Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1968-69)
- Joe Alexander (aka Joe Orecchio) -- drums, percussion
- Louis Caine (aka Louis Dambra) -- lead guitar
- Joey Guido -- rhythm guitar
- Jose Mala (aka Kose J. Maldiado, aka Jose Maladanado)
-- lead vocals
- Anthony Wesley -- bass, backing vocals
- Henry Gendus -- keyboards
- Sir Lord Baltimore (Louis Dambra and Joey Dambra)
Genre: garage rock
Rating: *** (3 stars)
Title: The Koala
Country/State: Brooklyn, New York
Grade (cover/record): VG+/VG+
Comments: gatefold sleeve; minor edge wear
Catalog ID: 4300
This one's always been kind of a mystery to me. There's quite a bit of hype surrounding the album and it's become quite sought after in rock and psych collectors' circles with prices going up and up. Luckily a gentleman by the name of Tony Sclafani stumbled across my site and filled in some of the missing pieces. Not only does Mr. Sclafani write for the Washington Post, but it turns out his uncle was the original guitar player for the band. Tony actually use to listen to his uncle practice with the band.
First, let's dispel the rumor that The Koala was from Australia. Nothing more than record company hype. The band members all hailed from Brooklyn, New York – specifically the East New York section of Brooklyn that borders Queens. The Australia rumor likely came about because a few years earlier another Big Apple band, The Strangeloves (“I Want Candy”), were able to hype themselves into success on that very rumor. Hey Mr. Record Executive, it worked once what do we have to lose trying it again ...
The Koala was comprised of the songwriting duo of lead singer Jose Mala (aka Jose Maladanado) and rhythm guitarist Joey Guido. With a line up consisting of drummer Joe Alexander (aka Joe Orecchio), lead guitarist Louis Caine (aka Louis Dambra) and bassist Anthony Wesley the group started rehearing under the name The United Popcorn Federation. With guitarist Johnny Ace in the line-up the band won a Remember, this was the late-'1960s. In spite of the horrible name, they attracted the attention of Blues Magoos managers Art Polliemus and Bob Wyld who helped them land a contract with Capitol.
With Poliemus and Wyld producing, the band debuted with the 1968 single:
- 'Don't You Know What I Mean' b/w 'Scattered Children's Toys' (Capitol catalog number P-2365).
The single did nothing commercially, but Capitol agreed to fund an album.
With Poliemus and Wyld again producing, the band made their album debut with 1969's "The Koala". Mala and Guido were credited with penning all thirteen tracks and Mala handled all the lead vocals. Exemplified by selections like the single 'Don't You Know What I Mean', 'Poor Discarded Baby' and Guido's fuzz guitar drenched 'Colours of Our Rainbow' the band sounded like a cross between AC/DC, Graham Parker and the Rumour and a 1960s garage band like The Shadows of the Knight. Powered by Mala's ragged, sneering vocals it wasn't hard to reach the conclusion that a song like 'Look At the Way She Comes' wasn't merely about the coming and goings of a young and innocent woman he'd spotted on a New York sidewalk. Even better were straight-ahead garage rockers like 'She's a Lady' and 'Lady Dressed In White'. Simply killer tunes. Elsewhere, perhaps because they were such atypical efforts, the dreamy, pseudo-psychy 'Nothing's Changed' and 'Elizabeth' stood as two of my favorite tracks. Regardless, if you're looking for snotty, in-your-face vocals, backed by tons of loud, feedback laced guitar (check out 'Poppa Duke Tyler'), then this is a set that should appeal to your sensitive palate.
Subtly and caring factors = 10% (thanks to 'Elizabeth' and 'Scattered Children's Toys'). Loud, sneering we-don't-care factor = 90%.
As was typical for the time, the band had little say in their career. Capitol picked the band name (admittedly better than United Popcorn Federation); Capitol picked the single and Capitol managed to mislabel the members on the album. Producers Poliemus and Wyld handled the recording sessions including the notable muddy mixes. There was little or no promotion and plans for a performance at Woodstock fell through. The end result was the band fell apart after recording some material for a planned sophomore album.
"Koala" track listing:
1.) Don't You Know What I Mean (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 2:36 rating: *** stars
Listening to the opening rocker 'Don't You Know What I Mean; the first thing you notice is Jose Mala sounded like he was being strangled, while Caine's lead guitar was at best spastic. The song was also kind of a mess in terms of tempos; the band struggling to stay in tune with one another. It was also a curious selection as a single since there were several strong compositions.
2.) Look At the Way She Comes (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 3:28 rating: *** stars
Pushed along by Mala's ragged voice, the slinky 'Look At the Way She Comes' sounded like a garage band colliding with a bunch of New York punks.
3.) Poor Discarded Baby (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 3:05 rating: *** stars
'Poor Discarded Baby' had an even harder grunge edge. This one was interesting give it sounded like the Alexander - Wesley rhythm section were playing on a different song. Alexander's drumming is pretty stunning, while I've seldom heard a bass player crunch out as many notes as Wesley. Always wondered what guest keyboard player Henry Gendus was playing.
4.) Nothing's Changed (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 4:17 rating: **** stars
And having figured out the band's signature sound, along came the unexpectedly tuneful ballad 'Nothing's Changed'. Even odder, backed by a pretty, slightly lysergic melody and some nice Caine's lead guitar, Mala's normally acidic voice came off as surprisingly gentle.
