19 Oct PETER MERRETT, PBS106.7, MELBOURNE, AUSTRALIA
* KINGS & ASSOCIATES “Tales Of A Rich Girl”
* Label: Big Wing Records.
* Angela Portolesi: Lead Vocals & Tambourine.
* Benjamin Cunningham: Lead Vocals & Electric Guitars.
* Stephen Portolesi: Bass, Acoustic & Electric Guitars.
* Kelvin Sugars: Drums, Percussion & Acoustic Guitars.
* Matt Williams: Electric & Acoustic Guitars.
* Louie Higuera: Hammond & Piano.
* Eleanor Masterson: Fiddle & Mandolin.
* Gherri LeGree, Troy Clark & Kesha Ealy: Backing Vocals.
* Jim Scott: Boingy Thing.
* Marcello Rosmini: Piano.
* Geo Heathcote: Harmonica & Saxophone.
*** Track 1. – “Truth Be Told”.
Higuera’s keys usher in some very cool guitar that leaves you in no doubt that this is one serious album from a top flight band. Cunningham’s vocals have an engaging frailty about them but are in complete command. The band is tight with a potency. Then Angela Portolesi unleashes her powerhouse voice that stops your heart from beating such is it’s passionate howl. This is a brilliant introduction to this band out of Adelaide Australia on their second album but certainly one that will thrust them into the spotlight. Sensational introduction to this album.
*** Track 2. – “Tales Of A Rich Girl”.
Quite a jaunty offering that rolls along allowing Angela Portolesi to sing without the howl but still retain the marvellous tonality to her voice that grabs you by the heart and has you hanging on every note. There is an almost Betty Boo feel about the vocals but this is not in a mocking way but rather a great way as it is just so engaging with this one being the title track. The band certainly cook and the charts are extremely impressive. The lead guitar certainly leaves a lasting impression as does the outstanding rhythm section. All round a fun track that again has everything you want from such an accomplished band.
*** Track 3. – “Deadwood”.
Straight ahead Blues with a big big sound that is certainly one that covers many elements of Roots music.
There is elements of Texas Roadhouse and Southern Californian Blues mixed in with the Nashville and Memphis sound for good measure. Solid vocals from Cunningham and backing vocals from Clark work well and add to the solid feel of this one. I particularly like the Harp from Heathcote as he riffs solidly throughout leaving an indelible mark on this track. Again we have a big production and big sound that is not over the top but rather it is well balanced with the band laying down one solid groove.
*** Track 4. – “Nitty Gritty”.
Languid ballad that has Angela Portolesi soulful and sassy as she croons her vocals to Cunningham. His vocals are suitably restrained in return as both deliver a brilliant performance on this power ballad. Wonderful backing vocals from LeGree, Clark and Ealy showcase the lead vocals perfectly. The orchestration is absolutely brilliant and has an intensity to it that is so very tangible. The passion drips from every note as the heartstrings are tugged and the emotions pricked with this tale of love and loss. The band and guests certainly deliver a performance that is flawless but restrained until it reaches a crescendo of ultimate passion. Brilliant song and a brilliant performance from every member of Kings & Associates.
*** Track 5. – “Peace X Peace”.
Man what an exquisite intro what with piano, keys and guitar and Angela Portolesi’s scatting. Smoky ballad with a sensual sexy feel that has a Nina Simone feel about it. Portolesi absolutely owns this song as she sings with phrasing that cannot be faulted ably assisted with the backing vocals from LeGree, Clark and Ealy. Understated guitar takes us to a higher place as the keyboards from Higuera take us to church. The backing vocals then enter that sanctified sound also as Portolesi testifies. Cunningham brings us back down as he testifies closer to what is happening all around us. The Rev. Cleophus Robinson was truly a man of God and it permeated throughout his songs which were some of the most beautiful Golden Age Gospel songs of our time. Absolutely brilliant take on his song in part.
*** Track 6. – “Pabla’s Grace”.
Angela Portolesi unleashes her passionate voice on this stunning ballad with the help of backing vocalists LeGree and Ealy. Higuera again provides the stunning Hammond throughout this heartfelt ballad that is pathos drenched. Big percussive rhythm section of Sugars and Stephen Portolesi certainly drive this one along with a unrelenting beat that enables the band to step out and provide the stunning solos. The guitar solos are mesmerising and display just how accomplished this band is. The ability of this band to put so much into their recordings is amazing as it doesn’t overpower the vocals but rather accentuates Angela’s voice beautifully. This is another example of the sheer brilliance of this group.
