AN INTERNET FIRST! I have combined forces with the infamous LeBrain to bring you our very first co-review! We have chosen the rare album by Funky Junction, a little known outfit better recognized under the name Thin Lizzy! Perhaps you have heard of them.
For the purposes of this review, LeBrain will be in black and HMO will be in blue.
FUNKY JUNCTION – Play a Tribute to Deep Purple (1973 Damont)
I like a challenge. Ever since hearing about Mike’s “Holy Grail” list of rarities I’ve been determined to find some for him here in Scotland. Given that I’m Scottish, this obsession with Holy Grails probably makes me Sean Connery to his Indiana Jones. Or something like that. At any rate, I’ll be calling him “Junior” from now on. I saw this record in Glasgow’s Missing Records and, knowing the hidden Thin Lizzy connection, I emailed Mike to see if he had it. He replied that it was on his Holy Grail list! Ya dancer! On closer inspection, however, the shop-copy looked too scratched to be worth even the £2.50 asking price. But the discovery gave me hope that I might find a better copy for him online… and here it is!
The band on the front cover wasn’t them. Their names appear nowhere on the LP packaging. All we’re told on the record jacket is that Funky Junction “are an exciting new group that has the pulse of today.” But for all intents and purposes, Funky Junction was Thin Lizzy:
Phil Lynott – bass guitar
Brian Downey – drums
Eric Bell – guitar
Benny White – vocals
Dave Lennox – keyboards
Since Phil Lynott couldn’t sing Ian Gillan’s high notes, and since Thin Lizzy didn’t have a keyboard player, the band hired members of another Irish group called Elmer Fudd to record the album, which they did in one day!
Fireball is one of my favourite Deep Purple tracks. Even though Eric Bell referred to singer Benny White as an “Ian Gillan” clone, I don’t hear that at all. A Rod Evans clone, perhaps. Fireball is largely based on the drums, so we’re in safe territory here. Brian Downey is one of the few drummers who could give Ian Paice a run for his money in 1973. Not a bad cover I suppose, if you’re eager to hear what Fireball would have sounded like with Rod Evans singing.
Totally agree with you on the singer. The guy is so Rod Evans he was probably wearing gold lamé trousers while he was singing this. It’s an ok version in a “pub covers band” sort-of way. Brian Downey’s drumming is impressive, Phil’s bass solo… not so much.
Dan (credited to the German business man, Leo Muller, that conceived of and financed this project) is brief guitar instrumental. It’s supposed to sound like Danny Boy in a Hendrixian style, and I suppose that’s the right ballpark. Eric Bell fans will dig it, but as a song…next!
I like Eric’s tone here but it’s a lazy arrangement: just playing the melody and wanging his bar every now and again. It’s definitely the most Lizzy-esque song here though.
Funky Junction settle into a light groove on Black Night. This is a pretty faithful cover. What I like about this performance is Eric Bell’s way of improvising his own guitar solo within the style that Blackmore set for this song. The organ solo however is pretty caveman by comparison to Jon Lord. Pretty stock cover.
I’m actually fairly impressed by how faithful this one is, and a good approximation of the sound too. Eric Bell and Brian Downey are still the classiest acts here but it doesn’t have anywhere near the edge of the Purple original. Still, one of the more enjoyable outings of the album.
I like that I can hear Phil Lynott’s personal bass style on Palamatoon but the lame keyboards sound out of place on this album. I don’t know how to describe this instrumental original except to say that, as usual, Eric Bell’s soloing is a highlight.
It’s cool to hear Phil on this. His bass line reminded me of Little Girl in Bloom a bit. It’s just a shame that this tune is so bad. It’s like Emerson Lake and Palmer but pissed as farts. John Peel once described ELP as “a waste of talent and electricity”. He was wrong. But this song definitely is.
Strange Kind of Woman is pretty limp. Once again, if you were eager to hear this Purple classic performed by a Rod Evans clone, this is the one. Downey and Bell are the highlights of a pretty dull performance.
I’m finding the Rod Evans factor to be one of the more interesting aspects of this. If it wasn’t so workaday you could almost imagine these are some long-lost Deep Purple sessions from before they gave poor Rod the heave-ho. But apart from the “what if?” fantasising… dull.
Side two commences with the Deep Purple Mk I hit, Hush (actually a Billy Joe Royal cover). I find this one irritating. The singer’s enunciation bugs me. Deep Purple decided to anchor their version with a long keyboard solo. Unfortunately Funky Junction struggle to make their solo as interesting.
I think I liked this one more than you, Junior. This and Black Night are the two best Purple covers here. Not very inspiring on record but if they were playing it live at a pub I think I’d get into it. Benny sounds totally at home here, finally giving it the full, glorious Rod Evans. Probably with bouffant hair and a frilly shirt now too! Gaun’ yersel’ big man!
Even though we all know Rising Sun is a cover of House of the Rising Sun (a traditional), here Leo Muller takes songwriting credit! I hope he enjoyed what little royalties he earned from the meager sales of this LP. This is another instrumental cover, with a snooze-inducing ending.
Cheeky scamp that Leo Muller, eh? I’m surprised he didn’t just change his name to Traditional and watch the money flood in. Nice sound and a decent performance on this song but mostly goes in one ear and out the other.
I appreciate that Funky Junction chose to retain that noisy, messy intro to Speed King. I’m afraid that of all the songs, Speed King suffers the most from the inadequate singer. Fortunately the Lizzy guys are talented enough to play the tune properly.
Everything we’ve mentioned previously seems to work against them on Speed King. The caveman keyboards, the tameness. And the poor Rod Evans impersonator sounding like all your worst Karaoke nightmares (but with the added embarrassment of those trousers). It’s cool that they included the noisy intro (I think Leo Muller wrote that) but this is the worst Purple version here by a good margin.
Corina closes the album, a vocal track credited to Muller. It’s a cool blues that fits in with a Deep Purple Mk I vibe. I don’t mind this track too much. It’s nothing special but at least it’s not overshadowed by a superior Deep Purple version.
An OK boogie. It’s still making me think of pubs mostly. The lead guitar is the best thing about this one.
2/5 stars. Recommended primarily to fans of Eric Bell.
2.5/5 stars. I agree with Mike but I’m going to throw in an extra half-point because I thought the Rod Evans impersonator was a hoot.
[Funky Junction - Black Night]
- “Fireball” (Ritchie Blackmore, Ian Gillan, Roger Glover, Jon Lord, Ian Paice)
- “Dan” (Leo Muller)
- “Black Night” (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice)
- “Palamatoon” (Muller)
- “Strange Kind of Woman” (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice)
- “Hush” (Joe South)
- “Rising Sun” (Muller)
- “Speed King” (Blackmore, Gillan, Glover, Lord, Paice)
- “Corina” (Muller)