5.) She's a Lady (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 3:20 rating: **** stars
Screw the psych label - 'She's a Lady' was 100% unadulterated garage energy. And that genre was perfect for Mala's stress fractured voice and the rest of the bands' dark and gritty sound. The backing vocals were hysterical. She's a lady, a very special lady ...
6.) Colours of Our Rainbow (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 5:29 rating: **** stars
Opening up with some Caine's fuzz guitar feedback, 'Colours of Out Rainbow' was interesting on a number of levels. The album's most psychedelic offering, once again you got to hear Mala tear up his voice, but at least on my copy of the album you got to hear him doing it across the different channels. He literally kept moving from one side of the mix to the other. While Caine piled on layers of fuzz guitar, Wesley's bass proved the most tuneful instrument in the mix.
1.) Poppa Duke Tyler (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 2:39 rating: **** stars
Goodness knows what it was about, but 'Poppa Duke Tyler' was another acid-tinged outing. Nice showcase for Caine's fuzz drenched lead guitar. He really did go all out on this one. Mala's sandpaper delivery reminded me of early Graham Parker on this one.
2.) Stranger Feelings (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 2:50 rating: *** stars
Another is-that-Graham Parker tune, complete with a totally misplaced Indian raga influence ... I must say Mala's strangling voice was instantly recognizable.
3.) Elizabeth (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 2:35 rating: *** stars
OMG - a ballad. Well, what would qualify as a ballad for these guys. Hearing Mala trying to be yearning and romantic was an acquired taste, as was the decision to include an accordion in the background.
4.) You Say (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 2:28 rating: *** stars
'You Say' actually reflected what sounded like a commercial melody - the nice harmony vocals certainly didn't hurt, nor did Wesley's melody bass.
5.) Yesterday's Rain (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 2:30 rating: ** stars
Anyone who wondered if these guys could write a pretty song might be surprised to hear 'Yesterday's Rain'. That's not saying Mala's yelp of a voice was commercial. For some reason every time I hear this one I envision Joe Perry trying to sing an Aerosmith tune ...
6.) Lady Dressed In White (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 2:43 rating: **** stars
She's a Lady' was an awesome garage rocker, but powered by snarling vocals and snarling lead guitar 'Lady Dressed In White was even better.
7.) Scattered Children's Toys (Jose Mala - Joseph Guido) - 4:17
'Scattered Children's Toys' closed with another atypical performance. Like the title, the song exhibited a modest psych feel, a surprisingly memorable melody and some lyrics that were unexpectedly thoughtful. Who would have thought ...
Mala went on to do a short stint with The Magic Tramps, followed by The Joe Perry Project (which he left before the band ever recorded). Guido became a member of the New York glam rock quintet The Brats, which performed alongside Kiss in its early days and featured lead guitarist Scott St. Clair Sheets, later a member of Pat Benatar’s band. Guitarist Caine and brother Joey went on to record a pair of albums with Sir Lord Baltimore.
So here's an interesting email I received from a former band associate:
I have some info for you.
I was known as "Hammond Henry"- (Henry Gendus) since that's what I played with Koala. I've played piano since age 5 and had played piano (when I was 15) and back then you needed a Cabaret License) for the likes of Diana Ross / Paul Anka at the Fontainebleau Hotel In Miami Beach. My dad was a notable clothing manufacturer whose suits were worn by the Rat Pack and many others including Nathan Novik who owned the Fontainebleau back in the days.
I started playing with Koala just as the Capitol album was being recorded. We rehearsed often on 13th Avenue in Brooklyn, in the basement of a beauty parlor. Later on we got a loft at '2 Bond Street' - downtown Manhattan. At the time the line up featured myself, Joe Orecchio (Joe Alexander), Louie Dambra, Joe Guido, and Jose (his full name was Jose Maldanado).
We were billed as "back from touring with the Rolling Stones" (I still have that ad) and we also opened for up The Rich Kids (pre-Mountain) at the Electric Circus in New York.
We played the Capitol Theater in Port Chester a few times, including opening up for Jeff Beck. We also did the Capitol Theater in Piscataway New Jersey - that was a rowdy crowed and we endured a lot of audience fights there. One of my favorite memories was getting a chance to sit at Mark Stein's Hammond organ at the Fillmore when the Vanilla Fudge were performing there.
The loft was up on the 3rd floor and we had a roadie name Bart. At the time Bart weighed about 500 lbs and thought professional wrestling was real so he could toss you around and not hurt you. I remember a time when he carried one of my 122 Leslies up two flights of stairs when we did a show on Staten Island in a club called the Stadium. We actually took a picture of all 5 of us on his shoulders.
Harry (of future Blondie fame) often rehearsed up there with the band
we often were at her loft parties which were about three blocks away from us near Blecker Street
We went our separate ways when Louie started Sir Lord Baltimore.
I went into the Wedding Business (yup) and was house band for many years at
a upscale catering hall call El Carib In Brooklyn. We had a front man named Sal Casta with a gifted voice and a horn player named Frankie who played two trumpets at once
Anyhow I could ramble on and on but since your site was the first I've seen giving Koala justified kudos I figured Id fill you in on some of my memories with Koala. We had a great time performing
Thanks, Henry Gendus (Hammond Henry)
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