King of Hearts

1. Working Man
2. In So Many Words
3. Don’t Call My Name
4. Smack Dab (In The Middle Of Love)
5. Remember When
6. Hold On To Love
7. Under The Gun
8. Lovin’ Arms
9. Was It Good For You
10. Everyday
11. King Of Hearts

Tommy Funderburk (Vocals)
Kelly Keagy (Vocals and drums)
George Hawkins Jr. (Vocals and bass)
Bruce Gaitsch (Guitars)

No Bed of Roses (1992)

CJ Vanston : Wurlitzer and synths
Bill Champlin : Hammond B-3
Timothy B. Schmit and
Randy Meisner :
Backing vocals on
“Working Man” and “In So Many Words”

Produced by David Cole
Co-produced by Bruce Gaitsch
in L.A. by David Cole and Bruce Gaitsch
Mixed by David Cole
Mastered by Wally Traugott

Released 29/4-2011
Reviewed 8/8-2011

avenue of allies

Like in flames King of Hearts lights up in their ballads on the album '1989', an AOR-album originally recorded precisely in 1989 during the last breath of the great age of AOR. Now the album has been properly released for the first time through the label Avenue of Allies, the same label that thought it was a good idea to re-release If Only's 'No Bed of Roses' 19 years after the album was released. With King of Hearts Avenue of Allies thought 22 years later sounded better, which lead us to the real question - why wasn't the album released 22 years ago? Well, actually it was, but only in Japan, and I'd love to say the reason for it not to make it in to Europe and America is solely due to the official reason - record label issues - but I seriously doubt that would have stopped it for so long had the album been good enough. I think it's somewhat due to how the album sounds, and I'm not saying that because I think '1989' is a seriously bad album - I say so because it would be the most logical reason.

King of Hearts is like the definiton of the heavier AOR. They have a vocalist that would fit perfectly within heavy metal, melodies are as solid as a parking meter in a block of cement and the band feels so enthusiastic that they from time to time almost breaks out in to some kind of gospel church choir or soul metal with harmonica, choirs and melodies that does evrything to throw you around and up a staircase along with a randomly selected group of people that shakes you back and forth and from left to right with a clap with the hands in the middle. Sometimes though it feels more like a theme song from a Bond-film or some sort of collaboration with all the big bands in the genre - like Foreigner, Journey and Supertramp to mention a few - blended and shaked to whatever that mess symbolise. This might not come as a chock, though, once you peek-a-boo at the names of the creators and what they've been involved in. Tommy Funderburk, Kelly Keagy, George Hawkins Jr and Bruce Gaitsch are all known from lots of AOR releases and projects but I see no point in wasting your time writing them down right here, right now.

WIth their bluesy guitars and sound that overall constantly reminds me about the predecessor-genres of rock and hard rock, King of Hearts feels pretty much as a B-squad in the A-team within AOR. They missed out on the big success but their music is not far from the million + selling bands of the same era. The album might sound pretty heavy and rough in the production but the foundation of the music is piano, acoustic guitars, harmonica, soft electric guitars and toned down bass. The drums are really heavy though, and the spirit of hard rock can be heard as soon as the solo guitars and synths comes in to the picture and delivers music with best Van Halen spirit. There's three vocalists in the band and all though Tommy Funderburk is the main vocalist who sings most of the songs, the other two lead sing one and two songs respectively (Kelly Keagy does lead vocals on Smack Dab (In The Middle Of Love) and Under The Gun while George Hawkins Jr takes tune on Everyday). These three songs sound quite different compared to the Funderburk-sung, with Keagys considerably darker voice creating that gospel feel I mention earlier and Hawkin Jrs more nasal voice working excellent in the more synth-orientated Everyday. Despite this, I still hold the FUnderburk-sung songs as the best of the album and when it comes to the ballads Don't Call My Name and King of Hearts they really blossom in to their best!

Overall I wouldn't say either King of Hearts or the album sound fantastic but if you like AOR then this is a decent band that can make you happy at least to some extent. I wouldn't say they blow down wind mills or got an album stronger than an electric fens in Jurassic Park but it's definitely not bad and the ballads are extremely good! Flame-good! But not In Flames-good. A steady four though.


Label: Avenue of Allies/Connecting Music
Three similar bands: Supertramp/John Wetton/Journey
Rating: HHHHHHH (4/7)
Recensent: Caj Källmalm
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