Birds of a Feather

Best of Birds of a Feather

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Smooth jazz elder statesman Dan Siegel enjoyed something of a renaissance during the new millennium, with the 2003 reissue of his underappreciated 1995 all-star date Hemispheres on Varese Sarabande and his well-received early-2004 debut on Native Language, Inside Out. His new label then took the liberty of gathering the most appealing tracks from three of the four mid-'90s releases by Birds of a Feather, which was essentially an ongoing Siegel-led all-star side project. Each of the previous recordings was on a different label that ultimately folded, so they barely got their due -- and the keyboardist's fans will no doubt appreciate the new life these songs are given here. Not that they're not self-sufficient -- Siegel's brilliance for composing easy-grooving, instantly hummable radio-ready tunes is in full effect here -- but the core group of Siegel, guitarist Allen Hinds, bassist Dwayne "Smitty" Smith, and drummer Lil' John Roberts are surrounded by stars throughout. Boney James' inimitable sax appears on no less than six tracks (including the best cut, the playful, retro-minded "Head to Toe"), while Ernie Watts and Richard Elliot also check in. While Siegel's keys stand out most of the time, the group concept allows Hinds to shine frequently, as he does on the lead acoustic lead melody of "Only You." Still, Hinds doesn't mind deferring to better known names like Carl Verheyen and Larry Carlton. With any luck, a handful of songs from this near hour of classic material will finally get the airplay they deserved way back when.

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