THE PHILOSOPHER KINGS bring back their charms

I can’t remember the first time I met Gerald Eaton and his Canadian band The Philosopher Kings.  Probably around 1995 or so, in Toronto.

I loved that period of my life, writing about/hanging out with every local band there ever was and almost every Brit or Lo-Fi band from elsewhere on the planet, too.

The PKs played smooth, jazzy R&B and I was full-on BritPop/Goth/Alt/Indie from a different side of the track, but I ended up crossing tracks a lot back then. I just liked charismatic performers, and Gerald was capital S Smooth. He had a caramel voice, and was a classic-era frontman. The band always sounded tight. They could actually play. We’d cross paths at industry events and gigs. At the Much Music Video Awards. At the bar at the back of Toronto’s venerable venue Lee’s Palace. We’d goof around, I’d chuck him a smoke or a light. It’s funny, the things you remember.

So I pitched an article that would be about the making of their next video, “Charms”, which was being directed by my then-fave video director (‘cos videos were a thing back then) Curtis Wehrfritz.

On a cold morning, I took the 501 streetcar from one end of the line to the other, to the Gladstone Hotel, before it was gentrified and became a hipster hang. Back then it was still eerie, characters coming in and out of rooms. Dodgy things happening in the shadows, and that was the vibe they wanted. I hung out with the Philosopher Kings for two days of filming. Guitarist Brian West – who’s now an L.A.-based music producer – drew a sketch for me, he was big into art. It was of a kind-of me girl but skinnier, with crazy hair and no eyes and a fish on her head. I still have it. That song went to number #36 on the Billboard charts.

Fast forward to, what, 25 years? There’s a newish album, Return of the Kings, and three original members and a few others were back on stage in Vancouver after a very long hiatus. And capital S Smooth Gerald Eaton has kept his designate. He’s still just so, so charming. And “Charms” still sounds lovely. Their cover of Godley & Creme’s “Cry” comes after a cover of The Cranberries’ “Linger”, (“We’re a 90s band, so it makes sense to cover another of our favourite 90s bands.” – Eaton) and we’re thrown back to a time when MOR was a radio format. And there was radio. In Vancouver, the crowd was old – hell, we all are – but the music felt clean. The guitar from James Bryan McCollum and Brian West was crisp. The drummer, always smiling.

And there was Eaton, in his flow, suave and smiling, happy to back. The crowd smiled back at him – maybe they’d been there for the Philosopher Kings back then, too. I was, and it was a good time. Charming, even. \m/

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