Illegal Leopard

I was in a business meeting last week and was surprised and delighted to find OwL there.  OwL was once a producer on the albums of that band of legendary – nay, mythic status – Illegal Leopard, for which, I have the privilege of designing album covers.

OwL was involved with the band through Predator or Prey.  (For those few of you who don’t know the sequence of albums, this was the one just before Genius, Money Maker’s Farewell).  OwL’s decision to leave had as much to do with MM’s retirement as it did with the opportunity to take the TMS job when Juan’s sentence in China came to an unexpected, early end.

It was tough to see the tight knit group lose such valuable members at the same time, but MM was tired of the touring and the guys at that time weren’t ready to become an exclusive studio band.  Of course that changed later when Silk had to do that stint on the road gang in Mozambique.  He said he didn’t want to see another road for a long, long time.

Anyway, it was old home time at that meeting.  I forgot the original reason we all ended up there.  Ese and Homes were beside themselves with joy.  I mean its been over a year since we were all together, with the exception of Money Maker, who is still basking on the beaches of the Recherche Archipelago.  Dynamite couldn’t blast her off!

Can you imagine the energy with Ese, Homes, Silk, OwL, t’s Girl, Just Yule and Crooks in the same room? Wow.

We were having such a great time that we rolled over to OH’s grill so that we could all have a couple of drinks, (the soft kind for Crooks, please – didn’t want a repeat of the Mosquito Strut fiasco) and relax.

Oh, how I wish I had some recording equipment in there!  The impromptu unplugged stuff was magic.  Silk brought out his harmonica and they were off.

Home’s a cappella version of “My Cup is Gone” brought back such memories of the Bangladesh Uh-Oh Tour.  I caught Crooks wiping a tear from his eye.  “Gets me every time.”, he said.

They did a shortened version of “don’t listen, miss diane” with new vigor.  It was just plain awesome. It was if the South African ban had never been there.

Memories of Ese’s Cali City, 34 minutes of bone chilling guitar solo on “that stanks nasty” came flooding back.  The cops had to stop the stage stampede on that one.  Good times.

The guys said they are still involved in the litigation that’s tying up album sales.  R Costa is just not letting up, but they’re not too worried – they never are.  They are hard at work on the new tribute album.  Ese gave a quick few bars of the first cut, “Ted, Where You At?”  Poetry.

Ese said they talked Just Yule into sitting in on a couple of sessions. He had a short set recorded on his MP3 and let me listen. You could hear the trombone singing in the background, bringing out such depth to “out on love” and “Cara Muche”.  Man, JY can make that thing come to life!

I think the biggest single, however is going to be “¡JAMm”.  This cut is the culmination of all the years these guys have been together.  You can feel the mixing of their voices and the way the instruments play off each other so easily.  It’s a combination only those who know each other so deeply can reach.  The live version they performed for us that afternoon was simply amazing.

I think if they can get out from under that ball and chain created by the riots in Botswana after Homes, well, had his little public issue, this album is going to soar past the fabled stratosphere of the tour compilation disc, Change of Spots.

It was really hard to break away that afternoon, which by that time had become early evening.  But OwL had an early morning meeting with her new group, Bedroom Slippers.  Crooks had to get back to the Centennial operations.  They guys and I hung out a little while longer until Silk reminded Homes that he was his ride to his enforced training session that night.

Ese was off to an audition for a new triangle player, although we all knew there would never be another like Money Maker. Those leopard go-go boots would always be too sexy to fill.

It was such a great time.  I’m really looking forward to designing the cover for this new album, whether it gets to full distribution or not.  It’s going to have to be one sweet design because the magic these guys conjure just cannot be captured by reality.

I’ll make sure that OwL (and MM) get signed copies and hope that soon the rest of the world will once again be able to immerse themselves in the alchemy of Illegal Leopard.

(*Fingers crossed that the extradition committee is through debating by release date and the verdict goes in our favor!)

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