Wednesday, December 09, 2009

WHA-KOO and whores and bitches (oh my!)


Just as a journeyman boxer can score a few upset knockouts, but never make the big bucks, Wha-Koo put out some capable albums with skill, professionalism and hooks...and still ended up in the dollar bin.

Signed to ABC in 1977 as "Big Wha-Koo" they shortened their name for their second album, "Berkshire," and managed a semi-hit called "(You're such a) Fabulous Dancer," which was Top Ten in some international markets, but did little in America.

The band's leader, Danny Douma left for a solo album supported by guest artists including Eric Clapton and Garth Hudson. David Palmer fronted the new Wha-Koo, for their third and last release, 1979's disc on Epic, "Fragile Line," a kind of concept album exploring lines between love and hate, reality and illusion, good girls and whores, etc.

Palmer wrote four of the songs on "Fragile Line" and co-wrote the rest. Taking full responsibility for his band's new direction (which included several new members), Palmer said at the time that when he started writing the new material, "I just sat down at the piano, and said, 'It's that time. You do it now or you don't...I like the music to be melodic. That's where my vocal strength is...The lyrics, which deal with emotion...have my personality, my stamp on them."

Palmer's most notable vocal work up until "Fragile Line" was singing lead on two Steely Dan tracks, "Dirty Work" and "Brooklyn" on "Can't Buy a Thrill." As a writer, he'd worked on Carole King's album "Wrap Around Joy." His early band The Myddle Class had been signed by Goffin-King.

In the picture at the top right, you'll see the goofy bug-eye cover of the "Berkshire" album above the rather stolid group-photo used for the cover of the ill-fated "Fragile Line" release.

There was, and is, a fragile line between what pop critics call "tasty" and what the radio decides to play and what people are moved to buy.

For a journeyman rock group with a fairly generic lead singer, Wha-Koo still deserved a better fate, and "Fragile Line" still holds up after all these years.
Two highlight tracks cover the familiar territory of woman-trouble.

"Old King's Cross," despite some late 70's cliches in the production (and the familiar Billy Joel-style piano work), is a moving, if somewhat overbaked ballad that casts a moody view at whores: "By the light of the Southern Cross, where the ladies fake their pleasure. You find what you thought you lost, and the stars go on forever...you'll never know you've been had till she ads up the cost. Tonight on Old King's Cross."

If a ballad about whorish girlfriends or girlish whore friends doesn't let you know these Wha-Koo guys sometimes chose Wha-king off instead, then move on to "Velvet Screw," which is an up-beat fist-clenched rant at a bitch goddess:

"You're so good with the velvet screw, and no one turns it like you do!"

Momentarily calm, Palmer continues: "There is just one thing I want you to know. I seen them come, and I seen them go." Then he revs up once again: "You're the best I've ever seen at using someone else's dreams...you're so good with the steel caress. When it comes to pain baby, you're the best. I've seen them all AND I'M IMPRESSED!"


You just might be impressed with the very solid work Wha-Koo did 30 years ago.

OLD KING'S CROSS
VELVET SCREW


Update: Nov, 2011. Rapidshare's annoying "30 days without a download kills it" policy killed the original links. Since Rapidshare has driven me crazy with their constant policy updates and their skimpy time-frame (which is especially tough on a blog like this, where the idea is not to give away popular stuff you can buy), the re-up is "Camarillo." A song about a famous mental asylum in California.

CAMARILLO

1 comment:

Henri said...

Would love to have the other tracks on mp3 as well. These two songs are defenitely the best on the Fragile line album.