*** Track 7. – “Evergreen”.
Moving away from ballads the group adds some jangly guitar and solid bass from Stephen Portolesi to this mid tempo heart stopper. Yeah l know it is all about the affairs of the heart and might be construed as a ballad but heh let me class it as a mid tempo. Angel Portolesi delivers her pleading vocals with so much conviction and energy as Higuera’s Hammond totally tears it up with his Lesley speaker spinning uncontrollably. Sugars drumming is pronounced and completes the wonderful boisterous rhythm section. Wonderful cadence with this song as it rolls along building up energy and then slowing back down to draw breathe once again. Incite-full writing from the group and another stunning performance.
*** Track 8. – “All That’s Good”.
Rockin’ boisterous intro on this one with Portolesi delivering her vocals with a rockabillyish shriek to her voice. Snappy and sassy vocals that certainly state her case as she sings over jangly guitars leading into Higuera’s potent Hammond. Doesn’t get much better than this does it?. Strong elements of Rockabilly and Retro-Swing abound throughout this one and l think that is why it just swings so very hard. Sort of a case of keep up or get left behind. Stephen Portolesi and Kelvin Sugars keep the rhythm section jumping along as the band swing it on out. Great track that just has it all and most certainly is perfect for dancing, that is if you can keep up!
*** Track 9. – “Charlie B”.
Rockin’ and rollin’ good time high steppin’, knee slappin’ fun time with Angela Portolesi and Benjamin Cunningham singing up a good ole storm. Add to that LeGree, Clark and Ealy providing the amazing backing vocals and you have this back country good ole time hoe down. This is a sensory overload of what is so good about this band! They can just turn on the goodness perfectly and are so very creative moving in multiple directions. Here we go in a completely different direction to the previous tracks and what a celebration it is for all of the band and their guests as they step it up and lay down some musical goodness and showcase some mighty fine hand clapping. Yee hah what a good ole time this is and l thank ya’wll for it.
*** Track 10. – “God Bless Mama”.
Cutesy down home, down south ditty with honky tonk piano for good measure from Higurea. Masterson provides the stunning fiddle and mandolin taking us to the front porch enjoying a rocking chair and a jug for good measure. Certainly a smile inducing gem of a song from Portolesi that just makes you feel good and that’s a good thing. I absolutely love the orchestration on this one as it is so very sympathetic to the period of the song.
*** Track 11. – “Tales Of A Rich Man (Live & Acoustic)”.
Wonderful snapshot as to the sound of Kings & Associates in a live acoustic setting. Cunningham leads in with his stunning vocals to be joined by Portolesi and others. Wonderful expressive acoustic guitar and percussion accompaniment complete the wonderful sound that is this extremely talented outfit. For me this is certainly a tease as it makes me want to see the group even more live!!! Everything about the group is amazing and this is proof positive that they can deliver in a live setting. Strong well seasoned group who know exactly what they have to do to be on top of their game. Great track.
*** Track 12. – “1000 Ways”.
Stunning minimalist intro from Portolesi and guitar that is heartbreakingly beautiful as Cunningham answers her words assisted by the band with a firmer sound. The structure of this intro is sublime to say the least as it is so heart wrenching in the sheer beauty of it. The use of the guitar to accentuate the words is sheer genius and again the rhythm section lays down a solid foundation. Higuera’s Hammond shines like the north star throughout but never overpowers the mix but rather caresses the mix. This is a song all about the vocals and the vocals are something to behold. The majesty of these vocals lift the song to a higher place that raise many emotions within the listener and some that can’t be explained. Few songs can do that but this one can.
Wow l think l have just been to heaven and delivered back a new man. The sheer majesty and beauty of this album has moved me what with the incredible lead voices of Angela Portolesi and Benjamin Cunningham, you have a recipe for genius. Few groups can boast two lead singers of this calibre and then have a band that absolutely delivers stunning performances on each and every song. It would be easy to assume here is a group that has been around for thirty years such is the maturity and professionalism of the group. A high point would have to be the sublime orchestration and the virtuoso performances of the members and the amazing guests on the album. This album certainly was a labour of love with many miles travelled between Australia and the US to record and produce this masterpiece. Sitting back after listening to the album l marvelled at what l had heard and just how many styles of music the album contained, many were very subtle but were there and that was one of the joyous intricacies of the album. This is not to say the album is overly complex but rather a wonderful musical journey of discovery and one you will love taking. My advice is to settle back, turn up the volume to absorb every nuance and just enjoy yourself because l can guarantee you will. This is one killer album with absolutely brilliant singing, band, songs and production. Your collection needs this album. Trust me l’m an Australian!