Bill Cosby

Bill Cosby Sings Hooray for the Salvation Army Band!

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This was Cosby's second vocal record and, while it isn't exactly a departure from his debut, Bill Cosby Sings/Silver Throat, it still has enough interesting moments to claim a unique charm all its own. For starters, he is joined this time by the Watts 103rd St. Rhythm Band -- a point that should raise some eyebrows among funk- and beat-conscious listeners. The result is a groovy and much funkier set than Silver Throat. Consequently, it should be noted that a number of these songs have been sampled by rap artists such as Cypress Hill and the Ultramagnetic MC's. While this is still what would typically be considered a comedy record, there are a number of tracks upon which Cosby provides a straight vocal delivery without any tongue-in-cheek goofiness. Among them, "Sunny" and "Ursalena" are perhaps the most touching, while others, like the ever-so-slightly retitled "Hold on I'm a Comin'" and "(I'm A) Roadrunner," vary only slightly from their respective originals. On the other hand, his covers of "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Heart's Club Band," Dyke & the Blazers' "Funky Broadway" (here titled "Funky North Philadelphia"), and the title track (itself a thinly disguised cover of "Purple Haze") are downright silly and seem to downplay the earnestness with which one could potentially approach the other material. There are a number of contradictory forces at work here to be sure. Unless one is willing to look beyond the surface and into the music itself, it's easy to get lost in the comedy aspects of the record and miss some of its hidden gems. Both the title track and "Funky North Philadelphia" were released as singles in 1968. In a potentially confusing move, Warner Bros. changed the title of the latter, however slightly, to "Funky North Philly."

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