Kokomo

Live in Concert, 1975

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Kokomo released their first album in January of 1975, as the pub-rock movement was beginning to wane. Kokomo played the pub-rock circuit even though they really weren't pub rockers -- they were a white soul-funk combo, reminiscent of Joe Cocker fronting the Average White Band. Such a dedication to American R&B meant that they were kindred spirits with pub rockers, who simply loved American roots music in any incarnation, but Kokomo were considerably slicker than any of their peers. They liked the smooth studio grooves of the L.A. sound, complete with shimmering electric pianos and multi-part backing vocals, and they strove to replicate it. Naturally, that could be easily done in the studio, but they also could do it on stage, as MLP's 1998 archival release Live In Concert 1975 proves. The recording captures a Christmas party concert given on December 6, 1975 -- about a year after their eponymous debut was released, and about a month before their second album, Rise & Shine, hit the shelves. Appropriately, the set list is culled from the two records, including covers of Aretha Franklin's "Angel" and Bobby Womack's "I Can Understand It." Throughout the record, the playing is professional, the groove is tight, and they ride out five-minute jams pretty well. Problem is, apart from the two covers, these are just pretty much jams, whether it's the sax instrumental "Percy's Roots" or the nearly 10-minute "With Everything I Feel in Me." This may have been good live -- the crowd is certainly appreciative -- but on record, years later, it's dated and falls flat. AWB fans are likely to dig it, somewhat, since it often sounds like second-tier AWB, but anyone who learned about Kokomo as a pub-rock band will be sorely disappointed, since the groove here is pure L.A., instead of pure London rock & roll.

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