Saturday, June 7, 2008

Johnny Rocco Band - "Rocco" (1976)

Some more rare mid-70s unblogged, jazz-infused Aussie soul-funk.
No-one in this band is named Johnny Rocco - presumably they named themselves after Edward G. Robinson's bad guy in the 1948 film "Key Largo". This Sydney-based group of jazz and funk musicians were joined on this, their only LP, by the New Zealand-born Maori soul vocalist Leo De Castro.

Leo De Castro

One of a few Maori singers who made their mark in Australian soul-funk and other music in the 1970s, De Castro played in many bands, but recorded with relatively few. Like many urban indigenous musicians around the world who are surrounded by European culture, Maori musicians have often found a home in musics that stem from the African musical diaspora - soul-funk, reggae, and more recently hip hop - although besides this album, De Castro's other sparse outings are more in tune with the ubiquitous "boogie-rock" that held a grip over his adopted country at the time.

I saw these guys play somewhere in 1975, and was particularly taken with De Castro's live voice, he killed it on tracks like "Baby's Gonna make it" - and in cataloguing these 70s funk albums, i'm realizing how much I got out when I was 13, and how comparatively little I get out now :) At the time, they were building up a strong live following, and preparing to record this album.

Original guitarist Mark Punch had just run off to join Renée Geyer's band, but was seemingly here to record on at least two of the tracks he'd co-written : "Heading In the Right Direction", soon to be a hit single for Geyer on "Ready To Deal", and "Sweet Kisses", that she would later record on "Winner".
There are some tight instrumental funk workouts with jazz touches, the flute and talkbox stormer "Number 43" , and great percussion throughout from Sunil De Silva - it's a pretty solid album and worth checking out.

While only independently released in Australia, the album was picked up internationally by 20th Century Records, with the band re-named simply 'Rocco', and a publishing deal seems to have been signed with the Reizner Music Corporation.

Many thanks again to Micko and the Midoztouch community for this album, and thanks to Soul Gentleman for the additional credits from the Italian release.


01 'Good Times'(Olson / Riviera / Monette / Bridges / Guzman / Daird)
02 'Heading in the Right Direction'(Punch / Paige)
03 'Who's the Guy'(Campbell / Partridge / Rich / Dunlop)
04 'Sweet Kisses'(Punch / Paige)
05 'Funky Max'(Punch / Partridge / Dunlop / De Castro)
06 'Rocco'(Buchanan / Punch / Partridge / Dunlop)
07 'Baby's Gonna Make It'(De Castro / Buchanan / Punch / Partridge / Dunlop)
08 'She's Knocking on My Door'(Dunlop)
09 'What are you gonna do for the rest of your life?'(Dunlop / Richards)
10 'Number Forty Three'(Dunlop / Punch / Buchanan / Partridge)


Leo De Castro - vocals
Harris Campbell- guitar, vocals
Tim Partridge - bass
Russell Dunlop - fibes
(?), drums
Sunil da Silva - percussion

Tony Ansell - keyboards
'Spoona' (Tony) Buchanan - sax, flute
Mick Kenny - roland synthesiser
Mark Punch - guitar
Ralph White - horns
Tui Richards - guitar
Garry Paige - mentor


Produced by Russell Dunlop
Engineered by Wahanui Wynyard
Mixed by B.C. Brown and R. Dunlop
All Songs except except "Good Times" published by Reizner Music Corporation
International release on 20th Century Records.
Recorded in 1976


Gianni said...

thanks simon.
always great...

soulbrotha said...

Sounds sweet! Thanks!

Simon666 said...

Thanks guys, thought you would like this one soulbrotha :)
Gianni, I still have to get to that zshare upload you wanted , sorry for the delay!

johnv said...

I don't know this band--but like you say "never enough Rhodes." Can't wait to check it out!

Simon666 said...

hey john, only a little bit of rhodes on the title track here, but a good soul-funk album anyway :)
Hope you enjoy it!

Micko said...

Thanks for the credit Simon. As he is an adopted Aussie, Leo is one of long lost treasures & I completely agree with your opinion. This is a great soul/funk album.
Thanks also for spreading the word re my fave female singer ever, Renee Geyer. Glad she's found a few new fans thanks to you



avocado kid said...

cool, cool

invisiblenigma said...

Thanks For this Rare Treat!!

Mr. Wone said...

How? When? Where?


Micko, I'm the biggest Geyer fan that just started 10 days ago.

Soul Gentleman said...

Amazing album!
I got it but cover is different (
"Heading in the right direction" is a great song.
Your blog is one of my faves.

Jur said...

You have some great singers there down under! Finally exposed to the rest of the world through your website. I had never seen anything of Johnnny Rocco, nor Marcia Hines and Renee Geyer at my local record shop here in Amsterdam.

Thanks for sharing it with us.


Simon666 said...

Soul Gentleman -

I'm curious about that cover/release - is it from CD or vinyl? And are there any more details on the cover (inside, or back) apart from what I already have in the post (song titles, members) ?

