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Album Review

WHISTLEKING
The Lost Tapes of a
Seventies Bar Band

Ah. Smells like the seventies. Stale beer, cigarette smoke, sweat and perfume inside. Piss and puke outside with the occasional waft of automobile exhaust. No teen spirit here. It's full-on adult lust and we're here for one reason and one reason only. To get laid. Oh, and to get drunk. And maybe get something to eat after we've drained as much alcoholic sludge as we can down the old gullet. That's one reason, isn't it? Feels like it.

I tell you, those were some days. When Show Me the Way dominated any band's playlist--- well, if they wanted to play the hotspots, anyway. When Bungle In the Jungle blew out the door and onto the street every time someone entered or left. When whether you were a boy or girl, someone held your hair while you spewed stomach contents everywhere--- or, if you were like me, you just accepted the end result and hoped no one noticed.

I loved those days. When girls didn't find me completely repulsive, especially after that fifth beer or third glass of house wine, more often than not, red. When every band sounded stiff and off-key when they started and like the best band ever when they finished.

Whistleking knows. Well, The Kings, actually, in their younger days. Don't know The Kings? This Beat Goes On/Switchin' to Glide? No? How old are you, anyway? Before they became The Kings, they were Whistleking. Nothing but a bar band wanting to be a real band. There were tons of them back in those days. The only way off the club circuit was a record deal and they, as were they all, were struggling to catch the attention of a major label. They had more nights than they probably care to remember playing cover songs, knowing that their own music was better--- for them, anyway. They finally found success--- a major label and even that elusive hit record--- but they will always be Whistleking. You never forget your past.

While I was hanging out in dives and drinking to excess, they were in taverns and bars playing background music for that excess. Oh, I never saw this band, but I saw plenty like them. The good ones are indelibly marked in my head. They played music for drinking and music for dancing and on occasion, if they could get management to go along, got to throw in a few originals as well.

This album was recorded over a two day period and these guys got the best of both worlds on tape and it sounds damn good. Good enough to bring back those sounds and smells. The album is half and half, originals and covers. The covers are a bit of a surprise. While most bands played off of a Top Ten list, Whistleking worked their way around it. Show Me the Way is the nod toward hit and I heard it all too much back in the day. But that's the only track which screamed hit. Oh, they throw in Squeeze Box from The Who and Supertramp's Another Man's Woman, but they also toss in Rainbow's Self Portrait and three--- count 'em--- three Sons of Champlin songs! I don't know where I was then (I could seldom find my way back to the same bars back then), but none of the bands I heard would even consider playing Sons of Champlin. To me, the Sons were gods!

I can hear the roots of The Kings on this, for sure, but what I mostly hear is the seventies and Whistleking. While I was digging the sounds of The Damnation of Adam Blessing and Gypsy and a whole passel of bands which comprised the core of great music which is just now beginning to get the respect it deserved and deserves, the underbelly of the seventies if you will, I could have been in bars dancing to these guys. Almost makes me wish I'd lived in Canada back then. Hell, put the originals on this album on a 1970s album and they would have fit right in.

The sound quality is excellent mixing-board. The only thing that separates it from a major label recording of that day is that the vocals are straight off the mics. Major labels would have had some of the vocals either doctored or re-recorded in the studio. What? You think all of those great sounding vocals weren't doctored on those live albums you used to play ad infinitum? Wanna buy a bridge? Oh, don't misunderstand, the vocals here are fine. They are just in your face, is all. It's like hearing the band in your living room. Turn it up and it will be just like you were there. Just like it. Swear to God.

Man, I live for albums like this. This is like flipping through a rack and finding that live Jericho Harp album that you heard about but could never find. That fourth Damnation album. That live Glass Harp which got lost. This is like reliving the seventies. I know what I'm listening to next time I drink. I'm just not sure what I'll be drinking.

You can check out both Whistleking and The Kings by clicking here. Don't forget to check out the anthology album as well.

Frank O. Gutch Jr.


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