KOKOMO: “To Be Cool” (Hux import)
Standing in front of this ’70s Brit-soul revue at North London clubs like the Hope & Anchor and Dingwalls was the most exquisite place on earth. Consisting of the U.K.’s top rock and r&b studio players (bassist Alan Spenner and guitarist Neil Hubbard had played Woodstock with Joe Cocker; saxophonist Mel Collins was out of King Crimson; percussionist Jody Linscott would tour with the Who and Dido; Jim Mullen today is Britain’s top jazz guitarist), the 10-piece ensemble knocked out American soul music thoroughly marinated in draught Guinness, patchouli oil and five varieties of hashish.
Despite three fine albums for Columbia, the 10-track “To Be Cool,” taped at the band’s rehearsal room in ’74 and miraculously just discovered and released, truly captures the band’s feel, wit and casual brilliance. Plucking obscure gems from albums by Joe Tex, Allen Toussaint and Funk Inc., Kokomo opened gigs with a jaw-dropping 10-minute reading of Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon,” before the group’s three singers arrived on stage. That instrumental, in which Mullen illustrates the proper use of a Fender Telecaster, is a standout here, along with the late Spenner’s tour de force reading of Bob Dylan’s “New Morning” and Tex’s “Mother’s Prayer.” Sweet, sweet sounds.
Fred Shuster – Los Angeles Daily News
Mel talks Chris Groom through his musical journey in this long piece on the King Crimson “Elephant Talk” site. It also includes an excellent Mel Collins “Rock Family Tree” in the style of Pete Frame.
“In May 1973 Neil Hubbard and Alan Spenner formed Kokomo, with Dyan Birch, Frank Collins, Paddy McHugh and Tony O’Malley who had all been in a pop group called Arrival. I came in on sax and we got Terry Stannard to play drums, Jim Mullen on guitar and percussionist Jody Linscott. Kokomo have been described as a ‘white soul group’, along with people like the Average White Band and so on. We released a couple of albums for CBS, but made most of our money from constant touring and after a few line-up changes the band were really running out of steam. “
“Back to Kokomo; at the end of 1976, Joe Cocker played a few gigs with us as ‘special guest’ – he was an old mate of Neil and Alan’s from their days with the Grease Band – and in fact one of those gigs with Joe was at the Croydon Greyhound. But by January ’77 Kokomo finally decided to split up, although as you know we all still get back together again for the occasional benefit gig or just for the hell of it – they’re a lot of fun.”
Read the full article
The interview was part of Chris Groom’s research for his book “Rockin’ and Around Croydon:¬†Rock, Folk, Blues and Jazz in and Around the Croydon Area 1960-1980“.