The Fatback Band

Hustle! The Ultimate Fatback 1969-84

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For those looking for a compilation with about twice as much music as the best previous Fatback best-of (Rhino's 1997 single-CD The Fattest of Fatback) offered, the double-CD Hustle! The Ultimate Fatback 1969-84 does the trick. It's actually missing a few songs that appeared on the Rhino comp, but there's no arguing with the good value it supplies, with 31 songs and about two hours of music. It also includes a number of items from their early, more soul-funk-oriented career in particular that escaped inclusion on the Rhino release, which covered the narrower era of 1975-1983. That leaves room for quite interesting items like the 1974 single "Wicki-Wacky" (with its delightful jazzy scat vocals), Fatback Brother Bill Curtis' 1973 single "Dance Girl" (which benefits from similar jazzy singing), the seriously boogalooing 1973 instrumental "Soul March," and the James Brown-Jackson 5-influenced 1971 Johnny King & the Fatback Band single "Peace, Love Not War"/"Keep On Brother Keep On." But the major hits and misses that most fans would regard as essential are here, including "Spanish Hustle," "(Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop," "I Found Loving," "Backstrokin'," "I Like Girls," "Gotta Get My Hands on Some Money," "Is This the Future?," and the seminal 1979 proto-rap track "King Tim III (Personality Jock)" (actually issued as a B-side). You could offer a couple of minor complaints about the packaging: the track sequencing follows a random chronology rather than a straight progression, and although the title indicates a 1969-1984 time span, actually the first cuts here are from the aforementioned 1971 Johnny King & the Fatback Band single. Otherwise, it's a well-annotated march through the act's history as Fatback journeyed from soul and funk to disco and rap, never breaking through to the top tier of R&B acts, but always reflecting the mutations black popular music itself was going through from the early '70s to the mid-'80s.

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