Kokomo are a British band whose members were prime exponents of British soul in the 1970s. The group released three albums, and their impact on the music scene was noted by one Bob Dylan who hired them to back him on the sessions for the Desire album. They later also accompanied Brian Ferry.
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, vocals), Neil Hubbard (guitar), Mel Collins (saxophone), Jody Linscott (percussion), Terry Stannard (drums) and Jim Mullen (guitar). Spenner and Hubbard were from the Grease Band, Birch, McHugh, F. Collins and O’Malley from Arrival and M. Collins from King Crimson.
Kokomo recorded a significant session in 1975 which captured the band having honed their act and in a setting whereby they could freely express their collective ‘soul’, unencumbered by the pressures of record label or producers. This session of ten tracks lay in the vaults as a four of the songs were later re-recorded upon signing to CBS and released on their first LP.
The To Be Cool session, as it was later dubbed, did get finally get an airing on CD in 2004 for a limited period. APM acquired the rights in 2021.
The musicianship is exceptionally funky and tight as might be expected from the band members of this calibre, but the vocals and vocal harmonies take it all to another level. One notable element being the high pitch of Paddy McHugh, not a Gibb like falsetto, just an incredibly soulful high-tenor.
APM also acquired two previously unreleased tracks, songs written by Frank Collins in the early 1980s, and recorded by Frank with Paddy and Dyan. Half Of What I Am has a Muscle Shoals vibe as if Aretha and Eddie Hinton were in the room. Looking For Something Real also boasts a lovely Sax backing.
As British soul pioneers, Kokomo, built their reputation and loyal following with awesome live shows, and a series of packed reunion gigs since 2014 has proved that the band is grooving as well as ever.