Even if you've never heard of the Incredible Bongo Band before, believe me when I say that you've heard them. Formed in 1972 by MGM A&R guy Michael Viner, the group started out with a couple tracks that went on the soundtrack to the B-film The Thing With Two Heads and subsequently turned into a small collective that probably exceeded anyone's expectations. In a short period of time, they put out two albums and were joined by the likes of bongo master King Errisson, Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Glenn Campbell, and Harry Nilsson in the studio, re-interpreting classic songs of the day in their own unique way.
When I say that you've most likely heard the group before, it's because their songs have been sampled by a huge number of artists in the past 30+ years. Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash turned the song "Apache" into a downright staple in their early DJing sets, while artists like Missy Elliot, Coldcut, Goldie, Jurrassic 5, Moby, Run DMC, Massive Attack, the Beastie Boys, and Sugarhill Gang have all swiped bits from the song as well. It's literally one of the most sampled pieces of percussion in music, along with the Amen break.
This fancy re-release not only includes all the songs from both of their albums, but a couple remixes as well (including a long workout of "Apache" by Grandmaster Flash himself). I've already mentioned that track several times, and it's fitting that it leads off the release, as it's a timeless piece of funk that's inventive as heck with squealing organs, blaring horns, some nice guitar work, and of course the legendary beats themselves. From there, you get more of the same great stuff, with "Let There Be Drums" rollicking through just over two minutes of banging percussion, with some sweet guitar riffage to put the cap on things while "Last Bongo In Belgium" drops things off into more psychedelic funk land with some dirty bass, flanged guitar, and a headier rhythm section that matches up nicely with some horn punctuations.
While its true that the release suffers a bit from everything sounding largely similar, it also has enough tricks up the sleeve to keep things highly enjoyable throughout the nearly eighty minute running length. Covers of "In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida" and "(I Can't Get No) Satisfaction" both turn the classic rock tracks on their heads with completely different arrangements, while the reworking of "Sing Sing Sing" takes the recognizable swing original and remakes it as a more disco funk hummer that sounds almost unrecognizable when compared to the big band versions. Considering you're getting two albums for the price of one (plus a couple bonus tracks), Bongo Rock is pretty much essential if you're a fan of hip-hop, funk, or just plain fun music in general.