Things go better withÂ KOKOMO!!!
KOKOMO “Kokomo” (CBS)
THE AVERAGE Whites broke the ice with their second album and Kokomo will be the first of the beneficiaries.
To keep you interested, “Kokomo” is the best British debut in several years and I’d say we had another major group on our hands (except that “major group” is supposed to mean stuff like Led Zeppelin and Jethro Tull . . ah well).
This ten-piece has been biding its time over recording and the rewards of the patience are obvious: A very tasteful sleeve, fine track programming, excellent production (Chris Thomas) – a quality of “finish” and a maturity rare in contemporary British rock.
Yes, well – agreed. New standard of excellence are welcome any time, but what about the music?
It sounds mildly sacrilegious, but Kokomo close this set with “Angel” and I prefer their version to Aretha’s.
So does that answer your question?Â
While you’re chewing it over, though, a couple of reservations.
Kokomo, like most white musicians, tend to play a little faster than is really necessary and – whilst they actually slow down “Angel” to achieve their remarkably beautiful effects – most of the time I find myself wishing that they’d loosen up that little bit more and (as they used to say) lay back on the groove.
Their version of Bobby Womack’s I Can Understand It, not withstanding the cumulative effect of its long crescendo, is just too speedy to be comfortable and, whether the acceleration of the original tempo is deliberate or not, the results lean too heavily towards white notions of dynamics and tension, forfeiting the physical/emotional harmony available to the more relaxed black approach.
(Folks with variable speed decks might like to experiment with slowing this Â track a rev or two. The transformation from flying white to gliding black is almost sinisterly striking).
And one more (small) reservation.
Tony O’Malley, besides playing very powerful keyboards throughout, sings lead on four of the nine tracks – and I find his gruffness a shade coarse in the company of pure singers like Frank Collins, Dyan Birch and Paddie McHugh. Too much like a clean man trying to sound dirty, if you’ll permit a vagueness.
Oh yes – and there is one substandard song: Neil Hubbard’s “Anytime”, which seems diffidently unable to decide what mood to commit itself too.
But the rest is very fine indeed.
Frank Collins claims most of the composer’s credits and, though O’Malley’s “Feeling This Way” and Alan Spenner’s “I’m Sorry Babe” are no bar-room sing-alongs, his four numbers seem to define the aims of Kokomo as a band.
“Kitty Sitting Pretty”, the opener, and “It Ain’t Cool (To Be Cool No More)”, the closer of Side One, both have massive “vertical” sounds – bass and keyboards holding the foundations, guitars meshing across the middle ground as trampoline for the lead vocals, and up on top the back-up vocals, constantly performing their own high-wire acrobatics.
Very much the ideals of Arrival, in fact.
“Sweet Sugar Thing” is the tricky time-signature number and the fast “horizontal” counterpart of the band’s more massive creation – whilst “Forever” is a luxurious ballad, probably the best original of the set.
With so many participants, it’s impractical to catalogue every individual coup, so I’ll restrict myself to Dyan’s lead on “Forever”, Frank’s astonishing performance on “Sweet Sugar Thing”, and Mel Collin’s sax parts (particularly the harmonies) wherever they occur.
I don’t even mind the Light Programme intro to “Feeling This Way”. Records as powerfully assured and as lovingly put together as this are criminally rare and it’s important to remember they even exist.
Buy it and listen to it very, very loud. If you don’t, to borrow a phrase form Brian Case, you are wrong.
Ian McDonald, NME
There are no encores on the Naughty Rhythms tour. but on Saturday night at the Rainbow each band – Chilli Willi.and.the Red Hot Peppers, Dr. Feelgood and Kokomo could have done one. There was a good feeling in the theatre, and although all three bands showed some inexperience of working to audiences of that size in that situation they got plenty of help from the front of the stage and there was some excellent music played.
