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4.4.08

John Kongos




John Kongos - Kongos - 1971 - Fly (UK)

By the early seventies, John Kongos had been an established artist in South Africa for many years, but to most of the British public in the 1970s, John Kongos was a two-hit wonder, only known for his two great 1971 chart successes, "Tokoloshe Man," and "He's Gonna Step on You Again." "He's Gonna Step on You Again" used a tape loop of actual African tribal drums, and was eventually cited by The Guinness Book of Records as the first sample ever used on a record. The influential sounds of those two hit songs would be felt into the 1990s. The Happy Mondays had a big hit with a version of "He's Gonna Step on You Again" (retitled "Step On") in the UK in 1990. They also covered "Tokoloshe Man." In the US, despite the small impact that "He's Gonna Step on You Again" made - (No.70 on Billboard), he remains virtually unknown, although his Kongos album (containing both hits) was picked up for Stateside distribution by Elektra. This is a good original album by a forgotten artist, and deserves another hearing.

TRACKS / COMPOSERS

1. Tokoloshe Man - Kongos
2. Jubilee cloud - Kongos, Leroy
3. Gold - Demetriou, Kongos
4. Lift Me From The Ground - Bailey, Kongos
5. Tomorrow I'll Go - Kongos
6. Try To Touch Just One - Kongos
7. Weekend Lady - Kongos
8. I Would Have Had A Good Time - Kongos
9. Come On Down Jesus - Kongos, Moran
10. He's Gonna Step On You Again - Demetriou, Kongos
11. Can Someone Please Direct Me Back To Earth [Bonus Track on 1998 CD issued on Snapper Records, UK]
12. Sometime's It'S Not Enough [Bonus Track on 1998 CD issued on Snapper Records, UK]
13. Great White Lady [Bonus Track on 1998 CD issued on Snapper Records, UK]
14. Ride The Lightning [Bonus Track on 1998 CD issued on Snapper Records, UK]
15. Higher Than God's Hat [Bonus Track on 1998 CD issued on Snapper Records, UK]

This album was released on Elektra in 1971, and includes the track "Time." It excludes the track, "Weekend Lady" which is on the UK Fly release.

CREDITS

Mike Moran - Organ, Synthesizer, Piano, Moog Synthesizer, Arp, Hand Drums, Talking Drum, Piano (Electric)
Roger Pope - Drums
Caleb Quaye - Guitar (Acoustic), Piano, Guitar (Electric), Guitar
Sue Glover - Vocals (Background)
Sunny Leslie - Vocals (Background)
David Chambers - Brass
John Kongos - Guitar (Acoustic), Talking Drum, Bells, Vocals, Bass, Guitar (Electric), Castanets
Ray Cooper - Conga, Maracas, Tambourine, Bells
Gus Dudgeon - Drums, Maracas, Bells, Jawbone, Sound Effects, Producer
Dave Glover - Bass
Robert Kirby - String Arrangements, Brass Arrangement, Choir Arrangement
Ralph McTell - Guitar
Lol Coxhill - Sax (Soprano)

REVIEW [ N.B - Review is based on Elektra release ]

