King James released their self-titled debut album back in 1994. Jimi Bennett had previously been the singer for Sacred Fire, while Rex Carroll was known for being lead guitarist for Whitecross. Stryper’s Tim Gaines and Robert Sweet also played on the first album. King James put out their second album THE FALL in 1997. It did well in Europe and was re-released in 2010. Fast forward to 2013 and King James is back with MAXIMUS (Madison Line Records). The current band line-up is: Jimi Bennett (preaching, singing, coffee), Michael Feighan (drums, raybans, aquanet), Benny Ramos (bass guitar, keyboards, email, impersonator), and Rex Carroll (boss/beast on six strings, McDonalds #6 Crispy). The latter three members are also in the current incarnation of Whitecross with vocalist Scott Wenzel.
MAXIMUS begins with a cool, short instrumental called ‘The Void’. A great hard rock song, ‘Hard Road to Go’ follows. It tells the sad tale of a rebel: “A penny saved, a dollar earned, I gotta make it quick/To do a deal, make a steal, or even turn a trick/Wear a gun, ready to kill, death is in your eyes/Crack cocaine, and all its thrills, you’ll soon realize/Turn against your mother, turn against your brother/Oh, what have you done?/Was it worth your freedom?/Hard road to go/Looking over your shoulder, you must have known/Hard road to go: everything you’ve got now is gone.” ‘Black Stone Woman’ is a funk-filled rock song with great vocals by Jimi. Of the song, Rex says: “For me, the song is about ‘Don’t hang on to your 15 minutes too tightly. When you do, bad things tend to happen.’” Here are some of the song’s lyrics: “Life is easy, when it’s going your way/Some say plenty of time for you to play/Running wild and too blind to see/Hearing voices full of agony.../Black stone woman, oh, so jaded/Past your prime, you’ve been downgraded/Such a shame and sad to say/Put you on the shelf for another day/Mama don’t know that the facts don’t lie/Black stone woman, got downgraded/Your time has come, the star has faded/Hanging by a thread.”
‘Mississippi Kidd’ is a melodic rocker that is a tribute song to Ean Evans who played bass with the Outlaws, King James, and Lynyrd Skynyrd: “This one’s about Ean, he lived south of the Mason-Dixon Line/He played the bass, he was an ace, got cut down in his prime/Eva’s man, father of two, left a legacy behind/A God-fearing man who wasn’t ashamed, and he was a friend of mine/This ain’t the ending of the story/Surely heaven knows your name/Now you’re walking in the land of glory/On golden streets that bear no shame.”
‘X Maximus’ is Rex’s tenth guitar solo on his albums over the years. It runs around a minute and a half and is awesome! Rex shares: “It was one of the hardest to play. I’m tellin’ ya it don’t get no easier as you go along, it gets harder because you have to keep finding new things to play!” ‘Waiting for the King’ was penned by Dean Harrington and Larry Rust. It begins with mellow guitar playing but quickly amps up. It has an End Times theme: “Waiting for the King to come, waiting for the trumpet to sound (2X)/Many are still in disbelief/Some don’t even care/It will be too late, judgment day/Look up...let your light shine/He’s coming, coming soon/To crush the evil one, gonna throw him in the pit.”
‘A New Beginning’ is a short, atmospheric instrumental. ‘Miracles’ is a moving ballad inspired by Jimi’s daughter Heidi being healed of a brain tumor. She sings backing vocals on this track. Here are some of the touching lyrics: “I held her in my arms, ‘Daddy make it go away’/The truth of the matter is there was nothing I could say/In my desperation, I knelt down to pray/To give us hope, to see us through, to live another day.../I believe, I believe in miracles/She got just what she needed and it was right on time/I believe, I believe in miracles/I believe, she believes, in miracles.”
Of ‘The Highlander-In Exile’, Rex says it “is an improvisation created using multiple tracks and an e-bow.” This particular electric guitar solo has a Celtic vibe. Rex talks about the next song: “The Prisoner is a challenge-are you a prisoner? Who controls you? What controls you? Are you under divine authority? Or something more nefarious?” This heavy, pounding rocker includes these words: “Deep down I know, I’m a prisoner/I crossed over your domain, bound by its chains/Can’t you see, I’m held by the mercy of love/Cause I’m a prisoner, a prisoner of love.” Rex adds: “Listen to the drum beats, in this song we have the wa-wanga beat, a jazz fusion groove, and a couple of rhythm shifts...Michael Feighan has been a student of Latin percussion as long as I’ve known him.”
‘Just as I Am (Lamb of God)’ dates back to the 1800’s when it was penned by Charlotte Elliot and William B. Bradbury. Here, we are presented with a bluesy, reverent version of the old hymn of submission: “Just as I am, without one plea/But that Thy blood was shed for me/And that Thou bidst me come to Thee/Oh, Lamb of God, I come.../Just as I am, Thou will receive/Will welcome, pardon, cleanse, relieve/Because Thy promise, oh I believe/Oh, Lamb of God, I come/Oh, Lamb of God anointed one/In You, my sin undone.” ‘Desperate’ is a passionate rock song that finds the band earnestly yearning for a living, powerful relationship with Christ: “I’ve waited so long, reach out for me/Won’t You please let me find the Son of serenity/I’ll give You all my love, follow You all the way/Oh, the midnight hour calls the Morning Star/I’m so desperate for You/Looking for who You really are/I’m so desperate for You/I wanna hear Your voice/Call my name/To feel Your presence/Lord, like the falling rain.” An acoustic version of ‘Miracles’ closes out the album.
MAXIMUS is a terrific hard rock album. Fans of John Schlitt of Petra, and Les Carlsen of Bloodgood, will appreciate Jimi Bennett’s vocals. Rex Carroll’s guitar playing is second to none in Christian music. King James offers hope to the hurting and perishing, and points to Jesus as the Answer to life’s problems. I look forward to hearing more from this exciting band! They hope to do a large-scale tour before too long. I’m rating this album 95%. For more info visit www.kingjamesband.com and www.madisonlinerecords.com.