

With songs spanning their entire career, these live renditions have been hand picked from what sound like small club shows on very recent tours. (Interestingly, there is no list of concert dates referenced against the tracks.) As such, they must be the cream of the crop. Every song surpasses its original studio recording with exponentially increased passion. With stunning improvisation and extended solos, recorded with crispness, depth and clarity this double album is nothing less than a brilliant career in nutshell. 

I mean, really … eight-minute versions of “Over My Head” and “Cigarettes,” a nine-minute version of “Moan Jam,” the cover of Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” with a guest appearance from Pearl Jam’s bassist Jeff Ament, and a glorious seven song acoustic set … there is nothing about this album which disappoints. The band sounds pumped, energized, and devastatingly tight throughout, with the few wrong notes or chords creating no distraction. Beyond the music, they have packaged the album beautifully. The cover image is striking, notably with the return to the traditional band logo, and the CD booklet looks great, with some superb live action shots of the band, on stage and behind the scenes.

One could perhaps quibble the song selection. Featuring songs from almost every album since 1988’s Out of the Silent Planet, there is sadly – and surprisingly – nothing from either their fourth and most successful self titled album, or the avant-garde Please Come Home Mr Bulbous from 2000. For the most part, it is the standards and the crowd-pleasers; “Groove Machine,” “Dogman,” “Visions,” “We Were Born to Be Loved,” “Goldilox,” etc.. That’s certainly enough to satisfy. If only there was room for a third disc!

Notable too is the lucid, rhymed ‘preaching’ from Doug in the improvised breaks of several songs. King’s X have never been a political band, but in “Believe” he takes very direct aim at religion, the media, and the current state of the American mind. Other interludes take shots at the Christian music scene, which ultimately betrayed Doug and those who tried to put his God in a box. Be warned, Doug’s not afraid to be himself anymore and spout explicit language to make his point. Squeamish Christians may balk at some of the language and concepts that slip in between the verses. My advice; get over it. 

Now that an official live release is a reality, I now know why this band is so great. It can be summed up in one word; honesty. There is a distinct lack of pretension in their music, lyrics, and their execution. At no point in their career have I ever thought that King’s X had sold-out. I might have been surprised at their choice of direction on several albums. Indeed, my words from my last, somewhat unflattering review of King’s X’s last album on this site did note that “There are many things a band that has achieved legendary status can do to avoid facing up to the fact that they have run out of good, new musical ideas. They can release live albums, covers albums, a second best-of collection, or as in the case of _Black Like Sunday_, re-recording ‘songs from the vault’ (that is, rehashing old material).” 

Looking back on that negative assessment of King’s X’s recent studio work in the light of this new release, I realize that to love the music of King’s X means having a willingness to embrace mystery. They have always been an oddity in the music industry; often acclaimed, but never quite cracking the big time. In the end however, King’s X might be fallible, but they are never dishonest. They do, as Pinnick affirms throughout this CD, believe in themselves and follow through. 

This is also not to diminish the grand work that Live All Over the Place is. It is a milestone, a celebration of all that the band has achieved musically over the last two decades. The band sounds stronger and more resolute than ever. With the side projects flowing thick and fast from all three members (Gaskill’s solo effort, The Jelly Jam, Poundhound and other Pinnick collaborations) one can only look forward to another 24 years of rock’n’roll genius from the one band at heart of this holy trinity from Texas. 

Thanks guys. Again, with love from a devoted fan. 

Brendan Boughen 11/15/2004

In the twenty-four years that King’s X has been together, they have seen all sides of the music business and its peaks and valleys.  Signed originally to an unknown label (Megaforce) after years of performing with CCM bands, King’ s X’s blend of Beatle-like harmonies, Rush style musical tour de forces, and Sly & the Family Stone-like funk, quickly resonated with the music intelligentsia.  After moving on to Atlantic Records, the band saw some success, with videos for “Black Flag” and “It’s Love” all over MTV. Appearances on Headbanger’s Ball and various late night talk shows only served to fuel the band’s drive, and led to opening slots for Cheap Trick, AC/DC, Pearl Jam, Motley Crue, and several others.  Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, Collective Soul, as well as a plethora of other bands have cited them as influential.  VH1 named them to their Top 100 Hard Rock Artists of All Time, based mostly on the testimony of their peers (Scott Ian of Anthrax and Vernon Reid of Living Colour are ardent admirers).

Now after a slow decline in sales and little publicity over the last ten years, King’s X have released the live album their fans have been asking for for years.  But it is not the typical live album ­ the twenty-tracks have been selected from various tours and venues, leading to the title "Live All Over the Place."  As a collector of King’s X bootlegs, I know that a majority of these tracks have been culled from the last two or three tours, particularly the entire acoustic set on disc two.  Overall, though,  the set comes across like a King’s X live show, with all glitches left intact, and the raw emotional passion of Doug Pinnick’s vocals.

