I admit I had never heard of King Charles before I offered to review this album. And while I’m glad I have now, I also feel like I wouldn’t have really missed out even if I had never listened to Gamble For A Rose. The 30-year old British singer-songwriter combines folk and rock elements with pop music, which, on one hand, may pleasantly surprise the listener, but on the other, disrupts what would have sounded a lot better had he focused on just one genre per track.
The album starts out strong with Loose Change For A Boatman. Charles’s voice is soothing and wonderfully understated throughout the album; he doesn’t attempt to impress the listener with long drawn-out notes or complex tunes. The guitar riff is catchy, and this is one of the very few songs which was improved with the combination of soft folk sounds with the stronger rock influences. Animal Desires and Choke are similarly pleasant to listen to, but less memorable. The titular track, Gamble For A Rose is unfortunately underwhelming, with a pretty bland tune and equally mediocre lyrics (“I guess you could call this song my gamble for a rose / Oh with your hand in mine I may be burdened but I’ll never be broke”).
Certain tracks on the album had a painful recurring theme for me. I listened to St Peter’s Gate, New Orleans, and Coco Chitty with growing delight as each began with attention-grabbing melodies only made better with Charles’s voice… and then I continued listening in dismay as Charles attempted to distinguish his style by unnecessarily inserting an electric guitar and heavy drums into the once-simple-but-lovely songs, and thus ruining the initially built-up sentiment. Showing his versatility wasn’t really worth it, in this case.
Some highlights included Carry Me Away, which stands out as a charming acoustic love song, thankfully isolated from any rock elements. Similarly, Bright Thing, a predominantly rock track is notable for its melody and lyrically striking chorus (“If I let you into my heart, I’ll let you under my skin / And I’ll chase you out, just like I chased you in”).
It must be said, most of the tracks on Gamble For A Rose have decent lyrics. Of course, most of the tracks are either songs about being betrayed in love (Loose Change For A Boatman, Choked) or wanting to be with the one you love (Gamble For A Rose, Carry Me Away, Coco Chitty, In Silhouette), and thus, almost inevitably contain some pop-lyric clichés, which don’t really grab your attention - for example, “You played it like you wanted something more from me / When you were just a girl and everything to me” on Choked. In this aspect, Tomorrow’s Fool, an emotional track possibly about Charles’s own journey in life stands out:
“I will be a fool today I’m scared of what tomorrow brings Tears will flow, I’ll beat myself But I’m too proud to ever change.”
While King Charles has made a promising start to his sound with this album (this is only his second album after all), I feel like his music could become more enjoyable if he didn’t attempt to fit every genre of music within his interest into nearly every track. Overall, Gamble For A Rose leaves the listener happy enough with what they have listened to, but doesn’t give them anything to make the album truly worth remembering and coming back to.