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John Kongos: Kongos

Expanded breakthrough album by the 1970s songsmith.

South Africa-born John Kongos landed in London just in time to ride the rising tide of hairy, rootsy, post-Beatles singer-songwriters. First released in 1972, his second solo album features a host of guests, including percussionist Ray Cooper, producer Gus Dudgeon and engineer Roy Thomas Baker: all key players in the early careers of Elton John, Bowie, Queen and others.

Indeed, Elton’s pastel-shaded signature style clearly informs this collection, which mostly consists of pleasantly unremarkable soft-rock tunes alongside the occasional heart-wrenching folk-pop gem.

Of course, Kongos is best known to younger listeners for his 1971 single He’s Gonna Step On You Again, a No.4 hit that was covered as Step On by Happy Mondays in 1990. Aside from its stomping rhythm, the original is surprisingly close to the remake, and still packs a mean kick. The Mondays later covered another Kongos tune, Tokoloshe Man, also included here. Another Top 4 smash, it marries a Bo Diddley backbeat to a Slade-meets-Bolan boogie-glam riff.

The expanded menu of nine extra B-sides and alternate mixes are largely uninspired filler, like the Quo-style plodder Higher Than God’s Hat and the banjo-twanging novelty number Ride The Lightning, which sadly has little to do with Metallica. Admittedly, the brittle jealousy ballad I Won’t Ask Where You’ve Been has an emotional bite worthy of prime-time Gerry Rafferty, but otherwise these lightweight ditties belong to the lost pre-punk 1970s of Mungo Jerry sideburns and faded denim waistcoats.

A handful of timeless tracks, but not much that will twist your melon./o:p