East Coast – 1973 – East Coast
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An extremely rare soul album originally released in 1973, East Coast’s self titled album features drummer Larry Blackmon, who served as front man for the hit group Cameo; and a cast of session greats including Pat Grant (trombone); Gwen Guthrie (vocals); Michael Harris (percussion); Gregory Johnson (keyboards); Melvin Whay (bass) and James Wheeler (alto saxophone). Blackmon wrote four of the seven tracks on the album, and vocalist Gwen Guthrie (Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Stevie Wonder) is featured on her own “Miss Gigi.”
Righteous soul – and the only record ever cut by East Coast – a group led by Larry Blackmon, featuring early vocals by Gwen Guthrie! The style is very hip – a mixture of funk and progressive grooving, all held together with a sound that’s young, proud, and which moves easily between influences from a number of different camps. In a way, the group’s almost a cross between early Earth Wind & Fire and The Voices Of East Harlem – with a style that’s got some nicely soulful jazz elements, but served up with a dose of sweeter soul. Gregory Johnson plays some great keyboards on the set, and titles include “I’ve Got To Reclaim You”, “Something Deep Inside”.
A1 I Found You 7:12
A2 Keep On Trying 4:07
A3 Miss Gigi 5:14
B1 Any Thing You Have In Mind 3:22
B2 Something Deep Inside 2:30
B3 I’ve Got To Reclaim You 4:08
B4 You Can’t Let It Get You Down 7:08
Review by Simon from neverenoughrhodes blog
This is a funky soul album by the group “East Coast”, released on drummer Bernard Purdie’s short-lived labelEncounter Records in 1973, and completes the label discography – see the base of the post to links for all five releases.
Veering away from the soul-jazz focus of the other four, this is more of an RnB/soul effort with some psych-funk guitar flavours. “East Coast” is notable as the debut of two figures who would both enjoy later n’ greater success :
Vocalist Gwen Guthrie later became famous for her self-penned 1986 gold-digger anthem “Ain’t Nothing Going On But the Rent”. After working on some background sessions for Aretha Franklin soon after the “East Coast” album, she became quite prolific as a songwriter, working with collaborators like Patrick Grant on albums like Sister Sledge’s debut, “Circle Of Love” in 1975, of which the two composed the majority. Between 1982 and 1990 she released eight solo albums, with 1986’s “Good To Go Lover” spawning the aforementioned big hit.
“Leader”/drummer Larry Blackmon formed the seven-pieceEast Coast Band, who had a house gig at ‘Small’s Paradise’ in Harlem, which was co-owned by the famous basketball player Wilt Chamberlain. Over time, the band evolved into the thirteen-piece New York City Players, which also featured keyboardist Gregory Johnson from East Coast, and were heavily influenced by goups like Funkadelic. Upon signing a contract, they changed their name to Cameo, and went on to record an astonishing seventeen albums.
Blackmon (second from right, back row in top photo) took center-stage as vocalist with Cameo, refined his flattop haircut, put on a red codpiece, and like Guthrie will probably be most remembered for one hit single – in his case, his nasally-twanged “Word Up!” from the band’s 1986 album of the same name. If anyone’s looking for a good party trick, here’s a tab for playing it on ukelele. Ukelele players who end up here via Google, please leave MP3s of yourself playing the track in the comments.
But meanwhile, back in 1973 with East Coast :
This is clearly a live party band recorded pretty straight-up in the studio. Hammond B3 organ with full tremelo versus a distorted-wah-wah guitar anchor a heavy sound. A tough brass section push through, while Blackmon’s drums are all cymbal crashes. 22-year-old Gwen Guthrie has a strong soulful voice, which she obviously needed over this sort of density.
The opener “I Found You” is a seven-minute soul stormer, while “Something Deep Inside of Me” crosses the soul with some Chicago-ish pop touches. “Keep on Trying“starts out with the funk before the (uncredited) guitarist adds a distorted rock layer a la Funkadelic.
The loose instrumental “Miss Gigi” gives a workout and a solo space to everyone except for vocalist Guthrie, who somewhat paradoxically composed the track! The closing seven minutes of “You Can’t Let It Get You Down” veer in prog territory, with political lyrics alluding to Vietnam and other troubles of the 1970s. You can tell that this is an ambitious band after some success, but it was all perhaps a little too rough n’ ready for the charts, though this roughness gives it some of its charm 43 years later.