The Crusaders

The Vocal Album

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Funny, we can't remember this many singers turning up on the Crusaders' albums, but look a little closer at the liner. For this 1987 compilation -- designed, perhaps, to fill the gap between albums by a group that no longer was a full-time act -- MCA reached for records by B.B. King, Tina Turner, Joe Sample and Wilton Felder that various Crusaders played on, as well as the band's output from Street Life through The Good and Bad Times. B.B. takes the prize for his fabulous, humorously funky, live-in-London turn on "Better Not Look Down" -- he plays guitar so sparingly, and every note is right in the pocket -- but Joe Cocker comes close, riding on a classic bumpy Crusaders groove on "This Old World's Too Funky for Me." Of course, Randy Crawford's career-making "Street Life" leads off the set, and Tina Turner (in a lugubrious dissection of the Beatles' "Help"), Bobby Womack, Alltrinna Grayson, Bill Withers, Flora Purim and Josie James also contribute with various degrees of effectiveness. Despite a few weak moments, the album works amazingly well, partly as an alternative highlights collection and partly as a sober reminder to the remaining Crusaders and their fans as to how essential drummer Stix Hooper was to their sound.

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