This classic 1972 album on Elektra by John Kongos has Queen/Cars director Roy Thomas Baker remixing superb production by Gus Dudgeon, the man who created many an Elton John hit. Elton sidemen Ray Cooper, Caleb Quaye, Dave Glover, Roger Pope, Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie -- pretty much the crew from John's 1971 epic Madman Across the Water -- are all excellent here. But this album has more to offer than the solo records by Kiki Dee and Bernie Taupin, which also proliferated around the same time. Though he never made it to Joel Whitburn's -Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits in the U.S.A., there were three minor splashes on this disc: "Tokoloshe Man," "Jubilee Cloud," and "He's Gonna Step on You Again." The totally original sound -- producer Dudgeon on "asses jawbone," bicycle bell, maracas, and Michael Noble playing the "clapper board" -- build a texture one didn't hear on Elton John records. Highly experimental, the brilliant piano and guitar by Quaye invigorate "Jubilee Cloud," which can only be described as psychedelic gospel. Not only a gospel feel, the mysterious Sue & Sunny personify a church choir next to Mike Moran's ARP Synthesizer. There are lots of Jesus references throughout the disc, and on the heavily Beatles-influenced "Come on Down Jesus" with brass and Ray Cooper's tambourine, one gets the message that Kongos is a Jesus freak. This record sounds like a party -- a bunch of hippies on some Indian reservation at sunset. The album cover giving hints as to what is transpiring on the grooves. Some of the themes flavored by Bernie Taupin (Elton John's "Country Comfort") are here, but the singer embraces them in a different way. Kongos sounds like a sincere Billy Joel on "Gold," and a cross between Elton and Joel on "I Would Have Had a Good Time." But as good as those tracks are, it is the energy of "Tokoloshe Man," the ecstasy of "Jubilee Cloud," and the insanity of "He's Gonna Step on You Again" that make this album timeless. Producer Gus Dudgeon plays "chair squeak," "rusty tin," and "earth drums" on "Step on You," John Kongos adding castanets, creating a Phil Spector stereo nightmare, which is simply gorgeous. The album has been re-released in different versions; a German CD contains eight bonus tracks and a U.K. collection has five additional songs. Magical music that one does not get to experience often. © Joe Viglione, All Music Guide

