12 Songs, 49 Minutes

TITLE TIME

Ratings and Reviews

4.8 out of 5
5 Ratings

5 Ratings

InterwebzHasYou ,

Breathing New Life in to Old Songs

If iTunes isn’t going to give this album a pretentious review then I will.

Fans of Kaki King should be used to her tendency to experiment by now; the vocally-powered, rock-influenced Junior (2010) and the cosmically-enhanced The Neck Is a Bridge to the Body (2015) are just two examples that showcase King’s desire and ability to create songs that are more than just the hammer-ons, pull-offs, full-fret slaps and guitar body percussion that many people now expect out of her. But Live at Berklee is more than an experiment for King; it’s an experience for the students of Berklee and a treat for King’s fans.
Live at Berklee features eleven of Kaki King’s older songs, shown in a new light with the help of Berklee College of Music’s incredibly talented 12-piece student-faculty orchestra, named the Porta Girevole Chamber Orchestra. True fans will get to appreciate the eleven familiar songs in brand new ways; “Fortuna”, from King’s debut album Everybody Loves You (2003), now partners with the Porta Girevole Chamber Orchestra’s string section to add a sweet, melancholic splendor to the emptiness and desperation expressed in the original. Fan-favorite “Night After Sidewalk”, also from Everybody Loves You, is now accompanied with the soft harmony of violins to amplify the somber beauty of one of King’s most beloved songs. Her fret-jumping fingers in the presto-tempo “Solipsist”, from the 2004 album Legs to Make Us Longer, gave the original song the essence of a tribal dance; now it sounds more like a battle, as King’s guitar competes with frantic cellos and a sympathetic trumpet.
But the most astonishing piece on this album, and perhaps the greatest example of this partnership’s ability to transform King’s instrumental solos, is the final track. “Magazine”, from Legs to Make Us Longer, has two distinct halves: the first half of the original experiments with an ever-changing tempo and uses traditional hand placement (under the neck of the guitar), while the second half is a fast-paced feat of King’s unorthodox skill, using a non-traditional hand placement (over the neck of the guitar). In Live at Berklee, “Magazine” has been given a new purpose: it tells a story. Starting with an epilogue consisting of a new guitar riff not present in the original, the song shifts in to the first half, which now has a fixed tempo. The guitar, violins, cello, trumpet, and bassoon blend together to create the scene of an uneasy exploration in to something deep and unknown, leading to the discovery of something grand and awe-inspiring signified by a sudden crescendo. Fluttering violins mark the protagonist flirting with danger as she continues the exploration and eventually, she discovers something she was not prepared for. The second half is a chase; King’s original fast-paced fingerwork now combines with the entire orchestra in a terrifying escape scene. The chaotic guitar sequence takes place of the protagonist’s attempts to avoid the apprehension of something fast and evil, dodging and jumping over obstacles, while the strings of the orchestra act as the crumbling setting, closing in on the fleeting protagonist. The tempo starts to pick up near the end as the entire orchestra seemingly chants the same four notes, while the guitar frantically plays faster and faster as the protagonist runs towards the light, finally making it through the threshold and ending the horror by slamming the door behind her with a harsh open-fret strum.
In general, Kaki King’s work can be seen as an attempt to convey mood rather than message, which is something she does incredibly well, especially considering how many times she has been able to do this using a single guitar. But Live at Berklee gives fans the chance to see what King is truly capable of when she has more than her guitar to aid her; she can take mood and amplify it, she can reshape it, and she can create scenery with it.

Medina79 ,

Great album

I’ve loved Kaki’s music since I first saw her on tv playing ‘Close Your Eyes and You’ll Burst Into Flames’. She was amazing then and she still is. This album is great for hearing some of her work from a different point of view, specifically, with a backing orchestra. She sounds great, my only complaint is that the sound of her guitar is often drowned out by the orchestra. Still, this is a great album with new takes on a lot of my favorite KK songs. Definitely a must have.

More By Kaki King