29 Nov 2020

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Chris and the Kingsmen - Album Review: Regular Joe

19 Nov 2019 // A review by Mike Alexander

It’s been a while coming but Chris Ward could well be New Zealand’s answer Jimmy Barnes – a genuine working class hero. His debut album is ostensibly a solo record but not without the blood, sweat and tears of the Kingsmen, a band of merry men including Chris Close, David Cloughley, Frankie Daly and Ben Crosson, who co-wrote three of the tracks, boosted by more merry men and women, Aaron Boot, Josh Saville, Ben Lill, producer TeMatera Smith and backing vocalists Jodi Wareing, Tumanako Timirau, Lucy Hiku and Lissel and Magau Stewart.

Right from the get-go on his debut album, Regular Joe, the Christchurch based singer lays his cards on the table with a classic rock sound that flexes its muscles with the dynamics of a Led Zeppelin with a wailing siren in the background that’s straight out of Pink Floyd’s Dark Side Of The Moon. A short and sharp burst of guitar stabs through the questing and questioning Run And Hide, with Ward riding a vocal line that’s pure fire in the belly. 

Star is notable for the introduction of sax and more guitar aerodynamics, while Waiting On A Rainy Day zig zags around a relentless rhythm and some squalling guitar.

The tempo drops from hop scotch on speed to Lost, an initially slow paced ballad, that grinds its way through a tortured lyric "heal me, I need to feel safe", to an intense climax and soaring vocal wail and banked guitars that, fall away and find resolution in a soft bass line.

An almost church-like keyboard and piano steer Take Control, which snakes along with muted trumpet, and comes across as one of the more accusatory tracks on the album but if Ward has a sermon to preach it’s delivered more as a reality check than with any real venom. Still, there’s fire in the belly and if we get burned it often means there are lessons to be learned, which the lyric "sometimes we’re strange because we change" on The Change suggests.

It’s a soul searching vocal, with a Springsteenish-feel to it that bleeds into the acoustically-driven first single Baby Blue, an odd change of pace until it bursts alive into a sprawling rocker, while the tempo reaches a happy medium with Cold Solitude even if it’s slightly antithetical to the state of resignation the song suggests. Likewise, Me Again almost tangos to a reflective duet featuring the stunning Lissel Stewart, who announces her vocal presence in much the same way as Annie Crummer did on the Netherworld Dancing Toys’ classic For Today.

Worn The Battle is brass tinged and fringed before Ward’s gritty vocal takes centre stage again on the album’s closer The Same. It’s a no-frills, down to earth affirmation about looking forward and leaving the past behind. In many ways, it’s the perfect mirror in which to view Regular Joe. It has musical echoes of the past while being forward thinking in its musical arrangements.

Rating: ( 4 / 5 )

About Chris and the Kingsmen

Chris and the Kingsmen is the brainchild of Chris Ward is a Christchurch based singer/songwriter and producer. His music style is influenced by a wide variety of artists including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Ben Harper, Sublime and Bruce Springsteen to mention a few.

When Chris was going through the process of building his own studio, he was put in contact with producer TeMatera Smith (Troy Kingi, Tony Durant, Seventy One Sunset, Symphony of Screams etc.), who agreed to come to Christchurch and provide advice. During conversation Chris mentioned he had a small recording project of a few songs, and after he had heard the strength of the demos, TeMatera offered his services as producer. “I was surprised and taken aback by the depth and quality of this hitherto unknown songwriter” says Smith, “and felt compelled to be a part of his journey to produce a wonderful album… and that it is. A work of which I am very proud”. It was decided that twelve numbers would be recorded over two sessions and the resulting album Regular Joe includes the very first song Chris ever wrote, as well as one which was only written between sessions.

The first single Baby Blue was co written by Chris and longtime friend and collaborator Ben Crosson. "It's a simple song really. We got together and wrote it to try and capture the moment when your eyes lock with someone who completely mesmerizes you".

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