"Zion's Last Request" by Four KingsReview
After declaring my enthusiasm for the new Andy Beglin single "Vale of Avalon" last month, here I am telling you of another release he's part of: though it's possible you may know this one already, as it's from his band Four Kings (which formed some twenty two years ago and split four years later) and it's a single called "Zion's Last Request".
The inspiration for this rather unexpected event is that the band are reforming to act as special guests for The Session's 21st anniversary celebration on Saturday September 16th at the HMV Empire in Coventry.
Appearing originally on their 2003 album ‘Life Through The Bottom Of A Glass', (recorded with Andy Faulkner in his basement studio in Middlebrough Road, Coventry), the song, like the rest of their material, was a group composition, which gives me a chance to tell you who was in the band: as well as Andy on lead vocals there was Leigh Urquhart on bass, Paul Hartry on guitar, Chris Hartry on drums and Dave Medforth on keyboards (which my maths adds up to five rather than four: I gather the name owes more to a drinking game they used to play than the actual number of people in the group & that an attempt to reconcile it to The Five Kings floundered as they felt the one they went with sounded better).
In their day, they were something of an eclectic band who married classic rock influences with the sharper, incisive indie rock of their own days (thus preventing excess or bloating of songs: "melody" & "drama" being the key ideas in play), "Zion's Last Request" belongs at the heavier end of what they purveyed, but captures the power of the collective playing (it's fascinating hearing Andy let it rip with such gusto given the intimacy of his delivery on his contemporary solo work). I guess they wanted to showcase what they were capable of (the band do feel that the studio version is close to their live sound) & to pick a track they felt was representative of them: not least maybe to make sure the younger members of their audience at the Empire are adequately briefed & prepared.
As the title suggests, biblical & religious matters inform the song (Andy described the lyrics to me as "..paranoid, apocalyptic feelings of depression looking for something more ..") and parts of it (not least the extended introductory instrumental section) evoke sounds of the east with the harmonic choices made and the wash of cymbal work. Andy also likes how the song demonstrates their ability to switch between progressive rock (he suggests ‘Animals' era Pink Floyd & the later Doors' sound as specific influences), psychedelic rock & pop (e.g. Supergrass) within the same piece and it certainly does all that: as well as I think providing all the members with a chance to show what they can do.
Ultimately though, the band was best known for the power & panache of its live performances & if unfamiliar with the band, while listening to the single will grant you some insights, you really do need to take advantage of this unique opportunity & catch them: tickets are still available at the time of writing via this link: https://www.eventim-light.com/uk/a/62aaf91212e4de0a6a8997a8/e/63cfe8e956bffb3ad04439b5
If you weren't following the Coventry music scene in the early part of this century for any reason (I'll accept "not having been born" as a valid excuse), then you might like a bit of context for Four Kings and where they can be placed in the fabric of local music traditions. As I say, they were pretty eclectic & cited influences as including Supergrass, Pink Floyd, the Rolling Stones, The Doors and Led Zeppelin. Dayle Crutchlow of the then Coventry Evening Telegraph remarked of them "…Four Kings are everything that made you full in love with scuzzy and dazzlingly powerful Rock and Roll in the first place.."
They played locally a great deal as you'd expect (including on the Main Stage at the Godiva Festival) & nationally appeared with bands such as The Darkness, Kasabian, The Datsuns, Cooper Temple Clause, Biffy Clyro, Goldie Lookin' Chain, and 80s Matchbox B-Line Disaster. One 2002 gig with American band Left Front Tyre (who are on the American Pie soundtrack) led to them invited to be the first unsigned British Band to play at the Athfest Music Festival in Athens, Georgia , the hometown of R.E.M, and The B52's.
And now here they are for you once again, confounding all expectations to the contrary.