When an album begins with the line “If you ever get famous, don’t forget about me/I hope it’s everything that you thought it would be,” it’s easy to imagine that most people might be a little dubious. After all, hasn’t the message been written or sung a hundred times before? Could it ever be sung in a way that was interesting and fresh, ever again? And isn’t the person singing it probably already at least a little famous?
The Duke and The King, who already have a bit of a following in Britain, have collected tracks from their previous two albums for this self-titled U.S release. And indeed, while musically decent, lyrical brilliance is not their forte, at least if this collection is anything to go by. An Americana-infused album of ‘60s and ‘70s influenced songs, The Duke and The King references The Jackson 5 (see “Shaky”, with the line “just come and shake that country ass”) and going dancing with the devil (for this second cliché, watch out for “The Morning I Get to Hell”), while bouncing along nicely on catchy guitar parts and deja vu melodies.
That said, some of the material is really great. “Hudson River”, vaguely reminiscent of an Otis Redding track, is an excellent exercise in soul. “Union Street”, with its slightly flattened snare drum and dwindling vocal line, is a listenable, respectable ballad. “Gloria”, too, is a fittingly sweet sing-a-long with Simon and Garfunkel harmonies, drawing musically on The Byrds and The Band, while “Have You Seen It” promotes a Clapton-esque opening gambit, marking one of the album’s highlights.
Those unbalanced lyrical lines come back to haunt The Duke and The King, though. “Union Street”, for example, sings of the time “when all of New York held its breath/scared to death.” With lines like these, the musically satisfying elements of the album, of which there are ultimately plenty, barely sustain those sweeping, saccharine statements. On the whole, though, The Duke and The King have deserved the praise that many have lavished on them. This is a really pleasing album. Just don’t listen too hard to the words.