Ty Tabor’s guitar work on tracks such as “Visions” and “Cigarettes” show why may feel he is the most underrated guitarist of the last twenty years. Jerry Gaskill (drums) is the most reliable of the trio, never missing a beat, a cymbal, or a vocal lead in.  Doug Pinnick (bass) sets the standard for drop-D bass tuning that dominated the grunge and metal scene since the early '90’s.

My only complaints with this set are as follows: there is nothing here from the Please Come Home Mr. Bulbous album, lending further credence to fan criticism that Tabor has done very few lead vocals on the last few tours. Also, with the myriad of live King’s X shows to choose from, there are certainly better versions of several of these songs available.  These are a small price to pay, though, for the brilliance of seeing and hearing this band perform live (as I have done on fifteen occasion).

“We Were Born to be Loved” and “Moanjam,” longtime concert standards, round out the second disc, and are as good as any live track by any band I have ever heard.  Fan favorites “Dogman,” “Summerland,” “Goldilox,” and “Talk to You” are here as well.

It is difficult to sum up how this band has affected the lives of its fans since the late '80’s. Live All Over the Place gives a glimpse of a band that still plays their hearts out, whether in front of 100 people or 5000.  And really, what else could you ask for?

Brian A. Smith
21 November 2004

I tend to judge live albums using three criteria.  Does it have something for fans of the band?  Does it have something for people who are not already fans of the band?  Does it capture the unique feel of the band in concert?

It’s usually difficult to achieve all three, but this long-awaited album by King’s X accomplishes the task.  The fact that there is a King’s X live album at all is worth a few bonus points.  Considering the terms on which band members Doug Pinnick (lead vocals, bass), Ty Tabor (guitar,vocals) and Jerry Gaskill (drums, vocals) parted with their first label, Atlantic, and manager, Sam Taylor, it was once a foregone conclusion that a live album encompassing their entire career would never happen.  Apparently someone got them all to the table because the CD is out.

Hardcore fans like myself have always had access to dozens of concert bootlegs.  Live All Over the Place assembles and masters some of the best recordings while still giving the collection the plausibility of being the fruit of a single concert.  We are also treated to live performances of four of the best tracks off their newest album, Black Like Sunday, a cover of Jimi Hendrix’s “Manic Depression” with Pearl Jam’s Jeff Ament, and a rare acoustic set.

If you’re not their biggest fan, they’ve got something for you too.  They have plenty of new material since their Best Of… album so this isn’t just a live rehash.  But they still give you their most popular live songs and enough to make your mouth water to see them in person.

Having seen the band live about ten times, I can say this album is the next best thing.  It captures King’s X’s live energy and thickness.  This especially benefits songs from their earlier albums, which had the advantage of manager Sam Taylor’s progressive influence but the disadvantage, in some people’s opinion, of his tendency to “overproduce.”  I also enjoy the “flaws and all” approach they took with this collection.  With all of Pinnick’s vocal improvisations, he’s bound to miss a few notes now and then.  They’re in here too.  And it shows he’s human and captures how the band identifies personally with its fans, even when we do tend to view them as minor deities.

Live All Over the Place is a pretty representative sample of the band’s set selection.  It begins with “Groove Machine” and “Dogman.”  You’re pretty much guaranteed of hearing one or both of those in the lead-off position at a concert, with an outside chance of “Train” which doesn’t make it on to this collection.  While “Believe” and “A Little Bit of Soul” are some of their weaker songs in my opinion, they are also live staples, and this album gives us some good versions.

Pinnick gives us a little preaching in “Believe,” and later in “A Box.”  The man has already been so psychoanalyzed in magazines and newsgroups that I’m not even going to go there.  It suffices to say that I and probably most Tollbooth readers are not going to agree with everything he says, but I still believe his heart is in the right place—his criticisms are usually valid even if he misidentifies “religion” as the culprit.

“Mr. Evil” is possibly my least favorite King’s X song, but the acoustic live version they give us here is refreshing.  As they do in concert, they also throw in a few curve balls, some in the acoustic set followed by “Talk to You” and, from their first album, “Visions.”  They round the album out with perennial closers, an extended “Cigarettes,” “Summerland,” “We Were Born to Be Loved,” and an extended “Moanjam.”  And, yes, we get not one, but two versions of “Over My Head.”

We can argue all day over song selection, especially the omission of any tracks from _Please Come Home...Mr. Bulbous_, which I rank as one of the top five albums of the past five years.  But it’s easier to just trade for the live bootleg of the song you think should have made it—-after, of course, you go out and purchase this must-have collection.

Dan Singleton  12/11/2004


 
 
 

 

   
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