If you were alive in the early-to-mid 70s and into funk music, you may have heard of Apple And The Three Oranges. The truth is that in their heyday, Apple And The Three Oranges weren’t very popular but that hasn’t stopped Now Again Records from collecting their entire discography on CD or double LP. The album is not just an album but a visceral experience. It comes with extensive liner notes including a history of the band, countless photographs and ephemera.
Apple And The Three Oranges came into being in 1970. The band was based out of Los Angeles but shared very little in common with the West Coast funk scene. The band was influenced by Edward “Apple” Nelson’s New Orleans drumming background. Combining influences of ragtime, gospel, blues, praise shouts, and funk, the band’s sound was unique for the times. On tracks like “Free and Easy,” we hear Apple shouting the song’s title over a bed over horn-filled funk. The track feels in a similar vein as Joe Tex‘ “I Gotcha.” Unfortunately, it never gets as interesting as the Joe Tex classic. Instead as it transitions from “Free and Easy pt 1” to part 2, it feels redundant and boring. “What Goes Around Comes Around” features ranting from Apple about Jesus being “black and proud” and various other subjects. Despite the songs odd lyrical content, it features Apple’s most drum line. The introductory 12 bars contain some of the most unique funk drumming of the era.
The oddest track of the collection has to be “Moon Light.” Using a standard trope in soul, there is a slow jam instrumental with Apple speaking over it to a female companion. The conversation starts sexy enough as he says “what a night baby, what a night/you were so sexy, so sweet.” But as the female companion enters the conversation, it becomes obvious she’s no actress. For the most part, she sounds confused for the entire conversation. After a particularly awkward exchange, Apple suggests “lets walk up the sand a little.” She replies awkwardly “ok.” Then apple goes completely off script and says “but be careful, remember before when the crab bit you on tour?”To which the female replies, “yeah…but my hero was there to rescue me.” A sort of sweet turn of the conversation but Apple just can’t help being a jokester saying “oh, so I’m a crab fighter?” Realizing this is turning farcical, Apple says “getting back to the serious part…” Unfortunately by this point in the song its impossible to get back to the serious part, if there ever was a serious part to begin with.
For all the oddities from Apple and the Three Oranges, there is a reason they never became as big as Sly and the Family Stone or Parliament Funkadelic. The album features all the 7″ inches the band released but for the most part it sounds like a collection of b-sides. There’s no one song that stands out as great, although many are enjoyable in their own bizarre way. It is nice to think that Apple can have a revival of his career four decades after quitting music, but the question is “does he deserve it?”