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