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Introducing: Kings Go Forth

May 8, 2010

Well howdy young ‘uns!  Welcome back to Brown Tweed Manor, where music wafts over your eardrums all the live long day.  For a pop-culture blog, we’ve been rather music-centric here lately, from Jay’s amazing exploration of Big Mamma Thornton through Matt’s inexplicable Juggalo fetish to Lloyd’s moving National review.  So what could I do except my dangdest to try to live up to such lofty examples?  And kids, that’s what I’ve done.  Today I bring you a band that can easily hold their own with such esteemed company, hands down my FAVORITE band this minute, Mlwaukee soul conglomerate Kings Go Forth.

Named after the 1958 Frank Sinatra-Tony Curtis WWII flick, KGF is the brain child of Milwaukee record store owner and bass player Andy Noble, long time soul vocalist Black Wolf, and 8 other Milwaukee soul stalwarts.  Although it would be easy (and not altogether inappropriate) to place KGF on the soul-revivalist timeline that moves from Amy Winehouse to Sharon Jones to Lee Fields, this 10-piece stands out from the crowd.  To me, their primary virtue is their versatility, which has been displayed on a steady release of 7″ records since 2007, all of which have now been compiled onto the funktastic April release, The Outsiders Are Back.

Outsiders starts out with the rollicking soul revue “One Day”, during which I can imagine hearing James Brown and B.B. King all in the same song.  The band breaks out some guitar effects and sweet backing harmonies on the next track “I Don’t Love You No More”.  It’s here that I realized KGF was taking things farther than many in the neo-soul world were either willing or able to go.  The dual percussion of Jeremy Kuzniar and Cecilio Negron, Jr. are in full effect on “I Don’t Love You No More” and demonstrate what really sets KGF apart in my mind.  Don’t misunderstand, I love the Dap Kings, but they simply can’t boast a rhythm section as flexible as these dudes.

“Fight With Love” takes the album to an even higher level by slowing down the groove and putting in some wicked horn work in the first third, which is reminiscent of Blitz the Ambassador’s masterful “Remembering the Future.”  In fact, hearing this tune got me dreaming of a Blitz/Kings Go Forth live team up that would simply blow up Brooklyn if it happened.  Blitz are you listening?  Once again, Noble’s groove anchors the next track, “High on Your Love”, while horns and harmonies soar above the rhythm.  KGF displays an unparalleled ability to pay homage to their soul and funk roots without coming across as either derivitave or campy.  It’s obvious that they are steeped in tradition but yet still are able to create new sounds and textures.

KGF has attracted their fair share of admirers also, including David Byrne, whose Luaka Bop records released Outsiders; imaginary soul legend Mingering Mike, who created the cover art; and creator of the remix and the breakdown Tom Moulton, whose “Across 110th St.”-style remix of “Don’t Take My Shadow” is my favorite song on the album.  On “1000 Songs”, KGF becomes one of the few soul (or rock for that matter) acts that successfully pull off a reggae beat for an entre four minutes without sounding completely stupid by the end.

The best I can say about this release is that I just can’t stop moving when I listen to it.  It’s easy to lose yourself in the sounds of Kings Go Forth, so don’t be surprised if you find yourself be-bopping down the road while other drivers give you the gas face.  But just flash them a grin and keep on moving, brothers and sisters, because Kings Go Forth bring you sounds that will make you glad to be alive.  Peace out.

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