B.T. Express


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In the 1970s, it wasn't uncommon to find a funk band that was entirely self-contained -- all of the producing, writing, and arranging was done by actual bandmembers, not outsiders. B.T. Express, however, was never totally self-contained; even its first major hit, "Do It ('Til You're Satisfied)," was written by someone who wasn't an official member: guitarist Billy Nichols. But it is safe to say that B.T. Express was more self-reliant in the beginning than it was in the early 1980s; at that point, Columbia was bringing in so many outside songwriters and additional musicians that the Brooklynites were becoming less distinctive. Depending on the band, outside influence can be either a positive or a negative -- in some cases, it can revitalize a band. B.T. Express, however, recorded its most essential albums when it was more self-reliant. Produced by Morrie Brown, this 1980 release is full of songs that weren't written or even co-written by B.T. Express members and employs its share of extra musicians (mostly keyboardists). B.T. Express 1980 is a mixed bag; although it isn't good to hear B.T. Express losing its identity, most of the material is decent -- "Takin' Off," "Funk Theory," and "Heart of Fire" are enjoyable, infectious funk-disco items even though they lack that distinctive B.T. Express sound of the 1970s. Meanwhile, the single "Give Up the Funk (Let's Dance)," which made it to number 24 on the R&B singles chart, is more recognizable as a B.T. Express tune. Some of the material is pretty generic, but overall, B.T. Express 1980 isn't a bad record -- in fact, it's an improvement over 1978's disappointing Shout!. Nonetheless, B.T. Express 1980 is the work of a band that was four years past its prime, and the LP is only recommended to completists and hardcore collectors.

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