04 June 2008

king hobo

Every once and a while, something so purely, uncompromisingly strange pops up on the internet that it begs (demands, really) examination. This week, it's the side project of the drummer from Clutch and the keyboardist from Opeth, among others: King Hobo, a record that sounds like it was made by guys who've listened exclusively to Cream and Deep Purple for, well, forever.

My personal library of classic rock has only come into its own since arriving in college (my father was far more a fan of people like Robert Johnson, Lyle Lovett and Miles Davis than he was of Floyd, The Who, and their ilk), so I can't throw out release dates for albums like Layla and Other Assorted Love Songs (1970, according to Wikipedia) or the Grateful Dead's American Beauty (also 1970... interesting), but I can say this much: King Hobo is rock and roll. It's pure, it's rich, it's a little dinged up, and it's certainly imperfect, but rock was never meant to be perfect. Perfection isn't even in the true rock vocabulary (Dewey Finn'll back me up on that).

The first track on the album, "Running," (a cover of a Curtis Mayfield song, by the way) is about as good as neo-classic rock gets.
Thomas Juneor Andersson - vocalist - executes one of the best Leslie West impersonations anyone anywhere has ever attempted. Per Wiberg's keyboards reek Deep Purple, and the guitar solos blow almost every single band that's had a top-selling record in America this century out of the water. The rhythm section's as tight as any I've ever heard.

The album can't avoid going downhill from its opening track; it's just too potent. "Swede" is a rocking instrumental (as rocking as any), "From Me to You" is the lost theme song to a great '70s cop show (a travesty I intend to rectify one of these days), and "Mr. Clean" would, were there any chance of this glorious one-off project gaining a follow-up, be the road map for the funky direction that the fellows in King Hobo would take on their second album.

Really, though, "Running" is reason enough to grab this record. Everything else is just a bonus.

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