THREE HAIRS AND YOU'RE MINE - King Khan and His Shrines (Voodoo Rhythm)
King Khan's roots are in Pakistan and Canada, two renowned homes of the Stax soul sound (NOT!), but his better-known antecedents are with Sympathy For the Records Industry artists the Spaceshits, who were altogether a more punk proposition.

The story goes that King Khan toured Europe with said Spaceshits and fell in love with the place (and a local girl) about the same time he changed address and became a Soul Brother. Now he's recording on Swiss label Voodoo Rhythm, which is fast becoming one of our fave discoveries of 2003.

Not that the King is half as demented as some of the people on Voodoo Rhythm (matching some of the mania would be difficult, indeed). This is soul mostly played straight, with a fluid engine room (BB Jennes is a masterful bass player) and a big-sounding, three-piece brass section. It's authentic but the ranks include names like Tom Bone (on trombone - of course!), Ben Ra and Sam Cook, so they're not exactly over-playing the reverence.

This is mostly up-tempo, horn or organ-driven soul. The swingin' R & B of "Saba Lou" is hard to pass up. "The Mashed Potato Itch" is a jokey diversion, "Shivers Down My Spine" is the slightly over-wrought lost-my-girl tearjerker and "Fool Like Me" the obligatory ballad (about chewing gum swapping) with tasteful guitar from the enigmatically-named Speedfinger. The Bo Diddley cover ("Crackin' Up") is just plain cool.

This was recorded at Toe Rag Studios in London so you know it sounds good. King Khan is a lot James Brown, a little voodoo (as in Screamin' Jay) and a tad New York Dolls ("Stranded in the Jungle", via Memphis). He's digging through the crypt, but not in a Cramps way. Played straight and sweet with just a touch of "out there" factor. Grab a copy from the label's web site. Oh, and if you're in Australia you can buy Voodoo Rhythm stuff from Corduroy. So you have no excuse, right?
- The Barman