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King Of Hearts - '1989' http://www.rocktopia.co.uk/media/reviews/photos/thumbnail/200x200s/a1/26/c0/1381_KingOfHearts1989_1309460199.jpg Hot

Added by Central Electronic Brain     June 30, 2011    
 
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Absolute class from start to finish.

Any fans of the Westcoast scene are in for a treat this month, with no less than five releases picked up by Avenue Of Allies. The first of these is King Of Hearts, formed by multi-platinum selling guitarist, songwriter, producer and long-time Richard Marx collaborator Bruce Gaitsch back in 1989. While working on Marx's classic 'Repeat Offender' album, Gaitsch was approached by manager Alan Kovac to form a band with a view to supporting Country rockers Poco on their upcoming tour, and the promise of a recording contract with Chrysalis. Gaitsch had already been writing material with session vocalist extraordinaire Tommy Funderburk for a solo album, so he was swiftly recruited. Kovac knew that drummer/vocalist Kelly Keagy was available as Night Ranger had just split up, then hired bassist George Hawkins Jr., who has worked with the likes of Kenny Loggins, John Fogerty, and various Fleetwood Mac members solo ventures. With the band set, recording commenced under the guidance of producer David Cole, but personal problems between the band and management caused Alan Kovac to quit, and as Chrysalis had signed the band based on his involvement, the record was never released, which is a real shame as the album is a real gem. Also with the penchant for 'supergroups' of top-drawer musicians at the time (Mr. Big, Damn Yankees, Bad English etc.), King Of Hearts could have cleaned up. A second album recorded as a Gaitsch/Funderburk duo appeared in various versions in 1996, and '1989' was released exclusively in Japan in 1999, but was exceedingly difficult to get hold of – until now.

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Due to Gaitsch's heavy involvement with Richard Marx, it's fair to say that some of the tracks within lean heavily in style towards his output at the time, especially the bright and breezy 'In So Many Words', the Keagy sung 'Smack Dab (In The Middle Of Love)', and the punchy 'Under The Gun', with vocals from Hawkins. There are also plenty of glorious melodic rockers in the vein of the likes of Giant and Mitch Malloy, such as 'Remember When', the acoustic-led 'Hold On To Love', and opening track 'Working Man', with backing vocals from both Eagles bassists (and Poco members) Randy Meisner and Timothy B. Schmidt, while 'Everyday' shows a harder edge with a funk-tinged riff, and a gruffer vocal style from Kelly Keagy. And as for the ballads, 'Don't Call My Name' is a beautiful slow-burner with soaring vocal harmonies, and could be one of the best ballads you hear this year, 'Lovin' Arms' is a soulful acoustic based number, and the closing 'King Of Hearts' is a meandering bluesy number, and a tribute to Roy Orbison.

As you would expect from musicians of this calibre the performances are excellent, Gaitsch's guitar work soulful and exhilarating, but Tommy Funderburk is the real star here, with some soaring vocal work. The production is top-notch, there isn't a filler in sight, and the guys at Avenue Of Allies deserve some major plaudits for unearthing this gem of an album. Absolute class from start to finish.

Ant Heeks

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