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Kokomo – 1975 – Rise and Shine

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Kokomo is a British band whose members were prime exponents of British soul in the 1970s. 

They released three albums, and the second Rise & Shine was described as “the finest British funk album of the 1970s”

Formed in May 1973 by Tony O’Malley and Terry Stannard, ex-members of the pop group Arrival, Kokomo’s ten-piece line-up became: Dyan Birch (vocals), Frank Collins (vocals), Paddy McHugh (vocals), Tony O’Malley (keyboards, vocals), Alan Spenner (bass), Neil Hubbard (guitar),Mel Collins (saxophone), Jody Linscott (percussion), Terry Stannard (drums) and Jim Mullen (guitar). Spenner and Hubbard were from theGrease Band, Birch, McHugh, F. Collins and O’Malley from Arrival and M. Collins from King Crimson. Kokomo’s first performance was at The Pheasantry, King’s Road, Chelsea in 1973, where the band’s roadie Franky Blackwell, coined the band’s name. Kokomo built an early reputation in the UK pub rock scene. Linscott joined when the band played at Dingwalls and she performed with them whilst working there as a waitress.

Musicians who played with the band at different times included: Glenn LeFleur (drums), Tony Beard (drums), John McKenzie (bass), Chris Mercer (saxophone), Andy Hamilton (saxophone), Mark Smith (bass), Neal Wilkinson (drums) and Neil Conti (drums).

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The band’s first album Kokomo (1975) was hailed by the NME as the best debut by a British band for several years. Inspired by the tight disciplined playing of Spenner and Hubbard, Kokomo was unusual among white soul band, for its use of four featured vocalists. In 1975, Bob Dylan recruited the band to help record his Desire album. One song featuring the band, the Latin flavoured “Romance in Durango,” appeared on the album; another, “Catfish,” subsequently appeared on The Bootleg Series compilation. One track left behind was a disco funk version of “Hurricane”. Stannard, Linscott and Mullen left after the first album.

Bluntly, Rise and Shine! stands as the finest British funk album of the 1970s, a set which counts only Roogalator among its rivals, but squeaks past by virtue of that group’s failure to truly get it on in the studio. The opening “Use Your Imagination” has enough funkadelia around its edges to satiate the most demanding palate, while “Little Girl” might borrow its vocal arrangements from something slick by Hall & Oates, but nobody told the instruments that. Occasionally, the sublime groove does fade — “That’s Enough” is a ponderous dirge, again looking towards Hall & Oates for its impetus, and the strangely staccato ballad “Without Me” might have slipped off Bowie’s Young Americans. But the title track is insistently nasty, while “Do It Right” and “Feelin’ Good” are primal growlers in solid Sly Stonemold. With only “Rise and Shine” breaking the five-minute barrier, the album does err on the side of concise caution — live, Kokomo were capable of some truly gargantuan grooves, and it would have been rewarding to catch a couple on vinyl. But still it is a pulse-pounding package, plus it packs one of the most appropriate sleeves of the era. Kokomo hit everyone with the force of an express train.