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Chris Daniels, the Kings and friends

The Spark (Hapi Skratch Records)

Long an outstanding fixture on the scene, Chris Daniels and the Kings began making a name for themselves years ago in the smaller clubs around town with their trademark rhythm and blues peppered with ample amounts of soul and superior musicianship. A few years back, the band began to make the transition to more of a big-band/swing sound. A few players went and a few new players came, and the Kings' tremendous horn section became a force of its own. The Spark is an exceptional step in the evolution of an act that has found its mature voice, both musically and lyrically.

Proof of this maturity is exhibited in the sheer amount of musical ground covered on The Spark. In high gear on songs such as "Jump," the Kings evoke the spirit of swing great Louis Prima and then take the music back another decade for "Biggest Heartache on the Block," with its lilting clarinet melody. Meanwhile, the spirit of zydeco is alive and well at the heart of "In the Night," which provides a strange contrast to the eerily beautiful "If I'd Only Taken You Dancing." And then, as expected, the patented Kings-style blues rears its head on cuts like "Tuesday Man" and the biographical title track.

Some elite players make appearances on this record, including the first lady of Western soul, Hazel Miller, along with Tony Furtado, Richie Furay and Mollie O'Brien, making The Spark an amazing collection of talent to go with the well-written and expertly performed songs. And if that isn't enough, the album's ingenious packaging is sure to draw you in.

 
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