A Second Chance to Shine

King Blues are a brilliant band live! The variety of musical styles on offer, delivered with an irresistible passion and energy made watching them play festivals like Guilfest and Leeds one of the highpoints of summer 2007. Listening to ‘Under The Fog’ when it first came out was however, a slightly disappointing experience. You could hear what was supposed to be going on, most of the elements that made them such a great live spectacle were in place, but it’s rough round the edges sound left the impression of an album that could be better.

Now thanks to some re-recording and a slight rethink with the running order, ‘Under The Fog’ is back and, for the most part, an improved body of work that does the band justice.

If you’re still not sure what you’re getting with the King Blues, they’re sound is, in a nutshell, a bit of this and a bit of that. Ska, folk, reggae and punk all fused together with a strong social conscience and political theme running through. Their live shows are, as you might imagine, a platform for these views to be put forward, an anti BNP message a focal part of King Blues shows.

It’s not all heavy subject matter though, for the underlying theme and feel about the King Blues music is having fun, and the more polished production on this new version of ‘Under the Fog’ ensures this atmosphere is given every opportunity to stand out.

So what’s different?

On reading the tracklist you might think they’ve replaced the title song with one called ‘We Ain't Never Done’. On paper this is exactly what’s happened, but in reality it’s the same song, but longer and sounding much better than it did a year ago. The old version sounds rough and rowdy, which in itself is not a bad thing, and the updated recording retains that air. The best way to describe it is tidier and ironically, although the roughness is taken away, it is closer to its live equivalent.

There are changes on this album that aren’t necessarily better, but interesting nonetheless. The intro features virtually the same war protest news report, but a male voice instead of female. New single ‘Mr. Music Man’ has subtle alterations to the intro and benefits from a cleaner recording. There is though one song where it’s worth seeking out the original: ‘Taking Over’.

Initially this was a stripped down, acoustic number, very different from every time I’ve seen them play it live, but a version which provided great variety after the punk and reggae opening to the album. The 2008 rendition is faster, has a reggae beat to it, and doesn’t stand out from the crowd as much. Its still a fine song, but I’m glad I own both recordings.

The tracklist has been altered to mean that the songs they often end their set with, ‘We Ain’t Never Done’, ‘Mr. Music Man’ and the climactic ‘Taking Over’ are spread across the record rather than all in the first half, which gives a greater sense of balance. I still wouldn’t call this album a classic, and I would urge anyone who hasn’t done so to catch them live as it’s well worth the effort and where King Blues really come into their own. Over all ‘Under The Fog’ is better for being re-released in this new form, and the King Blues remain one of Britain’s most interesting emerging bands.