The Willi’s set was crisp and good natured: it’s unfortunate that they have been stuck with the ‘nice little band’ thing, because that’s what has strangled them: but they are a nice little band, and it is a business which doesn’t allow nice little bands to earn a living wage. rather than the band itself, which is at fault.There should be a place for good musicians with a sense of the absurd who like to play bluegrass, country, blues and swing- their reception at the Rainbow shows there is such a place in people’s hearts, but their decision to knock it on the head after this tour shows either that the pockets of the music business aren’t deep enough, or that people aren’t prepared to dig their hands in deep enough.
Dr. Feelgood got a huge cheer when they went on, and a standing ovation from at least half the crowd when they finished. When Lee said they were going to do ‘Route 66’. he got the loudest pre-song cheer of the evening. The set was well paced, with ‘She Does It Right’. ‘Hog For You’. -‘Riot In Cell Block Number 9′. -Roxette’, ‘Keep It Out Of Sight’, and ‘Bonie Maronie “Tequila”‘ among the high points. I’ve seen them play better, but I was surprised how effective they were in front of a large crowd. Their ovation was justified. and it made an old man very happy to see them get it.
Kokomo got higher, and lower. In places like the Hope or the 100 Club, the highest points grow out of a much looser way of playing than is possible in a place like the Rainbow, where your attention is focused much more sharply and needs constant prods, It takes more experience of that kind of venue than Kokomo collectively, rather than individually have had to sustain a stretched build-up over a riff and urging the people to clap their hands and stomp isn’t the way. Their more formal pieces were therefore the most successful.
I thought Frankie Collins’ performance of Aretha’s ‘With Everything I Feel In Me’ was magnificent, both for. his voice and for the sense of brooding. pent up energy the form of the song imposed on the band.
Alan Spenner’s bass lines threatened to punch holes in the back wall. A showstopper no less. Neil Hubbard’s ‘Any-time’ and Bobby Womack’s ‘I Can Understand It’ (‘before Tony O’Malley got into his introduce-the band routine) had a similar effect. Kokomo are potentially one of the most musically enthralling and emotionally satisfying bands to have emerged in years, and they’re getting closer to their potential all the time.
STEVE PEACOCK – Sounds
NME review 22 February 1975
NME ad 15 Feb 1975
Apparently featuring guest vocalist Frankie Wilson:-)
KOKOMO ANSWER TO A PRAYER
YOU GET those weeks when it’s almost Christmas and the printers are going on holiday and you have to do two issues in one week and you’re a bit knackered and it’s nice to go and have some drinks and listen to a band. Any band would do.
Kokomo are the perfect remedy.
I’ve had a vague suspicion since I first saw them, but now I’ve decided. Kokomo are the British band. Wednesday at the 100 Club confirmed that.
Not only are they the band to soothe a workers breast. which many can do as long as the Guinness flows like double brandies, but they’ve managed to bring together the cream of British musicians, singers and writers into a band that sounds like it plays for love. And Mel Collins was back with them for the night – they’re also the sort of band you spend your holidays playing with when you’ve just come back from a European tour.
Their set runs the gamut from intense soul music (hear Paddy McHugh sing “Angel” or Frank Collins do “Are You Sure”) through funky choogle through Alan Spenner doing things with Dylan’s ”New Morning” that you wouldn’t believe, through Herbie Hancock’s “Chameleon”, through Mel Collins’ adaptation of ‘Freedom For The Stallion’ to the finale “Yes We Can Can”. And that’s without mentioning their own tunes: Neil Hubbard’s “Anytime” and Frank’s “Kitty Sitting Pretty” are particular favourites.
Kokomo are everything you ever wanted from a band. Didn’t go over the top did I?
by Tony Jasper
KOKOMO is a nine-piece group with about the funkiest sound Iâ€™ve heard for a long time which, if they can keep together, should make them one of the big groups of 1975.
Brave words and even dangerous words, since they can be quoted back if Kokomo fail to become just that.
Eight of the group have already seen, and experienced the music scene, in itself helpful for the personal side of keeping a large band together.
