Funky Junction plays a Tribute to Deep Purple - Stereo Gold Award MER 373, 1973.

(review by Garry Smith) First, some history, to place this album in its proper historical context. ;-) I first saw it in 1973, in the Woolworths store at the east end of Princes Street in Edinburgh. It was 10pm on a Sunday night, the store was very firmly shut, the record was on a stand behind the glass door, I was on a school trip, and I was going back home first thing the next morning. So I had no chance to get it. :-(

I kept looking for it, but it was about three or four years before I found it, in another branch of Woolworths.

Woolworths in the UK is a fairly downmarket high-street store (known to one and all as Woollies), and is definitely not the place to buy your records if you want to have any street cred. Worse, the album itself was one of these dirt-cheap ones that Woollies used to sell - older UK readers will remember labels such as "Hallmark", "Pickwick", "Music for Pleasure", and the gloriously politically incorrect "Top of the Pops" series, each with a scantily-clad dolly-bird on the cover. And finally, Purple themselves were extremely unfashionable with most of my mates.

All this meant that I practically had to slink into Woollies in disguise to look for it - it would have been social disaster for me to have been discovered there, looking through the cheapo crap for an album of Deep Purple covers. (Nowadays, you'll have gathered, I don't give a damn.)

Anyway, by the time I found it, I hated the wretched thing for all the trouble it had caused me. It cost me 66 pence (it still has the sticker on the cover) in 1976 or 1977 - probably about the price of a 45rpm 7inch single at the time. And when I played it.....was it bad!

Now flash-forward about 17 years. During this time, I'd played this record whenever I wanted to laugh. It became a standard in my house - "Is it as bad as Funky Junction?" Anyway, in late 1994 I was new to the Net. I'd discovered and its resident guru, Trond. In a note to Trond I said something about Funky Junction and how bad they were. His reply hinted that they were actually Thin Lizzy. "Whaaatt??", I said, "Tell me more!"

Trond didn't - instead he forwarded my note to Alex Gitlin, who passed it onto Lennart Hedenstroem, who gave me the full story. This impressed me immensely. First, the sheer logistics of flashing this note around the world was impressive to this Net newbie - because I've worked with computers for 20 years and I know how difficult it is to get them to do anything at all! Second, the fact that there were all these friendly and helpful folk out there who not only cared about Purple, not only had heard of FJ, but even knew who they were, and were happy to take the time to tell me, gave me a very warm feeling. I knew I was in with friends.

Here's what Lennart told me......"Eric Bell, the original Thin Lizzy guitarist (70-73), was interviewed in Black Rose (the TL magazine) some years ago. In there he told the story about the FJ album. So it's definitely Thin Lizzy.

Musicians were Phil Lynott (bass), Eric Bell (guitar), Brian Downey (drums), Dave Lennox (keyboards), and Benny White (vocals). The first three were the Lizzy line-up at the time (1972). Phil couldn't sing in the style of Ian Gillan, so they brought in White from the Dublin band Elmer Fudd and also their keyboard player (Lennox). The album was released in early 1973. Lizzy had a couple of albums out that were no success and they had just moved to London from Dublin and were broke. They got an offer from a German man to record this album as a tribute to Deep Purple anonymously for a sum of money that would keep them from starving for a while. These versions can in no way compete with the DP original. Eric Bell is no Ritchie Blackmore and Lizzy was a young evolving band at the time - not to mention the low budget production that in all makes this merely a thing for die-hard Lizzy collectors."

All right - to the music! Fairly short running time. Five Purple numbers and four others - the others are credited to "Leo Muller", who, I assume, was the German guy responsible for the whole thing.

Side 1 (remember folks, this is vinyl!)

1. Fireball

A cheap nasty effect stands in for the air conditioner at the start. The drumming is very good - better than the Shrapnel version - and that's important for this tune. The production sounds cheap - obviously a low-budget job. The vocalist is very clear - you can pick up every word - but he doesn't sound a bit like Big Ian. The guitarist attempts to imitate Ritchie's solo, but comes out with something which makes me think of a kid making funny noises with a stretched elastic band! The organ solo flashes across the speakers in the exaggerated stereo that a lot of very cheap records have. Knowing now that it's Lynott, I've just listened to the bass for the first time, and it's damn good.

2. Dan

Better known as the traditional Irish song "Danny Boy". A solo guitar instrumental, with lots of echo and feedback that seems to get out of control! My long-suffering wife says it's "like someone learning to play for the first time." There's one hideous peak where it all seems to fall apart, and I fall about laughing. Guaranteed to bring tears to your eyes, but not for the reasons that "Danny Boy" usually does.

3. Black Night

Not bad - verses are quite close to the original, and the guitar lines are spot on. The solos are not as good as the originals, but OK. About the vocalist, my wife reckons "He started out as a choirboy, and should have ended up in traditional clubs singing to little old ladies." Does anyone know what happened to him?

4. Palamatoon

If this is a cover, I don't recognise it. It is a hideous synth-led instrumental with no discernible tune. Hear Thin Lizzy's rhythm section do a great impersonation of a primitive drum machine! On second thoughts, don't hear it.

5. Strange Kind of Woman

Again, those vocals are oh-so-polite! Good bass, guitar solos are fine. It's just a bit pedestrian and lacking in excitement.

Side 2

1. Hush

Some sort of squeaky toy used for the effect at the start. The attempt to imitate Jon at the start doesn't quite come off, but they do get the lumpy rhythm quite accurately. And the vocalist sounds really like Rod Evans - so maybe the other tracks are what RE would have sounded like on the Mk 2 material. There's quite a lot of life about this track - they capture the laboured funky(!) sound of the DP version.

2. Rising Sun

Instrumental version of "House of the Rising Sun". Lots of power without going over the top. Builds up from a quiet start, gets very emotional, then slows and quietens for the end. Beautifully structured and played. The best track on the album by a mile (1.60934 km).

3. Speed King

This is based on the UK/European version, so they try to copy the blast at the start, and the quiet organ bit. The vocalist just can't cope with this song. There's too much echo (or stereo) on the organ in the middle, but at least the organ and guitar parts complement each other, unlike on the Shrapnel version. It's OK.

4. Corina

I believe that this is a traditional folk or blues song. It's a straightforward bopalong tune, with nothing exceptional about it, which any working band could churn out without wakening up.

Final impressions are that it's not as bad as I thought. You tend to remember the bad bits - the vocals, the guitar solo in "Fireball", all of "Dan", the squeaky toy on "Hush". Of course, it's still not good, so don't go hunting for it, and don't spend a lot of money when you find it. I've seen it going for 10 UK pounds at a record fair - it just isn't worth that money, unless you have that much to burn. (On the other hand, if you're a Purple fanatic, how can you resist?)

The DPAS discography (1982) says that Ritchie and Ian P recorded three tracks with Phil Lynott in 1971 under the name of "Baby Face", for a single which never appeared. But other people put that session as late as 1973. So there was a DP/TL connection at about the time this album was recorded - but before or after?

The discography says that the band pictured on the cover is Hard Stuff, who recorded on the Purple label; and that the album was released in Germany as "The Rock Machine plays the best of Deep Purple and other hits" - label and number : Sonic 9048.

(BTW, there was also an album "Especially for You.....Gladys Knight and the Pips with guests Funky Junction". What a versatile band they were!)

There - ain't that enough for a 66 pence record?

| Garry Smith             |

Dave Hodgkinson
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