Flaming Ember

Westbound No. 9: The Hot Wax Sessions

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Part of Castle/Sequel's impeccable, indispensable Invictus/Hot Wax reissue series of 1999, Westbound No. 9: The Hot Wax Sessions contains nearly all of blue-eyed soul group Flaming Ember's output for the label, including their two albums and non-LP singles and B-sides. Curiously, this is missing an important piece of the puzzle -- namely, the single version of their biggest and best song, "Westbound No. 9," which was shorter, denser, and better than the album version found there. Ultimately, this is a minor quibble, since this is an excellent recap of an excellent, underrated band. At their best, they were a fiery, inspired soul band, taking inspiration from classic Southern soul, Motown, psychedelia, and album rock, resulting in a heady rush of sound where gritty vocals sit next to paisley-colored electric sitars. As such, this means that the music is occasionally tied to the times and it's also true that they do tend to meander in their jams, but at their best, they produced wonderfully eclectic, captivating music. These, of course, are best-heard on singles like "Westbound No. 9" and "I'm Not My Brother's Keeper," but listening to this collection of complete recorded works, it's clear that these weren't the only times the band really caught fire, and even misfires are interesting -- which is why this is a cult item worth seeking out by any serious listener of early-'70s soul.

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