It doesn’t seem credible that King’s X – aka one of the most underrated rock bands ever, aka leading inspirations to Pearl Jam and every other group who used drop-D guitar tuning post-1990 – are only releasing a live album now, nearly a quarter of a century after first forming, and 16+ years after their debut studio album, the seminal Out Of The Silent Planet.
After all, anyone who has seen a King’s X show knows that the Texan trio’s three-hour live extravaganza is an opportunity for music lovers to simultaneously marvel at songwriting ability par excellence and musicianship of the “how do they do that?” variety.
Given that this is the case, to be honest it’s a tad disappointing that Live All Over The Place doesn’t come with a DVD in order to visually document this six-legged, Texan groove machine whose members seem to have an almost telepathic, mutual musical understanding.
Still, I guess marketing never was King’s X’s forte and it’s not as if the two CDs on offer here aren’t bulging with gold nuggets. The likes of Dogman and Complain are rhythmic, heavy, soulful and still able to send shivers down your spine more than a decade after their birth.
A cover of Jimi Hendrix‘s Manic Depression and King’s X’s own, self-descriptive Little Bit Of Soul, meanwhile, serve as perfect reminders that King’s X were trailblazers in other ways too, namely by being one of the first heavy rock groups with a black lead singer. Does such a thing matter? Well, to the extent that a King’s X gig has a much more mixed audience than that of most heavy bands, yes. And from a purely musical perspective, there’s no questioning that Doug Pinnick’s voice has an emotive strain that adds something special.
One of the traits that always marked out King’s X was their use of expansive melodic passages and Beatles-type harmonies where all three members would unite their voices to angelic effect – a pretty radical concept in the world of hard rock. Disc B is where these subtle qualities are brought to the fore, and to these ears is what makes this package a worthy investment.
Mississippi Moon has guitarist Ty Tabor leading in fine, sweet voice, while Goldilox, Summerland and Cigarettes are simply beautiful, featuring gorgeous, delicate guitar tones and in the case of the latter, poignant lyrics from the viewpoint of someone who is terminally ill (“Have you gotten any cigarettes? Have you got anything for me? I no longer know just what I’m saying. Is this how it’s supposed to be?”).
The album finishes with a rocking, supercharged version of We Were Born To Be Loved from 1990′s classic Faith, Hope And Love album, before the improvised live favourite Moan Jam, and a bonus acoustic version of the spiritual Over My Head. The ever-fervent crowd cheers and the band leaves the stage, presumably to go back to a parallel universe where they aren’t one of the most loved rock groups around. The real world doesn’t know what it’s missing…