Band members Related acts
line up 1 (1970-71)
- Bob Caldwell -- bass
- Norman Harris -- vocals, organ
- Bob Jabo -- guitar, backing vocals
- Kenny Zale (aka Kenny Zalkovsky (RIP) -- drums, percussion
- Bobby Caldwell (solo efforts)
- Dr. T. and the Undertakers (Bobby Jabo)
- The Hudest (Kenny Zale)
- The Kollektion (Bobby Jabo)
- The Shaggs (Bob Jabo)
Rating: 3 stars ***
Country/State: Miami, Florida
Grade (cover/record): NM/NM
Comments: sealed copy
Catalog ID: 1051
Is "Katmandu" the best release of the Mainstream label ? Nope. Is it as bad as most reviewers would have you believe ? Nope. So here's what I consider to be the real scoop on this one.
Not to be confused with the short-lived early 1990s hair band featuring Dave King and Mandy Meyer, this earlier entity formed in Miami, Florida and featured the talents of bassist Bob Caldwell, singer/keyboardist Norman Harris, guitarist Bob Jabo, and drummer Kenny Zale. All four members had been active on the Southern Florida music scene, with Jabo recording a couple of mid-'60s singles with Dr. T. and the Undertakers and The Kollektion.
The band's big break came when Little Richard stumbled across them, championing their cause. Signed by Mainstream Records, like a lot of Florida bands, the album traveled to New York to record their debut. Produced by Bob Shad, 1971's "Katmandu" featured a professional, and occasional entertaining set of blues-rock and blue-eyed soul numbers. Largely written by Harris, he also handled the lead vocals and provided the ample Hammond B--3 solos. As the band's focal point, there was no doubt Harris had an impressive growl of a voice. Deep and powerful, he was also one of those artists who seemingly insisted in over-singing everything. Imagine a male Janis Joplin and you'd get a feel for the results. Yeah,, there were a couple of decent numbers, including the jazzy instrumental 'G Minor' and the non-original 'She's Got Everything', but there was just something lacking. The analogy may be a bit clumsy, but I'd compare this album to a failed recipe. I'm not a great cook so it doesn't seem to matter if I have all the ingredients required and follow the instructions. The results never turn out quite the way they should. Same thing here - these guys had the raw talent and everything required to turn in a great album, but there was just something missing.
"Katmandu" track listing:
1.) Keep the Faith (Norman Harris) - 3:59 rating: *** stars
Jabo's jazzy opening guitar was momentarily arresting, but when Norman Harris starting singing the song quickly mutated into a conventional blue-eyed soul number. From their it became a battle of the genres with the song being tugged between soul and jazzy overtones. Harris turned in a nice Hammond B-3 solo, but even with the addition of a proto--'70s uplifting lyric, ultimately it couldn't salvage the song from also-ran status.
2.) All These Things (Norman Harris) - 4:30 rating: *** stars
As mentioned, Harris had an impressive voice and could really belt out a tune. The problem is all that power made it sound like he was trying to blow his way through tunes like 'All These Things'. The song actually had a very nice, mid-tempo melody, but the song came off as if the band were trying too hard. Imagine David Clayton-Thomas trying to sing a true rock song.
3.) She's Got Everything (Robert Joseph) - 3:50 rating: **** stars
One of the non-originals, 'She's Got Everything' found the band lightening up a bit. Yeah, this was still blues-rock and Harris sang as if his life was on the line, but with a bouncy melody and nice refrain, it was also one of the album's most commercial tunes.
4.) I'm the One (Norman Harris) - 3:50 rating: ** stars sober; *** stars after a couple of beers
A keyboard-powered ballad, 'I'm the One' had a certain lounge act quality to it. Not sure why, but it's always reminded me of a Three Dog Night tune. Interestingly, have a couple of beers this one proves to be surprisingly enjoyable.
5.) G Minor (instrumental) (Norman Harris - Bob Jabo - Kenny Zale - Bobby Cadlwell) - 2:17 rating: **** stars
One of two group compositions, the instrumental 'G Minor' was built on a nifty little guitar and keyboard riff that reminded me a bit of early Steely Dan.
Hum, the song title certainly didn't help distinguish this anonymous slice of bar band boogie.
2.) Catch the Groove (Norman Harris) - 3:20 rating: ** stars sobe
Judging by 'Catch the Groove', trying to nail a funky groove probably wasn't the genre these guys should have been pursuing.
3.) Cotton Mouth (instrumental) (Norman Harris - Bob Jabo - Kenny Zale - Bobby Cadlwell) - 3:59
The album's second group composition, 'Cotton Mouth' is one of those tracks I'm hard pressed to explain my affection for. Musically the instrumental offered up a mix of blues and jazzy moves with each band member getting to show off some solo moves. That said, drummer Zale was the real sparkplug on this one. Hardly the most unique track on the album, but a cool song all the same. rating: **** stars
Day Before Tomorrow (Robert Joseph) - 3:20 rating:
5.) You Made Me Feel Like I Belong (Norman Harris) - 2:25 rating: ** stars
Unfortunately,'You Made Me Feel Like I Belong' ended the album on a low note - namely another lounge act ballad. Where was Bill Murray's Nick the Lounge Singer when you needed him?
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