The Fatback Band

Tasty Jam

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By 1981, large-scale R&B bands like Fatback were being pushed to the sidelines by smaller groups whose primarily electronic sounds excluded traditional soul music frills like horn sections. Fatback was obviously paying attention because Tasty Jam pares down the group's sound to push synthesizers to the forefront. The resulting fusion of old-fashioned grooves and up-to-date electronics resulted in the group's strongest, most consistent album since XII. Tasty Jam simply presents six slices of dense, rhythmic electronic funk. It lacks the catchy pop elements of past Fatback outings, but compensates with tight arrangements and arresting rhythms: "Take It Any Way You Want It" is built on a pulsating, polyrhythmic bed of electric piano and synthesizer hooks and "Keep Your Fingers Out the Jams" pits the effectively harmonized chant of the title against a rolling synthesizer bassline guaranteed to induce some hip shaking. "High Steppin' Lady" is another strong track that hooks in listeners with the intriguing contrast between its Latin-flavored percussion and its bubbly, percolating synthesizer lines. The album drags a bit in places, most notably the repetitive grooves of "Kool Whip," but none of the songs ever truly wear out their welcome and the group's compelling mastery of their groove makes up for these occasional shortcomings. In the end, Tasty Jam lacks the standout singles that would give it crossover appeal but remains a solid listen for fans of electronic-oriented dance music.

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