Live All Over The Place

King's X

With the release of Live All Over The Place, Texas-based hard rock innovators King’s X have finally answered the call of their loyal and devoted fans and produced a CD filled with live material -- two CDs, in fact, recorded at various stops in their travels between 1994 and 2003. At long last, fans get a document recording of the energy and excitement that these shows provide.

Arranged to flow like a typical set, Disc One features their standard electric material, while Disc Two features seven acoustic tracks before venturing again to the heavier side of things. Things wrap up with an excellent acoustic encore in the form of the bonus track “Over My Head.”

In the past, the band has teased fans with faux-live tracks (“Manic Depression” on 2001’s Dogman was recorded in the studio with the audience dubbed in after the fact) and concert tracks (the same song, as recorded at Woodstock, was found on 2003’s The Best Of King’s X). Live All Over The Place, however, represents their first truly "live" album, having finally gotten over the legal wrangling involved in selecting from a catalog that is split among three different record companies. Most of the time, the band lives up to the reputation they’ve built over the last twenty-odd years of touring and recording.

Overall, the record sounds like a bootleg, a sound the band went after by pulling audio more or less directly from the sound board. With a few exceptions, everything is presented exactly as it happened; no overdubs or fancy production to color the performances.

The results of this technique are mixed (maybe the trio realized this when selecting the name of the album). On several tracks, it translates into a raw energy and excitement that solidifies the band’s reputation as a first-rate live act. Other cuts, however, fall flat and leave you wondering how a band that has recorded virtually every show for a decade could offer such performances as some of their collective best.

The opener, for instance – the group’s funky grinder “Groove Machine” – leaves me concerned that vocalist Doug Pinnick’s vocal cords have been injured. His normally powerful voice is strained and exhausted, the group’s vaunted harmonies dull and flat. Why would the band elect to open things already sagging and out of steam?

On other tracks the band sounds as though they are simply rehearsing material. The studio recording of “We Were Born To Be Loved” is a complex, thrilling succession of starts and stops with drummer Jerry Gaskill providing some jaw-dropping footwork. The version presented here, however, lacks that intensity. All the notes are in the right place, starts and stops intact, and yet something is missing.

Also curiously missing is the inclusion of the song “It’s Love.” The band’s most commercially successful single, “It’s Love” presented King’s X at their most “Beatlesque” and reached Number 3 on the Billboard charts in 1990. With sparkling harmonies and “that tone” that guitarist Ty Tabor was becoming famous for, it proved to be the only Top 50 single for a band that has always been vastly underrated. Perhaps its omission is indicative of the band’s unwillingness to compromise and pander to the sensibilities of a pop-obsessed recording industry. Maybe it was a difficult song to nail live. Maybe they just didn’t feel like including it. Whatever the reason, it’s a song whose inclusion might have brought in more casual fans in addition to the die-hards.

Still, if this record is to be remembered, it will be for the performances that truly represent a band that has entertained a fervently loyal fan-base for more than twenty years. Tracks such as “Believe” show Pinnick in fine form, delivering a message of self-esteem through funky verses and the band’s rich, trademark harmonies. It’s a song that fits well with Pinnick and the band, as they have struggled through their own trials with public perception, acceptance, and labeling.

Again on the electric version of “Over My Head,” we hear the band at full throttle, led by Pinnick. On the acoustic version, Tabor puts a fresh spin on the tune, distortion-free. Both versions of the song are excellent.

The high-water mark for this collection is the band’s time-tested closer, the aptly entitled “Moan Jam.” Long considered the defining moment of any King’s X show, the version included here shows why. Tabor and Gaskill tear it up while Pinnick whips himself and the crowd into a frenzy. This track alone makes the whole thing worth the 17 greenbacks you’ll have to shell out. If only the rest of album consistently kept pace.

Chances are die-hard King’s X fans will consider this a must-own (and it is, in spite of its weaknesses), while more casual fans or those new to the band will find that the gems on this collection make it worth owning, despite sound and performance quality that might best be described as “all over the place.”

High points: “Believe,” “Over My Head,” “Mississippi Moon,” “Moan Jam”...

Low points: Doug Pinnick’s vocals on a few tracks, inconsistent performances and sound quality...

- Drew Todd

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