The Kingpins

Kingpins for Sale

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The obscure 1960s British band the Kingpins had an odd history in that although they were together for a few years, they never issued a single under their own name. This mid-'90s LP, a limited edition of 600, has 14 tracks from 1965-1969 that were previously unreleased, although "Pictures in the Sky" did appear on a 1968 single credited to Orange Seaweed. The first seven of these tracks, all from 1965-1969, are on the rawer side of the British Invasion spectrum, though they're not, like much such music that fits that description, especially R&B-based. Though all but one of those seven songs is a group original (the other being a somewhat sloppy cover of the Yardbirds' "For Your Love"), really there's not much to distinguish them from run-of-the-mill energetic British rock of the period. Unlike much of that rock, it has an almost American garage tinge, but guitarist Ray Neale's lead vocals (which are on all but two of these cuts) have a low, gruff tone that's not wholly appealing. His singing's much better applied on four songs from early 1967, which find the band's sound changing radically into a more introspective, almost soul-rock style with prominent piano that is somewhat similar in some respects to early work by Procol Harum and (more distantly) Traffic. These Neale-penned tracks do indeed show promise, but the last three cuts -- recorded in the late 1960s after they changed their name to Orange Seaweed -- come from outside writers, though the first two of these, "Pictures in the Sky" and "Stay Awhile" (the latter a different song than the Dusty Springfield hit), are acceptable somber late-'60s British pop-psychedelia. Like many limited-edition releases on the Tenth Planet label, on the whole this is of interest only to serious '60s British rock collectors, though the 1967-1968 material is fairly good. But like all other releases on the Tenth Planet label, you can't fault the packaging, both for the level of dedicated archivism involved in unearthing these tracks and David Wells' superbly detailed liner notes.