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Soul Express CD Review



THE FATBACK BAND: Second Generation
(UK Fatback Records, 2004)
Ole School Groove - Koochie Mama - Summertime Funk - Booty Bounce - Baby Let Me Work That Thang - Wanna Make You Mine - Fiesta Toda La Noche (All Night Party) - Shakin' And Jammin'From Da Roots - Hey Mr. Bill! - In The Morning - Good Times On My Mind - Fantasy - All Alone (With You) - Oasis - Don't Play With My Heart

Another classic group returns in 2004!!! Bill Curtis, Gerry Thomas and the gang are back with their first set since 1987 (see our Fatback album discography; ed. note). So, what have we got? Mmm. Bit of a mixed bag, really and not all that I would have hoped for. I quite like some of this, though, and fans of 80s funk will too, I am sure.

I ordered this without being able to hear much of the CD and what I did was look at the song titles, and I felt that there may be a few tasty ballads or midtempo moments on offer. Wrong. We seriously lack any form of ballad, which is a real shame as Fatback excel with these songs. Let's go back to "Do It To Me Now" and "Sunshine Lady" - these ESSENTIAL tracks and have stood the test of time. We do not have anything like this for 2004.

This CD certainly has enough elements of the Fatback we know and love, but one thing seriously ruins it for me: rap. Now, I am fully aware that the band really should be noted for creating the first ever rap record per se and NOT the Sugar Hill Gang, but that is by the by. Anyway, the opening cut, "Ole School Groove", certainly lives up to its name and is right in the pocket of bass-heavy hip shaking FUNK that Bill and the gang deliver well. This really cuts the mustard and I was eager to get onto the next thumper which is "Koochie Mama" which is six minutes 12 seconds of no nonsense nasty bass and super heavy funk, punctuated by tight trumpet and funky vocals. Quite good, and perfect for rumbling those bass-pins. On this I can just about handle the rap that I suspect is tolerable thanks only to the party groove.

"Summertime Funk" was not an instant hit, but as I play it more it has struck me to how similar the bass groove is with Atlantic Starr's "Everybody Got Summer", and so it warmed on me somewhat. "Booty Bounce" is pure 80s electro-funk a la The Jonzun Crew or similar. I don't care so much for this as I detested electro, but hardcore fans may like this. Not one for me.

More my cup of tea is the chilled 80s groove of "Baby Let Me Work That Thang". This is my favourite inclusion on this CD, and even then it does not hold a candle to the likes of "I Found Lovin'". Still, you can find a tasty instrumental with definite 80s overtones with "All Alone (With You)" which, for my money, is screaming out for vocals. I have similar feelings for "Don't Play With My Heart" which is part-sung and tinged with tasty jazzy guitar. I suppose I was just left wanting more.

As for the rest of the CD, let us just say that it really is a disappointment. I have grown to have an almost maniacal hatred of rap, and the kind displayed on "Wanna Make You Mine" really gets up my nose. Personally, I curse the day rap was invented and the less I have to put up with it the better. It is license for untalented thugs to make money. Simple as that.

Goodness knows there is enough of the rubbish about without having it on a Fatback Band album. Neither do I want Ragga dancehall style either - another form of music that rubs me up the wrong way! I do sound an old grump, I know (I am regularly informed that I am!), but I do so get upset when such a classic group - legendary would be an apt term - appear to go into a studio with all the best intentions and instead of delivering a dish of gourmet funk as we would expect they deliver something more akin to a dog's breakfast. A great touring band they may be and some fantastic moments they have produced, but this for me, personally, is NOT the way forward. Overall, a letdown spattered with a few fine 80s grooves.
- Barry Towler


Albums of the Month in 2003
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