Thursday, June 28, 2012

Forgotten Music Thursday: Funky Kings - Funky Kings (1976)

This post is a rerun from 2008, before Forgotten Music Thursday began its monthly run, but we're posting it again because its a perfect fit for this feature. The article has been updated slightly.

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 Arista. Davis 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.

The band had 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 a whole lot more.

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.

Years later Tempchin told Stekol while discussing the Funky Kings that he saw a quote by Davis that said the band's lack of success was among his biggest regrets.

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