He looked like a young, pimped-out Eddie Murphy and sang like a somewhat deranged disciple of Al Green, but that was just part of the reason a small but fervent cult of '70s soul aficionados considers Bay Area character Darondo one of the great lost artists of his generation. His story, which includes being a sharp (and young) real estate businessman, railroad electrician, well-known TV talk show host, world traveler, and even an experienced chess player, is rightly the stuff of legend. It's detailed by historian Alec Palao in the comprehensive book that accompanies this 16-track set of recently found songs from Darondo's short heyday. Only a few, including "Didn't I," a regional West Coast hit, have been previously released, the rest were thought lost to time due to the usual shady label shenanigans that are also explained in the notes. Even though these tunes are not totally finished, they are far from raw and some include backing vocals, harmonica, horns, flute, and strings to flesh out the basic rhythm tracks. The music, recorded in 1973-1974 and intended for the Music City imprint, is your basic Southern-tinged funk and soul, but it's Darondo's loose, often lascivious, and always committed vocals that push this from being pretty good to pretty great. He grunts like James Brown, shifts to falsetto when the energy calls for it (as on the tough "Gimme Some"), and generally leads the primarily unnamed batch of musicians through their paces with a sharp sense of dynamics. Some of Darondo's tunes have surprisingly turned up in the soundtracks to a handful of late-2000s television shows. He even performed at 2008's SXSW festival and 2012's Bonnaroo, further whetting soul fan's appetites for this collection and tentatively getting back to live shows. Based on his gutsy and sometimes slightly unhinged vocals on the stomping blues of "I'm Lonely," this is a treat for soul history fans and, if not quite essential listening, a key piece of R&B history that places Darondo as one of the many could-have-been greats of his generation. ~ Hal Horowitz
Record Collector (magazine) (p.93) - 4 stars out of 5 -- "'Get Up Off Your Butt' is authentic funk; the ambitious 'Do You Really Love Me' is worthy of Leroy Hutson..."
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