The Mighty Blue Kings

Live from Chicago

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So much of the retro-swing craze is defined by its dynamic performance aesthetic: this stuff doesn't warm you up, it fires you off. Live-gig swing albums thus make sense in ways that studios can't quite capture. The Mighty Blue Kings' lusty, athletic, and completely up-to-the-minute lounge act contributes a vocally dominant, more jazz-based Chicago sound than its, say, Big Bad Voodoo Daddy counterpart. Singer Ross Bon, a competent blues-harp player who contributed to a 1996 Willie Smith album (as did Kings guitarist Gareth Best) fronts this band with decisive adult vocals and a watch-me-work-people onstage attitude. He pulls it off: the audience contributes almost as much on "Buzz Buzz Buzz" as the band. "Manic Depression" has an inclusive, big-band feel, while the clarinet moments on "Big Mamou" round out a boisterous valentine to rock & roll that could have topped charts in the 1960s. Live From Chicago -- featuring cuts from the studio releases Come One, Come All and Meet Me In Uptown, is a timely and intelligent move in the timely and intelligent career of the Kings, who are competent and savvy enough to outlast the bangles of the fad and ride the rails wherever it goes from here.

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