Jur -
Thanks for your commens :)

Soul Gentleman said...

Hi Simon, it's a pleasure to satisfy your curiosity...on my vinyl album, bought in 1976(as far as I know, never reissued on cd)there's no inside cover, just front and back; on the back, some more notes "produced by Russell Dunlop, engineered by Wahanui Wynyard, mixed by B.C. Brown & R. Dunlop, cover Clyde Terry".
Have a look here:

Soul Gentleman

Simon666 said...

hi soul gentleman, thanks for your info - there's actually a lot that your back cover has exposed:

- production info

- additional musician's credits

- the fact that what I thought was only an independent australian release actually got picked up by 20th Century Records (Barry White, Edwin Starr etc)

- the fact that the band seemed to have signed a publishing deal with Lou Reizner - extravagant producer of Rod Stewart, the rock opera movie 'Tommy' etc etc .... strange ... maybe he had plans for them ? He died the next year ...

Anyway, i've incorporated the additional text in the post, as this band is so obscure that a google search for them now brings up this blogpage first, so may as well get everything here :)

Out of curiosity, what country did you buy this in ?

Soul Gentleman said...

I bought it in Italy.
Some notes about Leo di Castro here:

Steve said...

thanks for the rip. i have the 20th century release... printed in U.S.A.

georgip said...

Awsome to see Johnny Rocco appreciated anywhere my father Tim Partridgeilthy bass player and all great family friends who play better than ever now doin thier own thing. This was never released in Australia because at the time of recording was not the sound of the day. They did release in NZ and America and toured both. Johnny Rocco rules Sweet kisses and knockin on my door were fabulous commercial release Tewei Richards went to Tasmania for Leo's aussie farewell last year they belted out heaps of Rocco, all i can say is bring back Johnny Rocco Australian Release 2009 leo soars tim rips and the whole band cranks

georgip said...

I have a tweaked CD from tewei and any extra info is easy found from the sourse for you

Simon666 said...

Hi georgip,
thanks for stopping. Your dad's a legend, saw him playing bass a lot in the late 70s - he's also on Renee Geyer's "Winner" somewhere else on this site.
You've got a tweaked CD of this? Would love to hear it :) Any info welcome as well.

Anonymous said...

I used to see this band regularly 1975/76 saturday nights when they played at a motel in St Kilda, Melbourne.
Sunil de Sliva was a great percussionist also - it was when Stylus were also starting out with their white soul/funk stuff at the Prospect Hill Hotel. Skylight was another Melbourne band in a similar genre.
I had the record - it was released in Melbourne a little later, fairly low budget cover.

Check out Leo on a double cd - The Songs Of Jimmy Webb: Tunesmith for "King Harvest" doing a medley of Wichita Linesman/By the time I get to Phoenix - fan-bloody-tastic singing and arrangement.

Anonymous said...

simon more info u-tube tim partridge he is still playing and recording with many artists Kevin Borich is a regular (rock) and many different styles

Anonymous said...

Matchfist wrote heading in the right direction

Anonymous said...

have a few more recordings of leo.... you would not have heard or seen how to get them to you simon

Anonymous said...

please tell me simon you have heard donny hathaway live, he is one of these boys biggest inspirations you have to hear this albulm, I have on computer a few for you ok

Anonymous said...

where can I get a copy of the johnny rocco band's album "rocco"? I haven't been able to find it anywhere

Simon666 said...

There's a link in the first comment

Soul Gentleman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I saw the band in Melbourne in the mid seventies. I bought the album - the one in front of the car, but years later i found another copy with the plain yellow cover. The album was available for a very short time in the stores but most didn't stock it. It was essentially an independent label with little distribution.

I also bought the sheet music for Heading in the Right Direction. Renee Geyer had the hit whereas Johnny Rocco Band's version virtually disappeared. I have 2 or 3 singles by the band as well (all the same versions as the album, so no bonus material there). I still have the sheet music.
Here's a link to the cover:

I spoke to Tony Buchanan (the sax player) a couple of years ago and he was surprised i knew of the band or even that i'd ask him about it. His memory was that a lot of the tunes on the album came from jams they did (i believe in the studio). Apparently they jammed a lot. He had fond memories of the band and considered them to be a great band.

When i saw them live i didn't know the original songs so i don't know if they played any album tracks. I do remember them playing For The Love Of Money by the O'Jays - that was amazing.

When i saw them live in a pub, they played with minimal equipment. I remember Leo singing and Tony (sax) going through a small Fender 100w w/2x column speakers put up on pub chairs (it was hired, i know this because co-incidently, i used the same PA with my own band sometime later). Mark Punch and Tim Partridge played through their amps - not miked. In fact the whole band played on the pub floor, there was no stage and they sounded great.

Btw, the "Fibes" attributed to Russell Dunlop was a brand of drums that was around in those days. Dunlop later became a successful record producer.

I also saw them play as support to a Renee Geyer concert at the Dallas Brookes Hall as well. The band later also played as "Rocco". I went to see this linup but the band failed to show.