Released as a standalone single in October 1962, “The Jungle” by Diablito remains one of the period’s rather more astounding examples of up-tempo lounge exotica.
A product of the long-since defunct Parkway Records, the single became an oddity of the genre, disappearing quickly before resurfacing on the first volume of the ‘Jungle Exotica’ compilation in 1991.
Penned by Cameo/Parkway regulars Dave Appell (a.k.a. Dave Leon) and Kalman Cohen (a.k.a. Kal Mann and occasionally Jon Sheldon), “The Jungle” rips aloud with vocals shorn by maniacal laughter and crazed howling, while both percussion and bass dance with menace and doom-laden poise.
On top of that, the song’s guitar line borrows much from ‘I Dovregubbens Hall (In the Hall of the Mountain King)’ from “Peer Gynt, Op.23” by Edvard Grieg, adding further depth to an already manic performance.
The Diablito recording was one of a few once-off productions for Appell and Cohen in a period that openly embraced the burgeoning rockabilly scene, before moving toward exotica, lounge and eventually jazz.
A consummate trombone, guitar and keyboard player, Appell began writing music while serving in the Navy during World War II, before recording several pieces for Decca Records with his group The Dave Appell Four.
In the latter half of the 50s, Appell would go on to enjoy greater success as a composer for the likes of Charlie Gracie, The Dovells and Dee Dee Sharp while his renamed group – The Applejacks – often acted as backing band.
Cohen, meanwhile, was originally a comedy writer, but entered the music industry at the behest of friend Bernie Lowe and quickly began a partnership with Appell and Lowe, during which he co-wrote hits for Elvis Presley, Bobby Rydell and Chubby Checker.
However Cohen drifted away from the front end of the music industry as the 60s drew to a close and eventually passed away in 2001 at the age of 84 after suffering from Alzheimer’s disease during his latter years.
Following the closure of Parkway in the 60s, Appell continued to produce and write material and penned hits for Tony Orlando and Dawn into the 70s. Appell was still involved in the music industry up until November of last year, when he passed away at the age of 92 in his home city of Philadelphia.