Average White Band - Greatest and Latest (2005)

Average White Band
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I will admit that, while I've long thought that the Average White Band was one of the truly great bands of the 70s, seeing their fine performance at last year's Rock N Soul Revue (the first time I'd seen them in years) reinvigorated my interest in the AWB of today.  It also made me look forward to the release of Greatest and Latest, a portion of which was previewed during the show. Unfortunately, during its dormant years of 1982-87 AWB lost many of its passing fans -- even though the band still had a lot of good music left. In this regard G&L is a great way to catch up, as it compiles some of the best material that the reunited AWB has released over the past 15 years and includes four previously unreleased cuts.

I will admit that, while I've long thought that the Average White Band was one of the truly great bands of the 70s, seeing their fine performance at last year's Rock N Soul Revue (the first time I'd seen them in years) reinvigorated my interest in the AWB of today.  It also made me look forward to the release of Greatest and Latest, a portion of which was previewed during the show. Unfortunately, during its dormant years of 1982-87 AWB lost many of its passing fans -- even though the band still had a lot of good music left. In this regard G&L is a great way to catch up, as it compiles some of the best material that the reunited AWB has released over the past 15 years and includes four previously unreleased cuts.

While producers have on several occasions during AWB's career attempted to tinker with the group's raw, loose sound to better match the then-popular style (whether it be late 70s disco or 80s electronic pop), AWB has always been at its best making jazz-infused funky music in the tradition of James Brown.  So while the slick, upbeat material pulled here from 1989's Aftershock is okay (and includes such guest artists as Chaka Khan and Ronnie Laws), it isn't particularly distinctive -- it could just as easily been a Steve Winwood release, circa 1985.  However, G&L hits its raw, organic groove beginning with the tunes taken from 1997's excellent Soul Tattoo, especially the blistering funk of "Oh Maceo" (the group's best instrumental piece since "Pick Up the Pieces"), the solid midtempos "Window to Your Soul," "When We Get Down to It" and "I Wanna Be Loved" (with Daryl Hall) and "Every Beat of My Heart," a cut I've long thought was one of AWB's finest ballads.  And the new material included on the album is strong, including the jazzy concert favorite "In The Beginning," a new instrumental mix of "Work to Do" (though the group's original version remains seminal) and a good cover of Major Harris's Soul classic "Love Won't Let Me Wait."

For those who haven't purchased an Average White Band disc in awhile, Greatest & Latest is a nice reintroduction and a reminder of the great talent and creativity this legendary group continues to bring to Soul music.  Recommended.

CR

 
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Choice Cut - Chris Jasper - "For The Love of You"

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