Friday, 29 April 2016

"Dada" by DADA [featuring Elkie Brooks, Paul Korda, Pete Gage, Jimmy Chambers & Don Shinn] (2016 Esoteric Recordings CD Remaster) - A Review by Mark Barry

"...Take Me Up And Put Me Down Big Dipper..." 

Derided and beloved in equal measure – England's DADA made only one LP in late 1970 for a confused Atlantic Records. A hybrid of styles encompassing Brassy Prog, Holy Roller Rock and Rotary Connection-style vocal gymnastics (and a few points beyond those) - like the eclecticism suggested by their band name – the music was impossible to pigeonhole and of course drove both the record company nuts and the public into the nearest bar.

Most Rock geezers like me know our Dada through the 99p we spent on Atlantic Super 2464 013 – "The Age Of Atlantic" label sampler LP put out in October 1970. Amidst the Zeppelin, Yes and Dr. John - there they were. Track 2 on Side 2 was Dada's Hair-like cover of The Rolling Stones 1965 "The Last Time" - a bopper radically rearranged into something more interesting and ever so slightly out there. The whole album is like that – a mishmash of 5th Dimension meets Julie Driscoll with Brian Auger and The Trinity meets Rotary Connection and a few other musical experiments along the way. Don't get me wrong – I love it – there is much to cherish here. It's not Rock for sure and it's not completely Psych either. It's a mixture of many styles – immediately dated yet actually very cool too. Here is the exploratory cross-pollination existential Dadaist details man (and that's just the left leg)...

UK released Friday 22 April 2016 – "Dada" by DADA [featuring Elkie Brooks, Paul Korda, Jimmy Chambers, Pete Gage and Don Shinn] on Esoteric Recordings WECLEC 2543 (Barcode 5013929464346) is a straightforward CD Remaster and transfer of their lone album (37:17 minutes):

1. Big Dipper
2. The Last Time
3. This Is My Song
4. Seed Of Peace
5. Organ Interlude
6. Tonite Is
7. She Walks Away [Side 2]
8. Aspen, Colorado
9. Eyes Of The Warren
10. Jasamin
11. Dada
Tracks 1 to 11 are their lone album "Dada" – released December 1970 in the UK on Atlantic 2400 030 and in the USA on Atco SD 33-352.

Paul Korda had a hand in writing In "Big Dipper" and "This Is My Song" (both co-writes with Pete Gage) - "Seed Of Peace" and "Tonite Is" are co-writes with Keyboardist Don Shinn and he solo wrote "Jasamin" and "Dada". Don Shinn wrote "Organ Interlude" and "Eyes Of The Warren". "The Last Time" is a Rolling Stones cover and "Aspen, Colorado" is a Tony Joe White cover. "She Walks Away" is written by Pete Gage and Ivan Zagni.

Taking its moniker from an art movement formed at the outbreak of the First World War – DADA was the brainchild of PETE GAGE - a Guitarist and Arranger heavily involved with Geno Washington and The Ram Jam Band in the mid Sixties. Deliberately choosing not to have one central singer but enough people to handle the diversity of the music (they weren't called Dada for nothing) – founder member Pete Gage decided on three sets of voices – and what a trio they were. ELKIE BROOKS had been working the cabaret circuit and doing jazz-outs with Humphrey Lyttleton's band as well as studio stints with Jody Grind – Tim Hinkley's Prog Rock act signed to Transatlantic Records. The second set of pipes belonged to the all-round eccentric and hugely creative PAUL KORDA – a falsetto singer who’d worked in the "Hair" cast and was a prolific song/lyric writer. The third was JIMMY CHAMBERS who was a Percussionist as well. DON SHINN supplement those singers with Keyboards and MARTIN HARRYMAN played Drums. Other musicians included BARRY DUGGAN on Saxophones & Flutes, MALCOLM CAPEWELL on Tenor Sax & Flute with ERNIE LUCHLAN on Trumpet & Flugelhorn.

The 16-page booklet has new liner notes by SID SMITH that feature informational interviews with founding member Pete Gage discussing the formation of the band – the eclectic styles and the tours of America in 1971 that saw Robert Palmer join the ranks and would eventually go on with Elkie to form the much-loved Vinegar Joe on Island Records. There are no photos but quotes from Dada exponents like Huelsenbeck, Blosche, Hugo Ball and Andre Breton. BEN WISEMAN has carried out the 24-bit digital remaster at Broadlake Studios and this disc rocks.

It opens very strongly with "Big Dipper" which is a brilliantly arranged Prog Rocker with Blood, Sweat & Tears brass thrown in and all three vocalists featured. Their adventurous cover of The Rolling Stones "Last Time" has clever breaks that feel very Lydia Pense and Cold Blood. The acoustic opening to "This Is My Song" is beautifully handled on the remaster as is the "Hair" chorus and keyboards – a genius tune – I'm reminded of good 5th Dimension or a cool Charles Stepney production of Rotary Connection circa "Hey, Love". I love the duet of vocals between Brooks and Korda on "Seed Of Peace" – another sort of holy-roller peace anthem that cries out to be in "Jesus Christ Superstar". The side ends on two short 'n' curlies - the 54-second "Organ Interlude" by Don Shinn that feels like the beginning to an ELP opus done on a local church organ. That immediately leads into "Tonite Is" – another one minute of hippy claptrap vocals.

Side 2 opens with the wicked "She Walks Away" – a very Rotary Connection "Hair" production song with great brass fills and multiple vocals. Tony Joe White's "Aspen, Colorado" originated on his 1968 "Black And White" LP in 1968 on Monument Records while others might recognise it as the B-side to the more famous "Pork Salad Annie". In the hands of Dada - its 2:50 original playing time is stretched to 5:03 minutes and becomes almost unrecognisable (but in a good way). Sung with real Soul by all – it features cool treated keyboards and complimentary brass. "Aspen Colorado" is a definite highlight on here. Shinn's "Eyes Of The Warren" has a great keyboard break – while the acoustic 'sweetness of a million roses' that pours off the twee "Jasamin" may be too much free-love for most (even with that great vocal ending). The album ends on "Dada" – an upbeat Blood Sweat & Tears vibe – again feeling like another 'Hair' outtake that almost made the set list.

Historically - Paul Korda appeared as one of the Lead Vocalists in the 1968 stage show of "Hair" - made a couple of solo albums in the 70ts - "A Passing Stranger" released June 1971 in the UK on MAM Records MAM-AS 1003 and "Dancing In The Aisles" released 1978 in the USA on Janus JXS-7038. He also guested on "Ride A White Horse" and "One Of The Boys" for The Who's Roger Daltrey in 1975 and 1978. Personally - I knew his name from the song "Seagull (The West Coat Oil Tragedy Of '68)" which Dave Edmund's Love Sculpture covered on their 1970 second LP "Forms And Feelings". Korda is still active and put out 2 CDs in 2009 covering his early years and new material.

It's not all great for sure - but there is genius in its midst. I never thought I'd see the day that this obscure LP would finally receive a decent CD remaster (there is a Wounded Bird issue in 2010 but I heard bad reports about its audio). So not everyone's just Joss Stick – but if you feel like sticking a flower in a child's hair or sharing your baubles and dandelions collection with the world - then the brill and hippyish "Dada" is the earth-mother for you.

I dig it baby and I still think the Stones nicked their logo design in part from the cover painting...

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