New York New York: The Best of Kevin K - Kevin k (Lollipop Records)
Another Kevin K album, this one a “Best of” out of France, and the obvious question remains: Why isn’t Mr K in the firmament as one of underground rawk’s best-known stars? The guy’s consistency over fuck-knows-how-many albums is staggering, and all of these tunes are ‘keepers’.
With any highlights compilation you can quibble about what’s missing but, seriously, what’s the point? The stuff that is here is all good, often great, and that’s what you need to know. And here’s a heads-up: I’m a fan and I only know half these songs! That’s a measure of the man’s prolific nature since his Road Vultures days, and maybe also of his ability to operate below the music industry’s radar on his own (frugal) terms. The K hoes a row rich in buzz-edged, raunchy guitar, mid-tempo glam-rock-punk, with vocals not a million miles from those of the late John Genzales (or Thunders to most of us). It’s gritty and streetwise and you should delve into it. Often.
Kevin K paid his (and someone else’s) dues s in the early-‘80s with bands in Buffalo, NY, before moving closer to the New York City action by relocating to Staten Island. The next band, the aforementioned Road Vultures (whose ranks included late brother Alan K), moved in the same circles as Johnny Thunders et al, and became a fixture on the Lower East Side scene. Their status as house band at The Continental Divide yielded supports to just about any cool act you can name. Kevin’s subsequent solo career has based him in NYC and Europe (though he prefers the warmer climes of Florida, by all accounts).
So to the disc and this is full-blown guitar raunch from the get-go. “Crime Scene” is pretty much straight-up, mid-tempo rock and roll. No frills but earnest, with an economical solo. You can apply the same epithets to most of the songs that follow – they’re timeless, in a way, and proof that you don’t need to splurge on expensive studios or overdo the arrangements to come up with something simple and pure.
“Lonely Girl” (with strings! no less) is from Kevin’s most commercial release, the criminally ignored “Magic Touch”, and glitters like a diamond in a Lower East Side gutter. Just in case you’re nodding off, “Story of My Life” bursts out of the speakers with a crunch. The ‘50s-tarred “Heartbroken Again” gives a clue to what Kevin K was listening to on the radio when he was growing up and rides home on the back of a beefy harp-and-horn part.
“Bon Voyage” (the closer, naturally) is the sole unreleased track and doesn’t deviate far from most of what’s gone before. I understandably lean towards the more recent stuff here (in this case, familiarity breeds respect) but the less recognisable songs keep bringing me back. Guess that means it’s a winner.