Bernie Marsden / New album Kings is an inspired winner

Bernie Marsden has a new album out, and it is a winner. Kings, out now via Conquest Music, is Marsden’s first solo album in seven years and is the first of an “Inspirations” series of releases. This inaugural album is a tribute to the legends Freddie, Albert and B.B. King.

Bernie Marsden – Kings (Little House Music via Conquest Music)

Release Date: Out now

Words – Marky T

Bernie welcomed the new album by commenting “I’m very excited to let you know that I have a new album out called Kings. My thank you to three influential Bluesmen – BB King, Freddy King and Albert King who have all been a part of my playing since discovering them as a teen. I have chosen the songs on the album carefully but couldn’t also resist recording Help Me Through the Day – a Leon Russell song I first recorded with Whitesnake in 1979.”

Photo of Bernie Marsden
Bernie Marsden. Photo: Fabio Gianarda

Most people recognise the name Bernie Marsden from his time in Whitesnake when he and cohort Micky Moody helped raise the band to a world-conquering level. His songwriting contributed to massive hits, including Fool For Your Loving and Here We Go Again. Having started his pro career in an early UFO, Marsden now has an extensive body of work to look back on. Let’s take a look at his latest output.

Don’t You Lie To Me, a song played by Mississippi-born Albert King, kicks off the first of twelve tracks with a blistering guitar intro. Blues fans won’t be disappointed. There’s a traditional feel to this well-covered standard, with Marsden letting rip when the song requires it.

Interesting fact; at the start of his career, Albert changed his last name from Nelson to King and passed himself off as BB King’s big brother! It sounds like the six foot four inch Flying V toting bluesman was quite the character.

Key To The Highway, a BB King track, then takes over with a much more Chicago blues atmosphere. No surprise, as BB moved to the Illinois capital early in his career, hailing originally from yet again, Mississippi. There’s no drifting too far from classic versions of the song here, including the solos, which as on this whole record, rely on emotion rather than million-note per second acrobatics.

Cover of Kings, from Bernie Marsden

A 1973 Freddie King number next up, Help Me Through The Day, with a relaxed tempo and lovely Peter Green-esque guitar lines throughout. Marsden would visit Peter Green often during Green’s latter years, playing together and sometimes just chatting. Treasured memories, I’m sure.

Then it’s back to Albert with I’ll Play The Blues For You. The bass pins this track to the floor, allowing Hammond organ and an overdriven guitar to create a creamy layer of sound over the top. My top track for this album.

Bernie has two tracks from one Freddie King album on this release, Help Me Through The Day, then the album’s title track here, Woman Across The River. With its blues chorus and tempo-change rockier chorus, this was a great choice. Again, Bernie doesn’t stray too far from the original, but why would you? Bernie gives his heart and soul to the vocals, with the story of a love lost.

With its twin-guitar intro, the BB song Help The Poor’s arrangement retains all the original emotion, but it’s a much more lively interpretation. The rockiest song on the album, Freddie’s Me And My Guitar, is up next and up-tempo. With solid drums at the front of the mix, it’s a good-time tune and a welcome contrast. The song choices on this album are “Freddie heavy”, but Bernie’s personal choices show his affiliation to the Texan.

The next three numbers are all Freddie, with Living On The Highway, keeping up the rockier side of things with its rapid shuffle. This gives way to the sentimental You Got To Love Her With A Feeling, with Marsden staying true to the original, including the vocal performance. A true tribute effort.

The emotional style continues with Same Old Blues, Marsden expressing himself with perfect understatedness along with this slower Freddie song.

Runaway is a party-time hoot. Trading guitar licks and time changes all the way, everyone present was obviously having a great time!

A Bernie Marsden original, Uptown Train, closes out Kings. Two minutes and eighteen seconds of Marsden at play. Bluesy, emotional, soulful, just the job to finish this quality release.

There’s really nothing not to like about this album. As an introduction to or reminder of the three kings of the blues, Bernie Marsden’s musical roots allow him to pay proper service to all of these tunes.

The next in the series, due in November, is Chess, being a tribute to those great Chess Records artists. I’ll be first in the queue.

Kings, out now on Marsden’s own Little House label via Conquest Music, may be purchased from berniemarsden.com or smarturl.it/BMKingsPreOrder

Tracklisting
1. Don’t You Lie To Me (Hudson Whittaker)
2. Key To The Highway (William Lee Conley Broonzy, Charles Segar)
3. Help Me Through The Day (Leon Russell)
4. I’ll Play The Blues For You (Jerry Beach)
5. Woman Across The River (Bettye Crutcher, Allen Jones)
6. Help The Poor (Charles Singleton)
7. Me And My Guitar (Leon Russell, Charles Blackwell)
8. Living On The Highway (Leon Russell, Don Nix)
9. You’ve Got To Love Her With Feeling (Freddie King, Sonny Thompson) 10. Same Old Blues (Don Nix)
11. Runaway (Bernie Marsden)
12. Uptown Train (Bernie Marsden)

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