MFSB & Gamble Huff Orchestra

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As disco rose to prominence in the 1970s, MFSB played a crucial role in its development by contrasting earthy R&B rhythms with the cosmopolitan sleekness of an orchestra. By 1978, their once-innovative sound had become the status quo, and this is proven by Gamble Huff Orchestra; while never anything less than professional, this album lacks the grit and infectious hooks of MFSB's earlier outings. The band slickly moves through its paces, and the orchestral touches sound as lovely as ever, but the key elements of inspiration and personality are missing. For proof, check out the album's pair of cover versions: "Use ta Be My Guy" and "Wishing on a Star" sound as professional as any disco band of the day, but are unfortunately also completely devoid of personality. Also, Gamble Huff Orchestra finds MFSB's sound leaning more towards easy listening than R&B, a prime example being the album closer "Redwood Beach," a song that has the elegance of MFSB (tasteful strings, tinkling piano) without any of the soulfulness or R&B content. These complaints aside, the album does contain some worthwhile moments: "Dance With Me Tonight" blends a potent bass-oriented groove with a sprightly string arrangement, and "Is It Something I Said" approaches the punch of early hits with its one-two punch of a forceful horn arrangement and a churning bass groove. However, these strong moments can't overcome the blandness that characterizes Gamble Huff Orchestra. Ultimately, this professional but uninspired album can only be recommended to hardcore MFSB fanatics.

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