Average White Band began work on their sixth studio album during 1977. According to the liner notes for AWB’s 2014 box set All Of The Pieces, the band were creatively exhausted after their first four studio albums-in particular the hugely successful later three of them. Hamish Stuart, Alan Gorie, Roger Ball, Steve Ferrone and company first recorded a duet album with Ben E. King. Seeing that collaboration could rejuvinate their sound, the band brought in guitarist Cornell Dupree (from Stuff) with a number of NYC session musicians for their 1978 release Warmer Communications.
“Your Love Is A Miracle” is a straight up wah wah guitar powered number-with the in the pocket Family Stone inspired horn charts, “duck face” bass popping, Steve Ferrone’s stop/start funky drum and (vocally) low leads and falsetto harmonies. “Same Feeling, Different Song” has the classic AWB horn style based off the JB’s. The rhythm, tempo and lead guitar comes out of the same vibe. But the liquid rhythm guitar of the refrains come out of the later 70’s sound more. “Daddy’s Come Home” benefits from Dupree’s crying bluesy guitar tone and the organ based country/rock style balladry of the song itself.
“Big City Lights” takes a straight up bass/guitar oriented uptempo funk number-focusing heavy on the horn charts that are often combined with a round synth bass tone for an even bigger sound. “She’s A Dream” is a jazzy melange of bass, guitar with melodic and creamy horn charts playing a medium tempo ballad. The title track lays down a groove that combines the grooves of funk with the repetitive chugging of reggae. “The Price Of A Dream” is a melodically strong sophistifunk styled number-again based heavily in the vocal harmonies.
“Sweet & Sour” is sleek yet heavy horn funk instrumental before the album ends with “One Look Over My Shoulder”. This is the song I remember most off this album for some reason. It has one of the most singable, hit oriented choruses. But the percussive mid tempo groove allows the horns to hit in all the right places. And make both the instrumental and vocal focuses of the song stand out equally. Musically speaking, Warmer Communications covers pretty familiar territory for AWB. And session players like the Brecker Brothers did make for strong writing and musicality as intended.
Where Warmer Communications might’ve been somewhat problematic had to do with changes in music among funk bands during the late 70’s. Between 1977 and 1979, the larger horn funk bands such as Earth, Wind & Fire, Tower Of Power, Kool & The Gang and the JB’s were beginning to update to the more high tech production style of the disco era. AWB’s production approach didn’t change in the late 70’s, even as their writing and playing remained strong. They’d rectify this (with controversial results) in the early 80’s. Still, Warmer Communications remains one of the bands strongest late 70’s albums.
From my own point of view? Average White Band are one of the prime examples of the funk genre’s ability to inspire young musicians the world over in the music’s salad years. It was the epitome of where the soul/R&B could go rhythmically. Still cannot tell you had many times I had AWB’s 1973 debut album Show Your Hand right in my hand on CD. And than decided not to pick it up.
Later on I learned it was reissued following the bands massive success with “Pick Up The Pieces” with a new title,new “sexy marathon runner” cover art and a bonus track-minus one song in “The Jugglers”. Somehow this combination of things made this edition seem more personally appealing. So when I finally tracked it down on vinyl earlier this year? It was a wonderfully gratifying experience.
“How Can You Go Home” starts out the album with a melodically strong,uptempo funky soul number. “This World Has Music” has a very similar flavor,only with an Earthier production and more sustained sax soloing. “Show Your Hand” has a similar flavor-only focused more on the percussive drumming and rhythm guitars. “Twilight Zone” is a mid-tempo funk soul ballad that showcases the bands trademark of very heavily emphasizing it’s rhythm section.
Alan Gorrie writes some clever lyrics to the Crusaders funk classic of the title song-done almost exactly as Joe Sample and company did it originally. “Back in 67” has a very Stax/Memphis soul mid tempo flavor,while “Reach Out” ads a 12 bar blues guitar solo into a more groovecentric funk take on that same sound. “T.L.C” ends the album on a romantically affectionate 8 minute groove right out of the rhythmically succinct and rolling mid 70’s James Brown school of hardcore funk.
While AWB would be excellent at mixing in modern production effects such as different reverbs and echos in their prime years? This album showcases their sound at it’s most raw and stripped down. The basic core of Onnie,Roger,Hamish,Alan and the late Robbie McIntosh. Their sound on these songs is very much in the key of what a lot of people refer to as the funk process.
A place in America where Southern soul,jazz-funk and the JB’s sound were all at their peak powers as the 60’s moved onto the 70’s. And it’s fitting that the title song of this album is a Crusaders cover because,for the most part,that bands down home,soulful and often tight instrumental fluidity best describes where AWB were taking their music during their pre Atlantic hit-making period. If I were to recommend a way to hear their earliest recorded material? I’d strongly recommend this one.
Originally Posted On May 6th,2016
*Link to original review here!
Filed under 1970's, Alan Gorrie, Amazon.com, Average White Band, Funk, Hamish Stuart, jazz funk, Music Reviewing, Onnie McIntyre, rhythm guitar, Robbie McIntosh, Roger Ball, Saxophone, Southern Soul, The Crusaders
Like Earth Wind & Fire did a year earlier with their I Am this album finds AWB hooking up with David Foster. This truly should have represented a new beginning for the band as they add a heavy modern production gloss and strong song craft to their already established heavy funk sound. Every song on this album is extremely strong and, with some good promotion could have been enormous pop hits even stateside.
Uptempo tunes such as “Our Time Has Come”,”Let’s Go Around Again”,”Help Is On The Way”,the title track and the original version of “What Cha Gonna Do For Me”,made famous a year later in a brilliant version by Chaka Khan from her album of the same name,also worth getting. Being the kind of musicians that they are AWB cannot help but throw down at least one funky instrumental in the personification of “Into The Night”,marrying the bands chunky,rhythmic groove with Foster’s production sheen. This is also home to two of the best ballads the group ever made in “For You,For Love” and “If Love Only Lasts For One Night”.
Now there’s a double album version of this that contains bonus tracks,all five of which are as great as the rest of the album. A like minded cover of Boz Scagg’s classic “Miss Sun” is great of course as is the more electo-funk minded dance cut “Kiss Me”. There’s also another great ballad in “Growing Pains” and the peppy “Love Gives,Love Takes Away”. Another successful marrying of the bands natural grooves with Fosters style comes along in the chunky and catchy “Love Won’t Get In The Way” followed by a smoking long version of “Let’s Go Round Again”.
Overall “Shine” finds AWB successfully modernizing their classic sound without sacrificing what made them so great in the past. And the lead and back round vocals certainly have a power and soul that were only hinted at on earlier recordings. Steve Ferrone really stretches out on some incredibly funky drumming here. This is definitely a pop-funk masterpiece of the 1979-1980 era of the genre and is yet another in a long list of lost true classics.
Originally Written December 17th,2007
Link to original review here*
Filed under 1980's, Amazon.com, Average White Band, Boz Scaggs, Chaka Khan, David Foster, Funk, Music Reviewing, pop funk, Steve Ferrone, West Coast