Sunday, October 12, 2008

Funky Kings - Funky Kings (1976)

The Funky Kings were a manufactured band, meaning the guys didn't get together themselves but at the behest of Clive Davis of Arista Records. The Kings were a short-lived sextet who recorded their one and only LP in 1976 for Davis and Arista. He was looking for another Eagles, the famous Southern California country rockers who were one of the most popular bands on the planet at the time. Unfortunately it wasn't to be. The Funky Kings recorded one self-titled album that failed to make the charts. When Arista passed on a second record, they disbanded. The record went out of print quickly and has never been released on CD.

Don't let their horrible moniker and even worse commercial success fool you. The Kings made a really fine album of mid-70s pop-rock and that is because, while they may not have succeeded as a unit, they were a band loaded with individual members who all went on to various degrees of musical success after the group was long forgotten.

There were three very talented songwriters. The best known at the time was Jack Tempchin who earlier wrote hits for The Eagles. "Peaceful Easy Feeling," and "Already Gone" are among them. Tempchin also contributed to The Eagles comeback album of 2007, Long Road Out Of Eden. He also wrote the Funky King's best known song, the original version of "Slow Dancing" a tune that became one of Johnny Rivers last big hits. Another writer was Jules Shear who later went on to a highly respected solo career after fronting Jules & the Polar Bears. Finally, there was Richard Stekol who has penned hits for Iain Matthews, Kim Carnes, and others.

The Funky Kings were rounded out by some fine instrumentalists led by Greg Leisz, who to this day, is one of the most sought after and highly respected session men in the business. Those of you with a lot of country-rock, folk, and singer-songwriters in your CD collection should take a look at the liner notes included with your discs. I guarantee you will find Leisz listed somewhere, usually on steel guitar or dobro. He has played with Shawn Colvin, Lucinda Williams, k. d. Lang, Wilco, Smashing Pumpkins, Beck, Brian Wilson, and many others.

Finally, there were bassist Bill Bodine and drummer Frank Cotinola. Both have remained active in the music business in various capacities and Bodine has his own company, Bill Bodine Music, that writes music for TV, films, commercials, and other recording artists.

The music on this record is typical of the period. To my ears the platter often sounds more like 70s soft-rockers such as Firefall than anything ever produced by The Eagles. This self-titled album is a pleasant experience but it does not deliver the knockout punch you may expect from a band that possessed so much individual talent. It's too bad they never got another chance.

According to Stekol's website, Tempchin, referring to the Funky Kings, told him that, "he saw a quote by Clive that we were among his biggest regrets." Stekol does not offer a date for Tempchin's comments but they appear to be of fairly recent vintage.

2 comments:

  1. A very thorough well researched piece...
    UPDATE: Jack Tempchin just released his latest solo effort entitled SONGS on his own Night River Records. Sample his new tunes at myspacedotcom/tempchin

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  2. I remember hearing The Funky Kings on a San Francisco radio station when I visited there for three months in 1976. I loved "Slow Dancing" and thought Johnny Rivers' later version of that song to be decidedly inferior. Whoever sung the Kings' version had this great, dark, rich, smoky voice.

    There was another song, I think it was called "Pale Fire." Such a good song that I remember part of it 33 years later, even though I only heard it once.

    If anyone has MP3s of that LP, I'd love 'em. Send to bimplebean@gmail.com.

    Thanks for a great article!

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