I think Eugene was a bit peeved with my assessment of last week’s entry. I didn’t not like it, just it’s no Shout at the Devil. And, that’s okay. Jon has been through it, a rough month, and I’m hoping he continues where he left off on the list. But, meanwhile, let’s move on to the next entry – number 25 if you can believe that!- which I’m very excited about! I mean, I literally squealed like a little girl when it came across the line.
#25 – Gretchen Goes to Nebraska by King’s X.
I had never heard of King’s X until a local band played a tune by them in their live show. It was just about the time of the follow-up to this album, Faith Hope Love. Someone told me of Gretchen and I started listening because I loved “Over My Head.” Quickly this became one of my favorite albums and I’d say it still resides in my top 10, if not all time, at least in the influence of me, musically.
Supposedly, this is a concept album based on a story written by drummer/vocalist Jerry Gaskill. I don’t necessarily hear a story but I certainly hear a theme. The entire album is based in spirituality, either in accepting, hearing, seeing, or questioning it. Probably their most famous tune, the aforementioned “Over My Head” is all about the spirituality that music brings or that one can get lost in. I have performed that song in a band before. The first one that I ever was the lead vocals for. We rearranged it a bit to fit what we needed to do with it, but it remains one of my favorite songs, to this day.
King’s X has often been called a “Christian” band and I think that has a bit to do with the “underrated” status they have in the non-musician musical community. While they may be Christian and spiritual, they question as much as they believe. I had a discussion with Doug Pinnick (bass/vocals), Ty Tabor (guitar/vocals) and Jerry about that very thing when I met them in Charlotte on the King’s X tour. I hadn’t fully accepted my position in the non-believer category at the time and they told me to embrace what it was I felt. Not exactly in those words but in essence.
They are, in my opinion, one of the most underrated bands out there. Their musicianship, their songwriting abilities, and Mon Dieu (or whoever)! those harmonies. There are very few bands that can offer the same harmony quality as these three guys together. Add that on top of the fact that they’re not playing anything on their instruments that make the vocals easier. Their timing is impeccable, too. Seeing them live, they had stops, where without looking at each other, could interact with the crowd and be on beat in their heads, hit a hard “E” and stop again. Talk to the crowd and hit another. Me talking about it doesn’t do it justice.
Their albums from their debut, Out of the Silent Planet (the actual song of that title is on this album), this album, Faith Hope Love, and the eponymous fourth albums are all fantastic and I wore them out in my CD player. I’ll admit they started to lose me about the time Dogman came out. It still had some great tunes (including a great cover of “Manic Depression” from Jimi Hendrix), but it didn’t have the same feeling to me. But, this album, in particular, had a special groove. The melodies and harmonies flow like bubbling water over the rough, heavy riffs and it creates a river of delicious hard rock soul.
Jerry Gaskill’s drums are thumping and rhythmic but crisp, as well. He’s an awesome drummer. Soft-spoken, hard rockin’. Doug (or as he goes by now, dUg) Pinnick’s tone is remarkable because he plays through various Ampeg and Traynor amps and cranks the distortion on them. But, on this album and the few subsequent ones, he plays a 12-string bass. All that added together makes him not only the bassist but also the rhythm guitarist. Being they’re only a three-piece band, that allows him to fill the sonic gaps while Ty Tabor plays his solos. Speaking of Ty, he’s also world-renown for not only his playing but his sound. You can hear him play and know it’s him just from the tone. I don’t know about now because I’ve kind of fallen off the current King’s X wagon, but at this time, he refused to give interviews or just refuse the question if someone asked about his tone. It was a secret. But, it wasn’t for selfish reasons, it was more because he wanted guitarists to find their own tone; make it their own. He felt that anyone getting his tone would just copy his sound and they’d not be their own player.
While dUg is the main vocalist, Ty and Jerry do some duties in that department. “Pleiades” is Ty’s vocals on this album. Sometimes the majority of the song is three-way harmonies. The band utilizes a lot of drop-D tunings which heavies up the overall tone. Great tunes. Brilliant tunes.
“Out of the Silent Planet” is based on the book of the same name from C.S. Lewis. But, it supposedly fits in the “storyline” that Gaskill wrote. I will admit that a lot of times, my feeble and imbecilic mind cannot comprehend what the heck they’re talking about, but I know I love it, just the same. “Everybody Knows a Little Bit of Something” is about enlightenment and self-discovery. “Summerland,” best I can tell, is euphemistic for growing older and gaining knowledge. “Mission” is about doubting the televangelists, or at least questioning them. For the most part, as I stated, I have no clue what the actual message or story is, I just know I love it. Oh! and the title? It means absolutely nothing. A roadie threw it out when they were joking about stupid album names. I think it’s brilliant, really.
I love this entire album, it never gets old. I hadn’t listened to it, in its entirety in a couple of years. We – Eug, Brian and I – reviewed it as the first of the “albums of the week” segment when we used to do that on The Less Desirables. But, I started listening, right away, when it was assigned and I have listened a lot. I’ve listened to this album more than any other that has been on the list, so far. I mean, I’ve listened to it no less that 100 times in my life and while I usually listen an average of six times per album for this project, I’ve listened to this one about 13 times in the last seven days; four times today, as I write this. In the studio, in the car, on Alexa, everywhere I have been and had a minute to listen.
I highly recommend this album and if you don’t like it, listen to it again. You’ll learn to love the musicianship, the talent, the songs, the entity that is King’s X. Then listen to the other three of the first four of their albums. All amazing. Thank you Eug, for picking this one. I can’t wait to read your account and I am really interested in reading Jon’s take if he is able to catch up.
Until tomorrow, same blog channel…
“I walked through a garden in the morning. I walked right into a change. No words were spoken, just a feeling. And I cannot explain, but I can feel the difference. I can feel the difference.” – “The Difference (In the Garden of St. Anne’s-on-the-Hill)” (Pinnick/Tabor/Gaskill)