One of my favorite tracks of the past year is “The Greatest” by female trio KING. Finally, here they are with their debut album “We Are KING”. If you’re a child of the 80s, and cherish the soul and r&b sounds of the 1980-1985 era, this is for you. The three ladies, twins Amber and Paris Strother and Anita Bias, were guest singers on Robert Glasper‘s “Black Radio” on the track “Move Love” and have received what seems like a million accolades in the past few years.
I just had the chance to see them perform live at New York’s The Bitter End during Winter Jazz Fest in January and it is the work-in-progress-like vocal of Amber that is so intoxicating and authentic that I just can’t help but be enamored by her sound, like on the album’s opening cut “The Right One”. I’m constantly thrown back to the music of Loose Ends, Mtume, the S.O.S. Band, or Change when listening to this highly entertaining set. Yet it doesn’t feel like a bland copy or something, but rather a totally unique and enthralling sound with fascinatingly amusing and intricate vocal arrangements where you find new characteristics with each new listen. The keyboard sounds, like on the floating “Red Eye”, are just marvelous.
Some of the tracks here have been released back in 2011 on KING‘s three-track EP “The Story”, “Supernatural” among them, a song that sees the light of day again in an extended version, with a two-minute intro full of blurred and exotic sounding vocals before the 80s keyboard starts the proceedings and the song still has a lot of potential of becoming a classic, with its cute handclaps and catchy hook line. The keyboard part after the intro reminds me of the keys on “Do It Anyway You Wanna” by Cashmere. Remember that one? And the fact that Amber’s vocals are far from being technically perfect only adds to the astute outline of the album. I also find myself whistling parts of the sweet and lovely “Love Song” all day.
I can’t praise “In The Meantime” enough. The beauty of the melody and Amber’s sassy style together with the heavenly harmony vocals all add up to a graceful and smooth four-and-a half minute ride. The heavy bass on “Carry On” underscores an otherwise extremely charming melody and groove, with layers and layers of keys and vocals turning this into a little blissful ditty. The are more intricacies and off-beat moments on the mesmerizing “Mister Chameleon”. “Hey”, also from the 2011 EP, gets the extended treatment as well. It is a simple, but effective and sexy love song – the last two minutes of the song with those thick and overwhelming keys and the eerie vocals could go on forever.
And there is much more to explore: the quirky, hip, funny, and ultra soulful “Oh, Please!” is just stunning. And Blondie says hello on “The Story”, another compelling groove. The album ends on a rather mellifluous note with “Native Land” – this is an essential and vital 12-piece set which I can’t live without. Now, if only there would be an extended version or a remix of “The Greatest” as well, that would be paradise I guess.