Fabulous Three

The Best of the Fabulous Three

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The Fabulous Three were not a group in the conventional sense, but a studio project launched by producers Jeff Dynamite and Leon Michaels with a revolving cast of musicians; they also aren't the cool looking guys posing on the cover of The Best of the Fabulous Three, but at their best, their sound conjures up a similar image of suave funk. The Fabulous Three played lightly funky retro-soul grooves with a strong jazzy undercurrent, releasing a handful of singles and compilation tracks through Soul Fire Records from the late '90s through 2002, and this album features their entire output on one disc. While Dynamite, Michaels, and their studio helpers were exploring the sounds of the past, they were also just a bit ahead of their time -- several of the group's associates would spark retro-soul's commercial coming out with Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and while these tracks are less fiery and dance-friendly than the Dap-Kings (and since they focused on instrumentals, they lack a charismatic vocalist like Jones), they share a proud allegiance to sounds of another era, and they play them without any hint of ironic distance. "No Name Bar" could pass for a piece of organ-based background music from some forgotten blaxploitation flick, the two-part "Whitesands" adds a touch of reggae to its slinky middle-of-the-night mood, the interplay between the bass and drums on "Recording 82" gives the tune a glorious rhythmic tension while the horns add some polite skronk, and "Hand Cramp" has a drum pattern that all but demands to be sampled by some clever hip-hop producer. It's hard to say what else the Fabulous Three could have accomplished, but Dynamite and Michaels' curious string of 45s contained some fine music, and this collection suggests that among champions of the Old School, they were sharp enough to make the Honor Roll.

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