John Kongos: Kongos

Expanded breakthrough album by the 1970s songsmith.

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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

Stephen Dalton

Stephen Dalton has been writing about all things rock for more than 30 years, starting in the late Eighties at the New Musical Express (RIP) when it was still an annoyingly pompous analogue weekly paper printed on dead trees and sold in actual physical shops. For the last decade or so he has been a regular contributor to Classic Rock magazine. He has also written about music and film for Uncut, Vox, Prog, The Quietus, Electronic Sound, Rolling Stone, The Times, The London Evening Standard, Wallpaper, The Film Verdict, Sight and Sound, The Hollywood Reporter and others, including some even more disreputable publications.