I know little if anything of Darondo other than what these bios can tell me. William Pulliam is described as a soulful crooner from Berkeley, CA who got his first guitar at the age of eight. Even though he trained as an electrician, the guy could not ignore his musical aspirations (in some odd way, that's encouraging personally). In 1970, he cut his first single as Darondo, being described as an "earthier, street-smart Al Green."
After his third single, "Legs," this guy's career came to a screeching halt. He was a pimp for the majority of the remaining decade, then began hosting a local cable series of showcases in 1981. By the late 80's, after a traveling stint to Fiji, he returned to Berkeley to study physical therapy. His music has still remained a treasure to collectors though, being so rare and coming from a man who let go so early.
This album includes the three singles, as well as cuts from the sessions of the early 70's. Apparently in 2005, the sessions were brought up for enhancement over in the Bay Area, and he was brought in to fill in some missing vocals and guitar parts. He was said to have certainly not lost his touch, and, as music tends to, was pulled back in by the inspiration of the song.
"I Don't Understand It" starts things off, and the vocals are just barely understandable. Granted, this is a funk album, so that's not completely the point, but it does make the track harder to handle. It's not the recording that causes it either - every other element is crystal clear. It the laziness in the voice that prevents us from knowing about half of the words of the song. Though, honestly, I'm not sure there are very many other words than "baby" and a hastily mumbled "I don't understand it."
Well, hopefully that's not a sign of things to come. Track two is "I'm Gonna Love You" and starts off with a very rock beat lead in, almost reminiscent of "Light My Fire." Still can't totally understand the words as they come out, but now I'm desperately trying to ignore that fact. The music's pretty good in itself. The beat's really done well with the drum set, and the horns provide the right umph in all the right places. If you can hear beyond the words themselves, you're probably in good shape.
"Didn't I" comes up next, led in with a gentle funk guitar strum, just enough to get your foot tapping. The vocals are a few more octaves up, and so much easier to understand than the previous songs have been. You can imagine this guy crooning into a mic to the girl to didn't appreciate his attempts at making her happy. There's a lower voice that comes in under it, which is all right, but a little jaunting at first. The attempts at harmonies as it plays on are pretty nice, without being over the top in flash and show. The song as a whole is just lighter and easier on the ears.
Well we just got slapped in the face with some funk guitar heading into "Luscious Lady." Now this is what I'm talkin' about when we're trying to look at some good 70's funk. I think there's a line that goes something like "pretty little thing - I wanna bite yah" that I'm going to choose to ignore a little. The song's not clear, but it's not so muffled that you're struggling to enjoy it. The horns keep up so much of the beat that you'd almost want to group them in with the percussion section. Things drop out toward the end and wind down so damn well.
"Get Up Off Your Butt" is, by all accounts, meant to be a dance song. It's six minutes long, which could be a little much for a funk song, even when it's meant for the dance floor. We loose his voice again for most of the words, but it's pretty unnecessary for such a number. Actually, I'd almost venture to call it intrusive - just let us feel the groove and play your guitar bro!
Back to a shorter track, we get "Gimmie Some." Bah, this just gets really annoying. There's this good funkadelic guitar riff throughout, but it's not anything I'd want to hear over and over just because of the voice. It's one thing to pull in some falsetto for emphasis, but it's a whole other to rely on it throughout an entire track. It just makes things sort of rough on all of us.
"I'm Lonely" is much more up the style of the 70's croon, where there's not one voice by-itself, and the harmonies are pretty high up there on the scale. It does break down to just Darondo, who basically sounds like he's crying it out throughout the song. This is... ouch. I've seen breakdowns toward the end of songs, but never one that takes up the entire number. I get that you're hurting dude, but this is just torture on us all! Get up and get over it... please?
I seriously thought "Biddy Biddy Bum Bum" was playing when I was walking back toward my room during "Do You Really Love Me." He's asking for a definite confirmation - I mean, he does include a number of reallys in the actual question during the song. The music itself is actually just slightly off from the funk we've been experiencing. This time it's got a flute line throughout that almost says hippy outdoor jam fest, keeping up a nice wave-y dance feel. Mind you though - he's still going on about being lonely. Oi vey, this guy is sort of really sad.
"The Wolf" brings the tone way back down, telling the story of this old man and his memories. I don't totally know what this is about, given how I still can't understand half of what this guy's going on about. Funny thing is, this guy's voice, combined with Sam Bush's looks, are exactly the combo that a guy from home is. I don't consider this to be a compliment, because he doesn't live up to Sam Bush in regards to looks or talent nearly enough, and we know that's the better half.
In an extremely 60's/70's sounding pop-funk song, the next one is "Saving My Love." His voice is all sorts of up and down throughout the spectrum, never sticking to one octave for more than a few sentences, and usually traveling throughout in one line. The best part is probably this saxophone break around 1:30 that goes by entirely too fast, but at least it's there. It's some of the strongest horn playing I've heard on the album, both in playing and volume. It happens again around 2:30 as well. Now, if only we could ditch the words, we could have a pretty neat song on our hands here.
"Listen To My Song" is the title track and next one on the docket. There's what I suppose is supposed to be sexy, low talking at the start, but it's hard to make out any of the words (or maybe even want to at this point). Some of the notes are just right, but so many are so, so very wrong. This is bad karaoke at its finest, and does absolutely nothing good for the album as it stands on its title track-ness. Anywhos, the visuals for it are pretty funny - relive the hey days with me y'all:
"Question Mark" is slow. Way slow. And it's a lot of whining - that's the only way I can really put it. This almost feels like a part two for "I'm Lonely." At least though, I can tell you picturing this guy in the studio at work is totally easy. I mean, picture this: a tall, skinny black man, staying and swaying at the mic like Ray Charles, but without the right groove or feel for the music. His eyebrows totally go up as me sings the high notes (ugh, stupid literal visual of a head voice) and he tries man, he really, really tries.
Alright, alright, we've got a redeeming guitar line going to "Qualified." This is good man, real good. This whole letting go of the vocals aspect is sort of nice, at least for this track where the instruments are pretty much playing the epitome of funk rhythms. He really doesn't say too much either! Ahhh, a nice relief to the ears.
"Sexy Mama" sounds entirely familiar, so if it's a cover, someone help me out and let me know. It's obviously a complimentary song. It's also a pretty simple one where the beat remains constant throughout every portion of the band. He does drop low for a few notes that actually is a little startling, but when you get used to it, it's not exactly bad, just different. I can give this one some credit - it's classic and groovy in just the way it needs to and should be, if four nothing else than to provide some redemption for this album.
The final song is "Thank You God." I mean, it's an appropriate ending - I can't understand a damn thing he's really saying (damn was probably the wrong word choice - I maybe can hear him thanking the Father). It's a slow mover, I'm guessing just meant to be a closer to the album. This may be blasphemous, but this song really needs to be over. It's just not very good.
Added to My Playlist:
- "Luscious Lady"
Okay, well, that's over. It wasn't absolute torture, but it was a tough one. Have to say though, it's always interesting hear the roots of any genre from any point in time / part of the country if for nothing else than to learn where things came from. At least there was that.