Wednesday, March 31, 2004

Hi, I'm back.

So, yesterday I was posting about classic rock and about a band on the Elektra label, and that seems like the perfect intro to John Kongos.

In keeping with my laziness of late, I refer you here to read all about him. I first discovered him thanks (yet again) to my rule about buying any record that came out between 68-72 by an artist I've never heard of, and especially if the cover art is interesting. Kongos qualifies:

Although then I looked at the back cover and had some doubts (something about a silly general apprehension about musicians with beards):

...but in the end I bought it.

English people may be more familiar with him because the Happy Mondays covered two of his songs during their heyday. I've kind of gone back and forth about whether to post one of their versions ('cause I really don't like them) but I guess it won't destroy the world if I do. Here's their take on He's Gonna Step on You Again, but maybe you should wait until you've heard the original before listening.

The Kongos album is kind of strange because two of the songs (He's Gonna Step on You Again and Tokoloshe Man) have completely different production than the rest of the album. Here's Tokoloshe Man (this is the single version) and here's the oft-anthologized He's Gonna Step on You Again. Both are pretty brilliant mixes of glam-rock and tribal drums, with amazing production through and through.

What's strange is that the rest of the album basically sounds like a cross between Billy Joel and Elton John. This isn't necessarily a bad thing (I probably like Billy Joel more than you'd expect) but it means you sort of have to change ears after the first song (Tokoloshe Man) and then before the last song (He's Gonna...). A few other tracks do go uptempo, and inevitably they're my favorite songs on the record. Here's Come On Down Jesus, as an example. I keep thinking that, at least in the beginning, this sounds like it could have appeared on the Velvet Underground's Loaded album. Note the extra production touches that start at about 1 minute 55 seconds into the song, that really push it over the top.

I'm not including any of John Kongos' previous songs today. There is a CD collecting them, but none of them really knock me out. Maybe tomorrow I'll post one of the better ones, just so you can hear an example and decide if you want to shell out for the collection.

I was going to include a photo of Kongos' inner sleeve, which lists all of the then-current Elektra artists, but the type is too small to really reproduce. I just want to say (again): what a cool (and varied) roster they had! Josh Rifkin's The Baroque Beatles (my classical music-loving dad loves this), Earth Opera, Incredible String Band, Love, MC5, Nico, The Stooges, etc. All being bankrolled by the Doors, I guess.

(Incidentally, the Happy Mondays were supposed to play at my college at one point, but apparently their rider involved sending them a bus full of freshman girls smeared with ecstacy, or something like that, so the show was canceled. We got the Village People instead. In retrospect, we probably got lucky.)

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