360 - 360

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360 is an apt name for a group that includes Malcolm “Molly” Duncan, Hamish Stuart and Steve Ferrone. Duncan and Stuart are founding members of the legendary funk and R&B group The Average White Band. Ferrone joined after the tragic death of drummer Robbie McIntosh died or a heroin overdose in 1974.

The three musicians have played with a variety of artists outside of their work with AWB, but the road often led back to the group that gave them fame. That happened most recently when Stuart and Duncan came to Hollywood in 2014 to be a part of Ferrone’s induction into the Drummer’s Hall of Fame, and the three old friends decided that they wanted to play together again.

360 is an apt name for a group that includes Malcolm “Molly” Duncan, Hamish Stuart and Steve Ferrone. Duncan and Stuart are founding members of the legendary funk and R&B group The Average White Band. Ferrone joined after the tragic death of drummer Robbie McIntosh died or a heroin overdose in 1974.

The three musicians have played with a variety of artists outside of their work with AWB, but the road often led back to the group that gave them fame. That happened most recently when Stuart and Duncan came to Hollywood in 2014 to be a part of Ferrone’s induction into the Drummer’s Hall of Fame, and the three old friends decided that they wanted to play together again.

With the nine tracks on 360, Duncan, Ferrone and Stuart have circled back to where it began for them as a group. 360 clearly finds the trio, along with musicians recruited for this effort, embracing the production techniques and musical arrangements of 1970s era funk. The band also returns to that era in a spiritual and thematic manner on several of the tracks, most notably “Mighty Fall” and “Too Hip,” tunes that finds Stuart lending his distinct husky baritone to a number that honors an influence who passed away recently and in the distant past. “Mighty Fall” was written in the wake of last year’s passing of humanitarian and boxer Muhammad Ali. A mid-tempo cut, “Mighty Fall” finds the band putting the GOAT’s biography to music.

The years have certainly added some mileage to Stuart’s voice, so he finds the highs a bit harder to reach and he doesn’t possess the range that he had in the old days. Yet, Stuart knows how to pace himself, and he remains more than capable of showing up vocally when it comes time to sing a ballad, such as the excellent “Wordsworth” and the slow drag blues of “Just a Thrill.” Stuart’s ragged vocals are ideally suited for the latter, which tells the story of a man who is weary of being taken for granted but is willing to stick around for that one thrill. Both tracks also highlight what has always been a strong point of any album featuring the AWB brand - the excellent musicianship.

That musicianship, and especially the saxophone, keyboard led jam session at the end, elevates “Too Hip,” a tune that honors McIntosh, and seeks to restore his memory, but that gets bogged down lyrically by shifting into the details of what happened that tragic night. It’s also heard in the brassy and bouncy reggae beat of “Loose Change” and the bluesy swing of the sentimental “Some Other Time,” a song that finds Stuart expressing regret that that day got away from him and an old friend and appreciation for the time the two had together.

AWB was one of the best loved bands of the funk era, and their contributions are necessary to any soundtrack of 70s music. Yet, the former members of the group stayed busy and remained vital if not always visible part of the music industry. Duncan, Ferrone and Stuart have seen many comings and goings over the past four plus decades, and the quickness in which they assembled a band and wrote songs for 360 means that they realize the urgency of taking full advantage of this time. And we’re all the better for it. Recommended

By Howard Dukes 

 
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