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Funk Classic - Ray Manzarek meets Grant Green on CD collectable

"Introducing West Coast Harem", five tracks recorded in 1997 by this short-lived funk outfit, is about to become rare.

As with those early, halcyon days of vinyl when bands formed for a record or two then split up, some pressings of quality were limited to only a few hundred and became the sole and much sought-after recording for the players under that name.

Some limited editions disappear without a trace, and rightly so. Some never should have seen the light of day.

This one is is the real deal. It is uniformly of high quality and has two standout tracks, Jade (3.33) and Open Door (4.54), with Struttin' (5.54) following close behind.

West Coast Harem was formed in 1994, recorded onto vinyl and CD, then disbanded in 1999. The 500 copies of "Introducing West Coast Harem" are just about all gone and no more will be printed.

The funky, retro CD cover with its "platform soles" chunky typesetting is crying out to become collectable. Information is scant, but we do know the basic personnel.

The driving forces behind the band were composers R. Scott (keyboards) and John Basil (guitar) backed up with a solid rhythm section blessed with a light touch. Craig Tiegen handles the live Cissy Strut - a homage to The Meters Classic - with aplomb if not the sparse Caribbean flavour of Ziggy Modeliste's original beats from The Meters 1969 release.

Apart from Cissy Strut the writing credits are given to the band as a whole for the four remaining tracks.

Open Door is the most intriguing, with definite Grant Green (Cease the Bombing) and Ray Manzarek (Riders on the Storm) influences at least to my ears. R. Scott notes (by email) that Grant Green was "definitely an influence, Boogaloo Joe Jones and George Benson as well".

Jade, the opening track, is also a fine tune, as is Struttin' with its quirky melody announced by the keys then joined by guitar before some extended soloing.

Ray Manzarek was also a key factor. R. Scott writes: "Ray Manzarek was my 1st rock keyboard influence. Eclectic, arty but tough and mean at the same time. I used to play along with all the Doors albums."

Not to say these tunes are derivative. The combination of sounds is all West Coast Harem. Keyboards are Wurlitzer A series with Emu organ and world tones and a Moog Prodigy for colour. R. Scott notes that he also went through stages with Yamaha CP-60, Rhodes and Wurly red top as well.

The band were all big fans of The Meters and New Orleans music in general. R. writes: "New Orleans is where it all started. I've been there numerous times and just love the vibe. Allen Toussaint, Dr. John, Nevilles...it's just the best music."

Nowadays R. Scott has a bluesy soul/ jazz outfit (The Helmut Stein Experience) and has added vocals and lyrics to his writing credits. John Basil went in the Space Rock, Mahavishnu Orchestra, Miles (circa Bitches Brew) direction.

A gem for collectors and funk fans alike.

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