All of 1970s/'80s disco/funk band Brass Construction's recordings for United Artists, Liberty, and Capitol Records ended up in the EMI vault, making it easy to assemble compilations, and this is the fourth such collection, following 1991's Golden Classics (licensed to Collectables Records), 1993's The Best of Brass Construction: Movin' & Changin' (on the discontinued EMI America label), and 1997's Get Up to Get Down: Brass Construction's Funky Feeling (on Capitol). What's different about this one? Well, Classic Masters is a volume in a Capitol midline-priced series of 24-bit digitally remastered best-ofs, and it is a by-the-book compilation, gathering together the group's 12 biggest singles hits, as measured by peak rankings in Billboard's R&B chart (which means, for example, that "Help Yourself," which got to number 58, is here, but "Attitude," which got to number 59, is not) and sequencing them in chronological order. Although the singles chart was the guide, these are not necessarily the single edits of the songs; "Movin'," Brass Construction's biggest hit, runs 8:40 here, as it did on the 1975 Brass Construction album, not 3:49 as it did on the 45. The result is a collection that is stronger than Golden Classics; more coherent (if shorter) than The Best of Brass Construction (which has mixed sequencing); and more hit-oriented than Get Up to Get Down. The sequencing gives the listener a good sense of the group's musical development, as it started with lengthy dancefloor workouts ("Movin'," "Changin'"), tried more song-like forms ("The Message [Inspiration]"), reverted to near-instrumentals ("Get Up"), and finally turned to synthesizers and a close impersonation of Rick James ("Walkin' the Line"). A history of R&B music from the mid-'70s to the mid-'80s can be heard here, much of it still capable of setting feet in motion.
Classic Masters Review
by William Ruhlmann