“Rock is dead,” they said last week. “Still?” we shrugged and went to see Kings Go Forth light the fuse on their funked-up soul and burn brightly at the Jazz Cafe. The latest round of scaremongering over rock’s health focussed on the charts, a place seldom home to the very best in music and one which gives such a distorted view of music that a child of 10 could be forgiven for thinking that Sex on Fire by Kings Of Leon (118 weeks in the Top 100 and 1m+ sales) was rock’s alpha and omega.
Soul – at least Kings Go Forth’s show-stealing take on it – is alive. You might hear shades of McFadden & Whitehead’s Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now in Don’t Take My Shadow; The O’Jays’ Now That We’ve Found Love in Now We’re Gone; Curtis’s Move On Up in One Day. This is music that thrives on the interest from its diverse, natural capital; Kings Of Leon – a band for Oasis fans who wanted a second-favourite band after Stereophonics split up – and their ilk live cannibalistically on rock’s capital.
When Kings Go Forth covered The Impressions’ Stay Close To Me – Curtis’s first showing of the multi-faceted, driving funk and jubilant soul hybrid that would sustain his 1970s’ high watermark – they played with it, extending its two-minute length, celebrating it and adding to it. This is soul music embracing its inspiration and opening windows to the future; the problem with rock bands is their inherent conservatism, their curatorial sycophancy to their elders.
I was reminded of Joe Bataan’s ingenious cover of Tommy James and the Shondells’ Crystal Blue Persuasion, stifled by the issue of the Shondells’ album track as a single which shot to number 2. Bataan said: “Everyone’s always said that my rendition was better. I don’t want to argue about that, but we had more going on with it.”
The charts have always been mostly dead. As usual, it means that some of the most exciting music is overlooked. Try Kings Go Forth’s debut album from last year, The Outsiders Are Back, and dig out Joe Bataan’s 1970 album Singin’ Some Soul when you have a moment.