Kings Go Forth – ‘The Outsiders Are Back’ [Luaka Bop Records]

Written by Imran Mirza

It’s Thursday 3rd June, about 10:30pm, and I’m sat at my laptop about to tackle a severely neglected inbox.  There’s one email in particular I’ve not got been able to get round to responding to – it has ‘Kings Go Forth’ in the subject line and it’s letting me know that their debut album is shortly available for release.  It’s got that ever-so-bankable ‘Luaka Bop records’ stamp on it making me confident that I’m going to be in for something special.  So I start previewing a couple of tracks.

I like it.

I really like it!

I must have it.  Now!

So after typing in those oh-so-familiar letters onto my keyboard (“A” “M” “A” “Z” “O” “N”) … I have it.

Luaka Bop, the record label established by former guitarist and producer for Talking Heads, David Byrne, has become the recording home famed for supporting world music, probably more specifically, Brazilian and African music and artists, including names as respected as Zap Mama, Susana Baca and the excellent Si*Se.  Now, continuing in their long line of unique worldwide releases, the label find themselves with a true slice of soul filled Americana in the form of Kings Go Forth and their debut album, ‘The Outsiders Are Back’.

Birthed, created and nurtured in their hometown of Milwaukee, Wisconsin, it was when vocalist Black Wolf, a near-60 year old singer who once performed as one of the Expressions, met Wisconsin record store owner (and now band bassist), Andy Noble, that the Kings were born.  The now 10-man soul orchestra, who would go on to establish themselves off of the strength of their live performances, are a group whose members consist of various ages and backgrounds, but are bound together by their love and passion for playing and performing quality soul music.

Produced by Wolf and Noble, the ten-track album clocks in at less than 60 minutes and doesn’t waste a second, from the explosive opener ‘One Day’ to the closing number ‘Get A Feeling’, the exceptional music is comprised of crashing drums, heavy horns and Wolf’s sweet vocal, which is as rich in gospel elements as it is in funk-filled soul.  Although futile to pick favourites amongst an album of such quality, ‘Fight With Love’ soars, along with ‘High On Your Love’; Much has been made about Tom Moulton’s mix of the epic ‘Don’t Take My Shadow’, which does in fact suitably find its home on the album, and we can all start including within the top 3 of our respective ‘best songs of the year’ lists – it is something that really needs to be heard to be believed!

The icing on the cake with ‘The Outsiders Are Back’ though, which may be surprising to hear, is the album’s cover art, which are original drawings by the one and only Mingering Mike.  If you’re unfamiliar with Mingering Mike – let me introduce you:  Mingering Mike is you.  Mingering Mike is me.  Mingering Mike is that dreamer with the unattainable ambition of gracing a stage and being heralded as an international soul superstar – but as people couldn’t celebrate the superstar, they celebrated the dreamer.  Mingering Mike would go on to create a fictional career as a soul sensation by creating actual record sleeves for over 50 of his own ‘albums’ featuring his sketches of himself and his friends, and even including cardboard ‘vinyl’ in the sleeves.  ‘The Outsiders Are Back’ marks the first album that features Mike’s artwork that was actually released! (For more info, please visit

‘The Outsiders Are Back’ is a treasure waiting to be heard, and has set the bar ridiculously high for future soul releases this year.

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