Quite a few references show The Mojo Men as being part of the San Francisco music scene. Technically that's correct, but the original line up of singer/bassist Jim Alaimo, guitarist Paul Curcio, drummer Dennis DeCarr and keyboard player Don Metchick morphed out of the Coral Gables, Florida based The Valiants. Frontman Alaimo was a cousin to Steve Alaimo and had recorded some material under the monikers 'Jim Paris' and 'Jimmy Summers and the Slicks'. The Valiants had actually provided backing on some Steve Alaimo sides, but 1964 saw the quartet head for San Francisco where they changed their name to 'The Mojo Men' and briefly picked up Sly Stone as a member. While Stone quickly moved on to form Sly and the Family Stone, he was instrumental in getting the group signed to San Francisco DJ 'Big Daddy' Tom Donahue's Autumn Records where they recorded three 45s during the 1965-66 period. Stewart also wrote some of their material, including the hit 'She's My Baby' and produced most of their Autumn Records sides.
Prior to the release of their third single the band underwent a personnel change that saw original drummer DeCarr replaced by former Vejtables singer/ drummer Jan Errico. The personnel switch also marked a change in musical direction with the band dropping their earlier garage/R&B leanings (they'd opened for the Stones during their first San Francisco concert appearance at the Civic Auditorium) for a far more polished and produced pop-oriented sound. With Autumn in financial collapse, the group switched over to the much large Reprise Records.
1968 saw the group shorten their name to 'The Mojo' (Errico reportedly was tired of being referred to as a 'mojo man'). Increasingly frustrated with Reprise Records unwillingness to release an album (even though they had completed recording a ton of material), they signed with the GRT Records which promised to finance an album. (London Records picked up European distribution rights.)
Co-produced by David Hassinger and Les Brown Jr., 1968's "Mojo Magic" is an interesting time piece. While lots of reviews compare them to the Mamas and the Papas, or Spanky and Our Gang, those comparisons aren't entirely accurate. Showcasing Alaimo and Errico as the band's primary creative source (they penned nine of the ten album tracks), the band's earlier R&B orientation is completely abandoned. In it's place there's a likable, but largely unoriginal mix of lite psych and sunshine pop. Propelled by Errico's crystal clear contralto voice, the group are at their most impressive on the most psych-oriented numbers, including the single ''Candle To Burn', 'Free Ride' and the lone cover - a great take on Bonner and Gordon's 'Whatever Happened To Happy'. That said, even their more commercial leanings are interesting. Tracks like 'Beside Me' and 'Evelyn Hope' sport Mamas and Papas-styled harmonies, but incorporate fuzz guitars, Baroque-ish arrangements and other trappings the former would never touch. Okay, okay I'll admit that 'Make You At Home' and 'New York City' are shamelessly commercial. Still, there are enough winners here to warrant a couple of spins. GRT also tapped the album for a pair of instantly obscure singles:
- 1969's 'I Can't Let Go' b/w 'Flower Of Love' (GRT catalog number 5)
- 1969's 'Candle To Burn' b/w 'Make You At Home' (GRT catalog number 8)