Week 37: Geronimo!
Welcome back, friends!
Week 37 is here, and with it some more instrumental soul music – The Electric Indian’s wicked wonderful “Keem-O-Sabe” LP from 1969. Another sweet dollar bin find from earlier this summer…politically incorrect in more ways than I dare to count, yet perfectly funky for any day in the week.
Before going further, let’s have a quick look at this Philly one-off project’s hard-selling album liner notes, which states the following:
“Keem-o-sabe is an old southwest Indian term used to connote friend, or, in case of a male-female relationship, it would mean lover and friend. But who cares? It’s only the title of a recording…we’re concerned with the sound that made this one of the biggest instrumentals in the history of the record business.
I first heard ‘Keem-O-Sabe’ on a Tuesday morning and programmed the record twenty-four hours later…the phone calls lit up the station’s switchboard and the rest is history.
The Electric Indian is not history. It is the present and the future. The Indian combines a savage, pulsating, rhythm with some of the finest musicians around. They are simultaneously accomplished musicians and exciting performers. When you hear this album, I’m sure you’ll agree with me in saying the Electric Indian is here to stay.
I began listening to the Electric Indian album as a critic and wound up digging it as a fan. The album clearly contains something for everyone. The important thing is that it consists of the ingredients which make it the hottest instrumental in the world. This fantastic combination of funky soul and good songs has provided some of the finest musical moments of my life…”
Quite a mouthful written by legendary Philly DJ, program director and vice-president of WDAS-Radio, Jimmy Bishop – check out the complete liner notes on the hi-res cover art included in the download.
While doing research for this post, I came across the perfect review – managing to be both informative and hilarious – making any additional writing redundant. So, thanks to El Keter over at Okay Players Blogarhythms, let’s get enlightened…enjoy:
Aside from bearing the most potentially offensive group-name and album title of any disc in my record collection, 1969’s Keem-O-Sabe LP from Philadelphia-based novelty-Funk act The Electric Indian is also one of the most well-pedigreed “weird” records I own. Made up of an assemblage of Philly-area-all-stars, including Bobby Eli and Vince Montana of MFSB and Salsoul Orchestra fame, and future Pop-star Daryl Hall, the group wasn’t dissimilar to another producer-organized project staffed by studio musicians whose claim-to-fame was a Native American-themed instrumental, Michael Viner’s Incredible Bongo Band. Though nothing on Keem-O-Sabe is as memorable, or searingly funky as “Apache,” there are plenty of danceable grooves, with lots of vaguely “Native” sounding percussion, and even a couple of hot breaks. But the grooves laid down by the musicians assembled under the Electric Indian banner are far-more reminiscent of the smoother, more soulful Funk of Motown, and there’s way more in the way of unfortunate 1960’s style “Indian” stereotyping going on.
Like many instrumental outings of the era, the album is heavy on covers, with an emphasis on chestnuts of the day such as “Spinning Wheel,” “My Cherie Amour,” “Only the Strong Survive,” “What Does it Take to Win Your Love,” “Storm Warning,” and “I Heard it Through the Grapevine.” The percussion-laden rework of Stevie Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” is particularly attention-grabbing for it’s funky Latin-influenced rhythms that sound like they could have come directly off a classic Fania Records 7”. And their take on “I Heard it Through the Grapevine,” which turns the oft-covered ’60s staple into a smoking-hot uptempo Funk number, is a must-listen. But as interesting as the covers are, it’s the handful of originals that show off what the band was really capable of.
The title track, a riff on all the worst cliché’s regarding Native American music, and the old Lone Ranger theme-song, is the sort of tacky shit people didn’t think twice about back in the day. It would easily piss me off today, if it wasn’t so funky! With Motown-esque vibes, bongos, rolling waves of bass and piano and juicy guitar licks, what could have been an embarrassing exercise in bad taste winds up making you want to get down instead. Things get even funkier on “Rain Dance,” where the Fania-reminiscent Latin vibes return, alongside a steady cowbell, soaring strings, blaring horns, and incomprehensible chorus, that calls to mind the work of Jimmy “Everything Man” Castor. And a record like this, featuring so many musicians responsible for shaping “The Sound of Philadelphia,” just wouldn’t be right if it didn’t have at least one track stamped with the signature “Philly sound,” which it has in the Vince Montana-penned “Geronimo.” A churning Funk groove, with layers of bongos and congas, a slow-strolling bassline and delirious string arrangements, that breaks in the middle and transforms into an uptempo, proto-Disco, big-band-orchestrated Soul number with tons of string and horn interplay that would make a perfect ’70s cop-show theme-song, “Geronimo” is the most ambitious composition, and the finest group performance on the album.
Yeah, the name, and the robot-Indian on the cover will probably make you shake your head and ask “what the fuck?” But the sounds on the disc itself might just make you nod your head and ask the same question for totally different reasons altogether.
The perfect album review for sure!
Apart from this album, I only know of two more Electric Indian songs…two 45’s, the superfunky “Broadstreet” (listen here) and the “Keem-O-Sabe” 7″ B-side “Land of 1000 Dances”. But according to Funky 16 Corners “Groups like the Panic Buttons, African Echoes, Delights Orchestra and Pal & The Prophets were laying down danceable tunes driven by funky guitars and blaring horn sections. The fact that so many of these instrumentals seem to tap into a definable ‘sound’ is no doubt related to the fact that the records featured many of the same players”.
My personal favourite is the percussion-heavy “My Cherie Amour”, but the Electric Indian’s version of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and the track “Rain Dance” in particular, are both essential breakbeat tracks that were used by the likes of Cool Herc and Afrika Bambaata early on, back before they even called it hiphop – and was rediscovered by b-boy DJ’s such as James Leacy later on. All in all an album you need to check out…right now! Just listen to this:
You can lay your hands on the original vinyl for as cheap as $0.99 right here, and while at it (and for a complete discography) get some of their 45’s as well!
Mad props to El Keter for the highly entertaining review, but first and foremost, Electric Indian – thank you for the music!
(Ps. If you’re wondering about us varying the 4BB intro song on the downloads, we haven’t fired our house DJ LP2…it’s just to get your juices flowing for the upcoming 4BB beatmakers competition – we’ll be revealing more info on this real soon!)