LINER NOTES FOR JOHN KONGOS'S KONGOS By Richie Unterberger

Though only in his mid-twenties by the time "He's Gonna Step on You Again" climbed the UK charts, John Kongos had actually started recording way back in the early 1960s, as a teenager in the South African band the Dukes. The Johannesburg native recorded prolifically in South Africa as part of first the Dukes and, starting in 1962, Johnny Kongos & the G-Men. By 1966 he'd moved to England to try and crack the British Invasion explosion, doing a solo single for Piccadilly before heading the band Floribunda Rose (which made just one '67 single) and the more psych-pop Scrugg, who issued three 45s in the late '60s. The Kongos-penned debut Scruggs single "Everyone Can See"/"I Wish I Was Five" in particular was a quite respectable piece of trendy pop-psychedelia with groovy cathedral-toned organ, the latter song eventually getting anthologized on Rhino's Nuggets II box set of non-US '60s garage-psychedelic music.
Whatever name Kongos's projects were going by, none of his Piccadilly/Pye singles made a commercial impact, and by the end of the 1960s he'd gone the solo singer-songwriter route. Switching to Pye's new progressive subsidiary Dawn, his 1969 LP Confusions About a Goldfish was mild, introspective work that in places recalled the similarly tentative early singer-songwriting-pop efforts of the young David Bowie and Elton John. (All of Kongos's Piccadilly and Pye work, incidentally -- including the solo, Floribunda Rose, and Scrugg singles, as well as the entire Confusions About a Goldfish album -- has been reissued on the Castle CD anthology Lavender Popcorn.) That borne in mind, it's perhaps no surprise that his next album, Kongos, would be produced by a man who had already worked with both Bowie and John, Gus Dudgeon.
The Kongos-penned "Won't You Join Me" had been a big European hit (particularly in West Germany) for the Israeli-born actress Daliah Lavi (mostly known in the US for her role as "The Detainer" in the James Bond spoof Casino Royale), providing enough royalties for Kongos to put together a home basement recording studio. His home-produced demo of "He's Gonna Step on You Again" opened the door to working with Gus Dudgeon, who by that time had produced David Bowie's 1969 hit "Space Oddity." Dudgeon had also started his long stint as Elton John's producer, which would last through the singer-songwriter's rise to superstardom and include John's most popular 1970s singles and albums. Dudgeon's other credits included production for the Bonzo Dog Band, Ralph McTell, cult British folk-rocker Michael Chapman, and Ten Years After, as well as engineering for the likes of John Mayall and Marianne Faithfull.
Most of the musicians on the Kongos album were also sidekicks on early Elton John recordings, including guitarist Caleb Quaye, percussionist Ray Cooper, bassist Dave Glover, drummer Roger Pope, and backup singers Sue Glover and Sunny Leslie. (Also making appearances were fellow Dudgeon client Ralph McTell, on guitar, and eccentric avant-jazz-rock saxophonist Lol Coxhill.) It could have surprised few, then, that several of the tracks -? such as "Lift Me from the Ground," "I Would Have a Good Time," "Try to Touch Just One," and the gospel-influenced "Jubilee Cloud" (which sounded rather like a British variation of the gospel-rock of Norman Greenbaum's smash "Spirit in the Sky") -- boasted arrangements similar to those heard on early Elton John records. For "Tomorrow I'll Go," Kongos reached into his back catalog and remade one of his songs from Confusions About a Goldfish, this time with a less soppy approach. Indeed, Kongos as a whole was considerably more forceful and less gawky than its predecessor.
But the songs that got by far the most attention were the two hit singles, based around far heavier, almost jungle-like rhythms. "He's Gonna Step on You Again" used a tape loop of actual African tribal drums, and was eventually cited by The Guinness Book of Records as the first sample ever used on a record. Recognizing a good thing when he found one, Kongos's follow-up single "Tokoloshe Man" was also anchored by tribal stomp beats and almost disembodied, half-shouted vocals. The lyrics of both tunes, too, were most enigmatic, the target of "He's Gonna Step on You Again" coming off as a combination of roguish seducer and imperialist conqueror. Perhaps he's the same strange cat as the "Tokoloshe Man," which strongly hints at turning to Jesus Christ for help in warding off the Tokoloshe Man's mysterious threat in its final lines. That's just one of numerous references to Jesus in the album's lyrics, with "Come on Down Jesus" even name-checking the man in its song title.
It's been speculated that producer Mike Leander was influenced by the strange beats and noises on Kongos's pair of hits when crafting Gary Glitter's glam sound. And certainly, those songs were still remembered well by British musicians decades later, as the Happy Mondays took a cover of "He's Gonna Step on You Again" (retitled "Step On") to #5 in the UK in 1990, also covering "Tokoloshe Man" for good measure. The original "He's Gonna Step on You Again"'s impact in the US was relatively modest, however, reaching just #70 in 1971, though at least Kongos found release on the Elektra label, and now via this Collectors' Choice Music reissue.
Though the LP made #29 in Britain (on the Fly label, also home of T. Rex in early '70s), Kongos would thereafter vanish from the charts. But his surprising career path kept him in the industry, as engineer, producer, session musician, TV jingle and theme composer, and songwriter, with Sylvie Vartan scoring a big French hit with his "Ride the Lightning." And eventually, he would handle the programming of the Fairlight synthesizer on Def Leppard's #2-charting 1983 album Pyromania -- an interest foreshadowed, perhaps, by his then-futuristic use of synthesizer on one of Kongos's tracks, "Try to Touch Just One." [contents copyright Richie Unterberger , 2000-2008]

BIO (Wikipedia)