The run-down begins with ex Vinegar J00, Brian Auger, Jim Mullen on lead guitar; from Joe Cockerâ€™s Greaseband comes Nell Hubbard, guitar and bass player Alan Spenner. The two played with Cocker at Woodstock and all but the most recent â€˜74 Cocker LP re leases. Terry Stannard (ex Juicy Lucy) plays drums and from the once exciting pop group, Arrival, comes Tony Oâ€™Malley, keyboards and vocals; Dyan Birch end Paddy McHugh vocals.
The ninth member is Jody on congas and percussion. Jody says she once worked in Dingwalls Club in London as a waitress. There she heard the group, loved their sound and followed them around.
She had had some musical experience, though not In a group, and badgered them into letting her play. Persistence paid and Jody became part of Kokomo.
The nine have been playing together for some 18 months and are busily looking for a record company. At the time of our meeting, Kokomo were laying down some tracks at Air Studios with intent of recording 14 or 15 tracks. The eventual aim being that of offering such to a record company, with sights particularly set on America.
The American tripping has financial advantages but would seem, in part, to spring from belief that a group of their funky nature is best launched from that country. After all, the Average White Band played their asses off here without exactly exciting anyone, save the usually cynical musical Press.
To date, Kokomo have played a few clubs, frequently recorded for Capital radio, London, made the one-day August event in Hyde Park and some larger venues, like The Roundhouse.
As a group they maintain themselves and help their personal financial worries by various session commitments. That they could come together arose from the lucky fact of each finding their own contracts running out. Some of the band knew each other and respective musical tastes and where they would like to go as a new set up.
According to Dyan â€˜Everyone is an Integral part we do things together. We do both our own material and music associated with black artists like Aretha Franklin, for instance, So Swell; Bobby Womack and his I Can Understand It and Bill Withers, numbers here like Still A Friend Of Mine and Lonely Town, Lonely Street.
â€˜Weâ€™re not out and out black music, such is an obvious impossibility, but we play as close as possible.â€™
Dyan and other members I talked with prefer to see their sound as simply â€˜musicâ€™, and often with plenty of melody. Labels, they feel, can be discounted.
Asked about the possible problems of personal relations amongst a nine-piece group, Dyan admitted these were possible but nevertheless, countered with saying there was a great sense of dedication amongst the group.
Certainly, at the recording session, such was evident though rumours had been circulating in certain quarters that some things were not exactly smooth in the Kokomo set-up.
Beat heard them at the beginning stages of their recording enough though from listening to several tracks and many takes to feel genuinely excited.
Those musicians can really make it move and the vocals had tremendous drive end spirit. On the latter Dyan says there is no set way as such, sometimes one of us says, letâ€™s try this or that. When I say we do some other peopleâ€™s songs, we always make sure we have our own arrangement.
â€˜At the moment weâ€™re still very much feeling our way, but really, we have great faith in ourselves, early days yet.
â€˜Our type of sound will not be easy to get across in Britain, but then, take the radio, the only thing really worth listening to is late at night and for me the main show Is, I suppose, the Dave Simmons, blues and soul, hour and a half on Saturdays.â€™
Anytime was the main track being laid down whilst I was there at Air, with Brian Ferry and friends recording up the corridor.
Recording sessions are strange things, they can become seemingly endless and often at mere cursory listening, produce a sense of running after ultimate perfection. You say to yourself, thatâ€™s OK, end yet the band goes on and persists in laying down yet another track.
Kokomo were running in that particular vein on my Air Studio visit, yet if they are pushing themselves to ultimate limits, itâ€™s more In the sense of still needing to evaluate their own possibilities.
Itâ€™s here where the excitement lies, for to end where one began, Kokomo could well become one of our biggest ever U.K. groups, one indeed to run with the now long-established U.K. visitors to the American 200 album listings, even if they, like Humble Pie, Manfred Mann and Climax Blues Band, receive too little respect from the motherland.
Make sure you hear them on a live gig, for itâ€™s doubtful whether you will hear them in recorded form for some time. In any case, bands should be about live music.
Thanks to Doug Dean for finding this