Chosen Few

The Chosen Few in Miami

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It seemed like an A&R man's dream come true: take Jamaica's soul sensations the Chosen Few, put them in the studio with America's up-and-coming funk heroes KC & the Sunshine Band -- hot off their debut smash, "Blow Your Whistle" -- with former Jamaican DJ-turned-funk-producer Noel "King Sporty" Williams overseeing the productions, and set them loose on a set of originals, soul standards, pop hits, and Jamaican faves. How could it lose? Well for starters, the publicist apparently didn't do his or her job, judging by the pasting most critics gave the 1973 set, many roasting the singers for their inability to play real funk. But it was really the same old brick wall Jamaicans always ran into, their own music was considered a novelty, and when they delivered it up American-style, they were condemned as mere imitators. But listen to their exquisite harmonies on "I Am a Man," their emotive take on the recent soul hit "In the Rain," lose yourself in their sweet version of "Drift Away," then get down with their fiery "Funky Buttercup," superb numbers one and all. Not every track's a winner. The cover of "Daniel" is weak to say the least, while the funky arrangement does no favors to the Pioneers' "Hit Me With Music," but elsewhere the Few's genre-bending experiments are a revelation. In Miami reissues the Few's Night and Day album in its entirety, then adds 13 bonus tracks, not from the group itself, but previously unreleased King Sporty self-productions, most backed by the Sunshine Band. As Williams travels down similar roads as he took the Few, this makes sense, for the singing producer continues to explore funk's possibilities with his own compositions, Jamaican classics, and soul standards. Williams is a fair singer, but in truth, it's the arrangements and musicianship that are of most interest here. In all, though, it's a fascinating set that should have been a smash, but ended up just a collectable instead.

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