John Kongos (born 6 August 1945, Johannesburg, South Africa) is a singer-songwriter. Having had substantial success in South Africa in the 1960s with his band Johnny and the G-Men, as well as a solo artist, Kongos came to Britain to pursue his musical career. After 18 months of gigging in Britain and Europe with his bands Floribunda Rose and Scrugg, and five singles later, he released his first solo album, Confusions about a Goldfish (1970), on the Dawn record label, which while critically well-received was not successful. He then concentrated on songwriting, and began to have major success in Germany and other European countries (No 1 and Top 10 hits). He then moved to Fly Records with whom he had two hit singles – "He's Gonna Step On You Again" (UK No. 4, May 1971; U.S. Billboard Hot 100 No. 70) and "Tokoloshe Man" (UK No. 4, November 1971). His second album Kongos made the Top 30 of the UK Albums Chart, but subsequent singles, "Great White Lady" (1972), "Ride the Lightning" (1975) and "Higher than God's Hand" (1975), did not chart. "Tomorrow I'll Go", which appeared on Kongos , was covered by New Zealand band The Human Instinct on their 1970 album Stoned Guitar, while ("Ride The Lightning" (1975) was covered by Sylvie Vartan as "Qu'est-ce qui fait pleurer les blondes?" in France and was Number 1 on that chart for several weeks in 1976. "He's Gonna Step On You Again" is cited in the Guinness Book of Records as being the first song to ever use a sample. Kongos continued to work in his own London studio as a record producer, sound engineer, TV jingle and theme music composer, and songwriter, as well as handling the programming of the Fairlight CMI synthesizer on Def Leppard's 1983 album, Pyromania. His 1966-1969 work (including his recordings with Floribunda Rose and Scrugg, and his solo album Confusions about a Goldfish) has been released on a compilation called "Lavender Popcorn" in 2001. The album Kongos (1972), plus his remaining singles first issued on Fly, appeared on the CD Tokoloshe Man Plus, released by See For Miles Records in 1988. He gained notoriety with a new musical generation in 1990, when Madchester pioneers Happy Mondays reworked "He's Gonna Step On You Again" into their baggy era defining hit "Step On", which reached number 5 in the UK Singles Chart. In the same year they also covered his "Tokoloshe Man", for the compilation album, Rubáiyát. Kongos is married to Shelley and has four sons; John J, Jesse, Dylan and Daniel Lee, who work as a rock band under the title, Kongos.

10 comments:

A.O.O.F.C said...

LINK

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant. I haven't heard this album for over 35 years and can't wait. Many thanks.

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi! Anonymous. It's a great album. So much great music has been forgotten. I'm sure with more airplay, it could attract a big audience. Some of the early 70s stuff like John Kongos was "real music" and I am trying to promote this it. Thanks for comment, & check back soon.

wkc said...

Excellent share! Loved his confusion about a goldfish lp and look forward to listening to this one. Thanks

A.O.O.F.C said...

Hi! wkc. Yes, the "Goldfish" album was a good one. I'm glad you appreciate artists like John Kongos. They were/are very talented, and give so much good music to people..Thanks again for your comment...Keep'em coming!

Lyle said...

Hello! Very nice site with some
great looking stuff I've never seen
before - many thanks! I'd love to
listen to the John Kongos LP, but I
don't seem to understand how to get
it from the download site it takes
me to. All I can get it to do is offer me to download "711.rar" - which is not the album. Any help?

A.O.O.F.C said...

Thanks for visiting, Lyle. Click on LINK, in comments section of this post. You will be brought to Hyperfileshare. Scroll down and click on the blue rectangular "download" icon. Right click on "Download 711.rar!" in blue lettering and "save target as." If you've any problems, please get back to me.

furrball said...

Is it just me, or whenever I try to dl this album, the page downloads a batch of useless software instead? Nuts to that! I want the album!!

furrball said...

I tried your suggestion and it still doesn't work. Humbug!!

A.O.O.F.C said...

Please furrball...Your language is shocking(LOL)! Try this - When you reach Hyperfileshare.com, scroll down page. Under the red "email this link" icon there is a blue rectangular "Download" icon. Click on that. Scroll down page a bit. Under Download 711.rar, you will notice "Download will start in ?seconds". You may see at top of your pc screen a security bar saying "To help protect your internet security, internet explorer blocked this site from downloading files to your computer. Click here for options". Click the bar. You will see "download file" option. Click it. Scroll down for countdown. When it gets to zero, you can save file. If all this doesn't work, you will have to change your security settings and/or pop-up stopper to download. That's the best I can do, furrball. Let me know how you get on. Dozens of people I know have downloaded this file successfully, so IT IS YOU!! (LOL). TTU soon