For those unfamiliar with Kingofthehill, picture 80’s Extreme crossed with (rockin’) Prince. Funky, groovy & hooky. You get the picture. They released one fantastic major label CD in 1991, which went virtually un-noticed. I was lucky enough to catch them on that tour, at a special 99-cent show with seven other people. They proceeded to play the full set as if the place was packed. Frankie still remains one of the greatest front men I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.
Apparently, they’re still together and thriving in their native St. Louis. The new CD is entitled “Unreleased”. The credits leave a little to be desired, but from what I can figure, this seems to be big budget demos for what would have been their second album (or left-overs from the first?)
Sonically it’s all top-notch, though. Production credits go to Howard Benson (who did their debut) & Keith Olsen, recording the tracks at the usual high-end 80’s studios. Anyone who’s a fan of their first CD will definitely love this. All the glorious funk is still there (“What Kind Of Man”, “What U See”, “Mama”), but what we also find is a welcome branching out by the band as well.
“Just A Little Bit” is a fantastic up-tempo number, which could have fit nicely on Bon Jovi’s “Keep The Faith”-- Definitely single material with true hit potential. “Hands On U” is pure, straight-ahead glam in the vein of Mike Monroe / Cats In Boots. Even the obligatory acoustic 80’s ballad makes an appearance in “Tonite,” another fine tune reminiscent of Electric Angels’ “True Love and Other Fairy Tales” (without Jonathan Daniels’ lyrical brilliance). We’re even treated to a beautiful Living Colour-vibed piano ballad in “Lisa”. But that’s not to say the material lacks originality; everything has that distinctive Kingofthehill sound and the song writing is truly first-rate, standing up to anything on the first album.
“Unreleased” is a must have for those fans waiting 15 years. Yes, it’s all a little dated, but the songs still hold up nicely (especially to fans of the genre). A couple minor criticisms: I think it would flow better as a whole if it were pared down to 12 tracks or so. But as an archival release, the 17 songs give the buyer more than their money’s worth. Hopefully on the next pressing, the credits could be expanded, and a little more care could go into the track listing (which doesn’t sync up to the disc OR the packaging!) That being said, I can recommend “Unreleased” to all who appreciate their debut and wish Kingofthehill all the success that avoided them the first time around.