Average White Band

AWB (Atlantic 74, Rhino '95) Rating: A-
A white funk band from Scottland? Surely you jest! Actually, Average White Band (AWB) was just that, only they were more than that, too. Granted, they could get pretty funky at times, most memorably so on their signature song, the brassy #1 instrumental hit "Pickin' Up The Pieces," which is still a soundtrack favorite much plundered by hip-hop artists. Still, though that song and others on this album, such as "Got The Love" and their Isley Brothers cover, "Work to Do," could be quite catchy and funky, many of these songs also have a smooth soft soul vibe, while disco is also an influence. Indeed, side two has three easy listening ballads in a row ("Nothing You Can Do," "Just Wanna Love You Tonight," "Keepin' It To Myself"), as well as another smooth ballad, "There's Always Someone Waiting." Elsewhere, tracks such as "You Got It" and "I Just Can't Give You Up" are lightly funky and melodic, a far cry from the hard funk of James Brown. Also, given that their signature song is an instrumental, and a superb one at that, it's pretty eye-opening just how stellar the band's vocals are, as the band consistently delivers classy multi-part harmonies and boasts three more than capable singers; bassist Alan Gorrie generally sings lead, guitarist Hamish Stuart also sings lead (sometimes with Gorrie) and hits the high harmonies, and guitarist Onnie McIntyre sings as well. As for the grooves, well, they're consistently tight and energetic, the songs themselves are well-crafted and singable, and the album's only real flaw is that sometimes these songs veer towards the cheesy or generic. Not too often, though, as by and large AWB is a real gem that young fans would do well to discover and older fans would do well to rediscover.

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