Rediscovered: an occasional aria on some forgotten favorite

The Kingsmen. “Leave Your Sorrows and Come Along” (Stand Up at Opryland USA, 1985; also available Riversong’s Kingsmen Collection, Vol. I). Oh my. Here we go. The Kingsmen at Opryland, 1985. This is just near the end of their heyday, right before the Kingsmen stopped being a name synonymous with a certain kind of charming inelegance and became a revolving door of largely undistinguished talent standing or playing next to a few seasoned hands. I chose this song because it almost perfectly captures the best and the worst of the KM. For classic bars of pipin’ hot sg in its classic form, stamped out with rhythmic and harmonic insistence, here’s your group and this is your song. An old standard, of course, but you wouldn’t mistake this sound if you heard it twice mixed in amongst any other number of other groups covering the same tune. There’s a nasally, overheated quality to the KM’s sound from this era that I have no reason to believe wasn’t the master intention of Jim Hammel and Eldrdige Fox. The result is a certain rawness that manages in ensemble to generate a frenetic energy to the music, an excitement, and buzz - yes that’s it … the voices do indeed seem to buzz together and convey that buzzing effect to listeners. There’s a moment about half way through the song when each guy sings his part to the chorus separately. And in isolation there is to my ear nothing in the least pleasing about these voices. They’re grating and scratchy, overworked and harsh, often out of tune and sloppy. But bring them back together and I start tapping my foot and smiling … Anthony Burger’s piano cranks up again and it’s off to the races (and it’s easy to forget how central Burger’s talent was to energizing and polishing the KM’s sound in his years with the group, years that were not coincidentally, I don’t think, the years of their dominance). By the time they finish with the song, everyone’s out of breath, even me … twenty years later, miles from Nashville, and light years away from any obvious reason to like this kind of run and gun style of loosy-goosy performance. But there’s something about it that’s difficult not to enjoy. It’s worth rediscovering indeed.

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