Father's Children

Who's Gonna Save the World

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The sonic sleuths at the Numero Group have done it again; they've uncovered an album's worth of excellent, unreleased, early- to mid-'70s tracks by Washington, D.C.'s Father's Children, a large group previously thought to have only cut one self-titled record in 1979. These recordings are superior in virtually every way. Father's Children's story is one of music biz frustration and exploitation (see bio). They began as a trio of friends (Nick Smith, Billy Sumler, and Ted Carpenter) in DC's Morgan Adams neighborhood in the early to mid-'60s, singing doo wop on corners, and eventually adding another singer and a backing band. Being influenced by the sounds of Earth, Wind & Fire, New Birth, War, Mandrill, and the turbulent events of the era, they developed their own musical persona due to the sheer quality of their vocalists and fine songwriting chops. They recorded a diverse series of tracks with engineer/producer Robert Hosea Williams over a few years' time. Due to unpaid studio bills (not the band's fault) they remained unreleased in his care until now. Given that they were stored in a garage, the sound is remarkable. What it reveals is that this group could write in virtually any style, throw down vocally and instrumentally and could hold their own with anybody on the circuit. The one straight love ballad on the set is "Linda," with its layered strings, gorgeous alternating lead vocals, and infectious instrumental chorus and a tight bridge. One can hear traces of EWF, but the logical extension of Gamble & Huff's Philly soul sound being created at the same time. But FC had many personas. There's the apocalyptic psychedelic soul in the opener "Everybody's Got a Problem," with its rolling hand drums, punchy horns, and popping bassline; the burning space funk of "Kohoutek," complete with a group-chanted chorus; "Dirt and Grime," which sounds like Frankie Lymon fronting War: it's a gospel soul ballad that touts spiritual awareness when confronting poverty, selfishness, and violence. Then there's the title track, whose easy summertime groove, four-part harmony, and lithe hand percussion covered by a spacy Rhodes is cosmic soul at its best. The group's seven-and-a-half-minute namesake jam is a tripped-out exercise in danceable psych-funk. Numero tells the group's full story in the liners, and busts some myths in the process. Who's Gonna Save the World should be sought out by every fan of early- to mid-'70s vocal group R&B.

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