Vibes – Nelson King (reviewed by Dave Franklin)

If you think that artists get set in their ways the further down the musical path they travel, then you have obviously never spent much time in Nelson King’s musical kingdom. It might seem logical that having found a sound that fits, a style which suits, a core audience, that you should keep ploughing away at the same furrow. That might make commercial sense but it is anathema to any real musician. A real musician is someone always trying to capture the next musical idea, explore sonic side-roads, for whom the journey is always more important than the destination, who is about travelling well rather than arriving. Nelson King is just such a person.

We know from experience, and a back catalogue of cool and frequent albums, that he knows his way around ragged rock, folk delicacy, acoustic ambient and even foot-on-the-monitor, low-slung wig-outs. Vibes opens with something new, Walk Your Way growing out of an almost Enya-esque bank of bubbling electronic loveliness into a gentle and joyous dance fuelled pop piece. But such pleasant surprises are what Nelson King is about and Vibes seems to be an album which fills in some gaps between his core sounds. Having established the rock and pop and folk points on the map, Vibes is full of songs which bend and blend, merge and marry those sounds together. It is almost as if he is allowing us to see the glue which holds his broad sonic spectrum together or perhaps show the working out of his musical calculations.

Beautiful Life is the perfect piano ballad to underline the terrible year which we have all just experienced, cutting to the nub of what really matters, Oh Yeah is a chiming and charming rock groover underplayed and built on deft sonic shards and shimmering chords and Loving Way is a bluesy ballad of lingering beauty and sonic restraint.

As always, Nelson King delivers a fully realised album. Many artists are happy to put out albums which are just a collection of variations on a theme, Vibes is an album which somehow seems to be both eclectic and exploratory yet consistent and cohesive, never sounding anything other than Nelson King collection. It’s what he does… it’s as simple as that!

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