Archive for the ‘November 2011’ category

This also came from Philly

November 28, 2011

Tonight on The Midnight Tracker, we have another LP rarely seen while digging for records.

The Electric Indian was a group of Philadelphia studio musicians brought together in 1969 to lay down some funk and soul instrumentals, mostly covers. It recorded one LP, “Keem-O-Sabe,” and two modestly successful singles, the LP’s title cut and a cover of “Land of 1,000 Dances.”

The most thorough piece I can find about the group is this 2006 blog post from The Record Robot, which specialized in odd and quirky records. Most sources credit onetime Swan Records owner Bernie Binnick as the sole founder of The Electric Indian. However, the Record Robot post also says ’60s singer Len Barry was a co-founder. Both were Philly guys.

Barry, who produced the group, is said to have been fascinated by American Indian culture at the time. He and Binnick co-wrote the title cut and its 7-inch flip side “Broad Street,” with Barry taking the writer’s credit under his real name, Leonard Borisoff. Barry also co-wrote “Rain Dance,” another cut on the LP. The last cut on the record is a cover of Barry’s hit single “1-2-3.”

Wiki, which doesn’t mention Barry in connection with The Electric Indian, insists the group was “influenced by the popularity of American Indians in the media.” Listening to this record, it’s clear any such influence was superficial at best. At a time when the American Indian movement was gaining strength and respect, here is a record on which the hit single, “Keem-O-Sabe” samples the theme from “The Lone Ranger.” As always, you be the judge.

That said, The Electric Indian cranked out some mighty fine grooves. Its members, uncredited on the album jacket, included some now-familiar names. Two legendary Philly rhythm sections that followed soon after in the early ’70s —  MFSB and the Salsoul Orchestra — can trace part of their legacy to The Electric Indian.

Vince Montana Jr., who’d worked as a Philly session man for a decade, played vibes for The Electric Indian and arranged four of the LP’s 10 cuts. He also wrote its longest cut, the 5-minute “Geronimo.” He eventually joined MFSB, as did guitarist Bobby Eli. Montana went from MFSB to become the conductor of the Salsoul Orchestra. A young Daryl Hall, just getting started in music, was The Electric Indian’s keyboard player. Tim Moore, who became a well-regarded singer-songwriter in the ’70s, was another of the guitarists.

Hear, then, the music that led to MFSB and the Salsoul Orchestra.

“Keem-O-Sabe,” “I Heard It Through The Grapevine,” “Spinning Wheel,” “Storm Warning” and “Rain Dance,” The Electric Indian, from “Keem-O-Sabe,” 1969. It’s out of print. This is Side 1. It runs a brisk 12:42.

The first and last cuts are originals. You know “Grapevine,” the Motown classic, and “Spinning Wheel,” the smash for Blood, Sweat and Tears. “Storm Warning” is a Philly soul classic from 1965, written by Carl Fisher of the Vibrations and recorded by the Volcanos.