Karma


Band members                         Related acts

  line up 1 (1974)

- Josef Blocker -- drums, vocals

- George Bohanon -- vocals, trombone

- Oscar Brashear -- trumpet

- Leon Chancler -- drums

- Earl Derouen -- percussion

- Chuck Rainey -- bass

- Ernie Watts - sax, flute

 

  line up 2 (1976-77)

- Reggie Andrews -- vocals, keyboards, percussion

- Josef Blocker -- drums, vocals (replaced Leon Chancler)

- George Bohanon -- vocals, trombone

- Oscar Brashear -- trumpet

- Vander Lockett -- percussion, vocals (replaced Earl Derouen)

- Curtis Robertson Jr. -- bass (replaced Chuck Rainey)

- Ernie Watts - sax, flute

 

  supporting musicians:

- Deniece Williams -- vocals

- Syreeta Wright -- vocals

 

 

 

 

- none known

 

 

 


 

Genre: soul

Rating: 2 stars **

Title:  Celebration

Company: Horizon

Catalog: SP 713
Year: 1976

Country/State: Los Angeles, California

Grade (cover/record): VG+ / VG+

Comments: gatefold sleeve

Available: 1

Catalog ID: 121

Price: $12.00

 

As a teenager I can remember smiling at the new age crapola that Maurice White and Earth, Wind and Fire use to put on their mid-1970s albums.  I loved the music, but some of the saccharine liner notes were a hoot.  And then I stumbled on the band Karma which managed to take the whole new age scene to another level of absurdity.   To pull a quote from the liner notes accompanying 1977's "Celebration" - 

 

"Making this album was a time of creative exchange and interplay of love, happiness and affection.  Thanks to the Creator who inspires all music for He is music.  Hopefully this feeling of celebration, sharing and giving will transcend through this disc and make you a part of this union."

 

I can't tell you a great deal about this outfit, other than the band seemed to have evolved out of a series of studio jam sessions with a varying cast of contributors.  The liner notes indicate the closing track 'Amani' was recorded in May 1974.  By the time their debut was released, the band featured the talents of keyboardist Reggie Andrews, drummer Josef Blocker, trombone player George Bohanon, trumpet player Oscar Brashear, percussionist Vander Lockett, bassist Curtis Robertson Jr., and sax player Ernie Watts.  Collectively the seven members stood as an impressive collection of L.A.-based studio musicians who had played on hundreds, if not thousands of albums.  So what happened when these studio pros decided to step away from the background into the spotlight ?    Well, you probably won't be surprised to learn that the wholelistic synergism that one would have hoped for, simply didn't materialize ...  = )

 

Signed by A&M's short-lived Horizon imprint, "Celebration" was co-produced by Andrews and Bohanon.  Musically the collection had a distinctive mid-1970s flavor, with a number of tracks sounding like Steely Dan-styled jazz-rock ...   Anyone who grew up listening to "Aja" will probably recognize the sound and groove on tracks like 'So True (Life Should Be)', 'Kwanzaa' and 'Well'.  Elsewhere the opener 'Funk de Mambo'  found the band taking an ineffective stab at disco, while .....     

 

- Built around Andrews bubbly synthesizers and showcasing Deniece Williams and Syreeta Wright on vocals, 'Funk de Mambo' was a mindless disco-flavored dance track.  The interplay between Andrews synthesizers and Watts' sax was momentarily entertaining, but you couldn't have been blamed for thinking this was something off of a Boney M album.   rating: ** stars

- Essentially an instrumental with the backing singers limited to repeating the title track over and over, 'So True (Life Should Be)' 'featured the album's prettiest melody (Maurice White would have approved).  Unfortunately, the results sounded like the soundtrack for a retirement home commercial.   Smooth and calming, Ernie Watt's sax solo made this one sound like an outtake from Steely Dan's '"Aja" album.      zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz    rating: *** stars 

- 'Kwanzaa' found the band spinning off into new-aged tined cocktail jazz.   With Williams and Wright scat singing in the background, this was another Steely Dan-styled jazz outing that basically served as a showcase for Brashear and Bohanon to take extended solos.    rating: ** stars  

- Andrews and Bohanon were billed as the vocalists, but that apparently meant they scatted, hummed, and mumbled along in the background along with this slightly funky number.   Solos from Bohanon and Watts provided the highlights on a number that sounded like one of those snippets the band on Saturday Night Live would play before the show went to commercial.    rating: ** stars    

- Imagine the Earth, Wind and Fire horns having tied up Maurice White and stuffed him in a closet during the recording sessions and you'll have a feel for what 'Karma' sounded like.   Showcasing Andrews synthesizers and some group vocals (Williams and Wright prominent in the mix), the song had a likeable, funky edge, but jut lacked the kind of hook needed to make it stand out.   rating: *** stars

- With the entire band having fallen for Syreeta Wright, 'Suite Syreeta' was dedicated to Wright.  A five part, eleven minute plus suite, this one bounced all over the place.  Simply because it picked up the pace, 'The Creativity' was probably the best part of the song and even than wasn't particularly inspired.  (Wonder how Denise Williams felt when the band failed to include a 'Suite Williams' on the album  - maybe they were saving it for the follow-up release ,.. )  rating: ** stars

- As mentioned above, the closing track 'Amani' was recorded in 1974 and featured a slightly different personnel roster and clearly reflects the differences.  The album's most laconic, jazzy effort, the track sounds like en extended studio jam session with Bohanon, Brashear, and bassist Chuck Rainey given opportunities to strut their talents in the spotlight.  I usually not a big fan of this kind of stuff, but in this instance, I almost liked it more than some of the album's more commercial efforts.   rating: *** stars

 

You've undoubtedly heard far worse releases in your lifetime, but this isn't anything that comes close to being a must-hear album.

 

"Celebration" track listing:
(side 1)

1.) Funk de Mambo   (Reggie Andrews - Curtis Robertson Jr. -  Josef Blocker) - 4:30

2.) So True (Life Should Be)      (Reggie Andrews - Curtis Robertson Jr.) - 3:35

3.) Kwanzaa   (Reggie Andrews) - 3:40

4.) Well   (Reggie Andrews) - 5:12

 

(side 2)
1.) Karma - 3:28

2.) Suite Syreeta (instrumental)

     Piano Intro   (Reggie Andrews) - 0:35

     The Beauty   (Reggie Andres) - 3:05

     The Creativity   (Reggie Andrews - George Bohanon - Oskar Brashear - Ernie Watts - 2:35

     A Leo   (Reggie Andrews) - 5:05  

3.) Amani    (Reggie Andrews) - 9:27

 

 

 

I've never tracked down a copy, but there's a 1977 follow-up - "For Everybody" (Horizon catalog number SP723)

 

 

 

 

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