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KANE GANG (Buy CDs by this artist)
Lowdown (London) 1985
The Bad and Lowdown World of the Kane Gang (UK Kitchenware) 1985
Miracle (Echo Chamber/Kitchenware/London/Capitol) 1987

The Newcastle-area Kane Gang are a bit of an oddity, consisting as it does of two vocalists — not a harmony duo — plus an instrumentalist who plays (or programs) much of the rest. The trio does get some help here and there on drums and horns; veteran Pete Wingfield handles keyboards and production (some of each on the first album, all keyboards and co-production with the band on the second). What's really weird is the difference in results between the two records.

The Kane Gang's debut shows exciting breadth and promise, which it comes tantalizingly close to realizing on nearly every track. The Gang (whose name is an homage to Citizen Kane) are neither purists nor trendies, and move comfortably through a variety of R&B sub-styles, distinctly blue-eyed but needing no apology. (Except, that is, for the vocals on — nay, the very choice of — "Respect Yourself." Despite a soulful shot-in-the-arm from English session-singing queen P.P. Arnold, these extremely white boys only embarrass themselves by attempting to mimic the Staple Singers.) The songs fall just short of superb and their musical identity needs fine tuning, but it's a heckuva swell platter. (The original UK title is The Bad and Lowdown World of the Kane Gang.)

Miracle, on the other hand, is anything but miraculous. The Kanes have mixmastered their style to resemble all the other slick and faceless white soulsters. Only one track has any grit and spit, but it's short and buried deep on Side Two. The album's most memorable, tuneful track wasn't written by the group, but by LA pop-soul hacks. Miracle is mostly processed cheese, even the group's modest American hit, "Motortown."

[Jim Green]