The Fatback Band


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Funky Review

by Amy Hanson

That Fatback Band were enormously influential to the advent of modern hip-hop is an undisputed fact. But it's important, too, to remember how vital the group was to the 1970s funk scene -- laying down reverberatingly heavy grooves without antics, combining a tough New York back story with surprising calypso breaks just for fun, and unerringly bringing feet to the dancefloor with unsurpassed energy and finesse. It's odd, and sad really, that listeners would have to be reminded of this via an outstanding U.K. import. With 11 tracks highlighting the best of Fatback Band's 1974-1979-era output, leaning heavily on mid-decade nuggets, there is not one moment to sit back and take a breather. From the brass that kicks off 1974's "Mr Bass Man," which remains one of the most overlooked funk jams to ever hit the streets, to the calypso backbeat that makes "Wicky Wacky" irrepressible and the rolling bass and hooky guitars that drive "Happy," there is not one ounce of wasted space. Also of note is the incredibly textured "(Hey) I Feel Real Good," which just vibrates -- a crash of harmonies, horns, deep beats, and rock riffs that would feel out of control in anyone else's hands. While the band enjoyed a massive singles-chart run in the U.S., it's interesting that only two of those hits are included here, but the album is better in the long run because of it. Rather than a chronological rehashing of what everyone else liked, Funky focuses on those stellar moments that allowed Fatback to take their place in the upper echelon of funk. And even thought the majority of the songs fell by the wayside, it's refreshing to see them all on Funky, splashed across a flawless set. This is absolutely crucial listening.

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