Tuesday, 19 July 2016

"All The Pieces: The Complete Studio Recordings 1971-2003" by AVERAGE WHITE BAND (2014 Edsel 19CD Box Set with 52-Page Booklet and Remasters) - A Review by Mark Barry...

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"...Pick Up The Pieces..."

A huge 172-tracks across 19 CDs covering 43 years (1971 to 2003) – every one of the official AVERAGE WHITE BAND studio albums represented in cool-looking 5" card repro artwork. And as if that's not enough - you get four exclusive sets - a rejiggered 1st album with a different track, a mock 2nd album with new artwork, a 1980 US-only Atlantic Records compilation LP called "Volume III" where Side 1 was 4 new songs and Side 2 had 5 oldies and finally a 2CD round-up named "All The Pieces" that gathers together Alternate Versions, 12" Single Mixes and other Rarities.

"All The Pieces" is housed in a squat flip-top box with beautiful AWB artwork and has an illustrated 52-Page Booklet that features involvement from the Scottish Rock-Soul boys themselves (Hamish Stuart and Alan Gorrie). There's a lot of cool music on here that isn't in the least bit average - so let's start picking up those pieces...

UK released 14 July 2014 (22 July 2014 in the USA) - "All The Pieces: The Complete Studio Albums 1971-2003" by AVERAGE WHITE BAND on Edsel AWBOX01 (Barcode 5014797890954) is a 19CD Flip-Lid Box Set with a 52-Page Booklet and plays out as follows:

1. Show Your Hand (8 tracks, 42:22 minutes) - debut LP released June 1973 in the UK on MCA Records MUPS 486 (reissued 1974 on MCA Records MCF 2514)

2. How Sweet Can You Get? (10 tracks, 39:52 minutes)
First released as 'The Clover Sessions' in January 2004 on CD2 of the “AWB” Deluxe Edition on Columbia 513413 2 (Barcode 5099751341321). Renamed as a 'missing album' in April 2009 for their 2CD reissue of "The Collection Volume 1 - Show Your Hand..." on Edsel EDSD 2030 (Barcode 740155203030).

3. Average White Band [aka "AWB" in the USA] (10 tracks 39:58 minutes)
"Average White Band" (also known as The White Album because of its distinctive plain artwork) was released on Atlantic K 50058 in July 1974 in the UK and as "AWB" in the USA on Atlantic SD-7308 in September 1974 (it reached number 1 in the USA, and number 6 in the UK in early 1975)

4. Put It Where You Want It (8 tracks, 40:35 minutes)
On the back of their "Pick Up The Pieces" 7” single chart success (taken from their famous "Average White Band/AWB" album) – 1973's "Show Your Hand" was reissued April 1975 in the UK and USA on MCA Records MCF 2705 and MCA-475 respectively as "Put It Where You Want It". As well as a different name and new artwork - the 1973 opening song "The Jugglers" was replaced by a session outtake - the 'Pick Up The Pieces' sounding "How Can You Go Home".

5. Cut The Cake (10 tracks, 42:38 minutes) - June 1975 UK LP on Atlantic K 50146

6. Soul Searching (11 tracks, 46:12 minutes) - July 1976 UK LP on Atlantic K 50272

7. Person To Person (Disc 7a, 5 tracks, 44:15 minutes - Disc 7b, 5 tracks, 45:41 minutes)
Live Double-Album released January 1977 in the UK on Atlantic K 60127

8. Benny And Us by AVERAGE WHITE BAND and BEN E. KING - (8 Tracks, 41:47 minutes) – July 1977 UK LP on Atlantic K 50384

9. Warmer Communications (9 tracks, 43:40 minutes) - June 1978 UK LP on RCA Records XL 13053

10. Feel No Fret (9 tracks, 37:38 minutes) - February 1979 UK LP on RCA Records XL 13063

11. Shine (9 tracks, 38:30 minutes) - May 1980 UK LP on RCA Records XL 13123

12. Volume III (9 tracks, 37:48 minutes) - September 1980 USA-only LP compilation on Atlantic SD 19266 where the four cuts on Side 1 were newly finished tracks and the 5 songs of Side 2 were their biggest Atlantic Records hits between 1974 and 1977 (including "Pick Up The Pieces", "Cut The Cake" etc)

13. Cupid's In Fashion (10 tracks, 41:37 minutes) - September 1982 UK LP on RCA Records RCALP 6052

14. Aftershock (9 tracks, 37:51 minutes) - August 1989 UK LP on Polydor 839 466-1

15. Soul Tattoo (13 tracks, 56:35 minutes) - February 1997 CD on Artful ARTFULCD 7

16. Living In Colour (10 tracks, 50:18 minutes) - 2003 CD on The William Morris Agency

17. All The Pieces - Alternate Versions, Rarities And Mixes (new cover artwork by John Pasche)
(Disc 1, Alternate Versions & Rarities, 10 tracks, 42:12 minutes):
1. Reach Out [First Version Recorded 1971]
2. The Jugglers [First Version Recorded 1971]
3. It Didn't Take Me A Minute [Recorded 1971]
4. In The Beginning [Recorded Between 1971 and 1972]
5. Look Out Now [Recorded Between 1971 and 1972]
6. White Water Dreams [Recorded Between 1971 and 1972]
7. Walk Tall (Live) [Recorded Live in 1976 - First Released in 2005]
8. I'm Gonna Make You Love Me [First Released in 2005]
9. Wasn't I Your Friend [First released 2009]
10. Miss Sun [Recorded 1980 - First released 2003]

18. All The Pieces - Alternate Versions, Rarities And Mixes
(Disc 2, The Mixes, 9 tracks, 53:47 minutes)
1. Back In '67 [First Version] - recorded between 1971 and 1972 - Alternate Version to the "Show Your Hand" LP track
2. The Spirit Of Love [Radio Short Version] - A-Side of the October 1989 UK 7" Single for "The Spirit Of Love" on Polydor PO 56
3. The Spirit Of Love [Dance Mix] - A-Side of the October 1989 UK 12" Single for "The Spirit Of Love" on Polydor PZ 56
4. Let's Go Round Again [The Brothers Mix]
5. Livin' On Borrowed Time [DJ Slok Remix]
6. Things [DJ PHILLY P & Joey M Remix]
7. Stop The Rain [Supreme One Mix]
8. Let's Go Round Again [Cosmic Village Mix]
9. Let's Go Round Again [12" Version]

Dedicated to their drummer and band founder-member Robbie McIntosh who died in 1974 from a spiked drink just as the 'AWB' album was taking off - the 52-page booklet features JUSTIN M. KANTOR liner notes on every LP - but oddly leaves out the "All The Pieces" double set entirely. Each album is in a 5” card repro sleeve with original artwork front and rear (gatefolds for “Feel No Fret” and the 2CD sets “Person To Person” and “All The Pieces”) but no inners or inserts (each disc is numbered). The mastering is by PHIL KINRADE (as it was on the 2009 "Collection" sets) and the material is licensed form Atlantic and Rhino who reissued the bands catalogue in the 90's. Suffice to say that these discs 'Funk' in all the right places and as you wade through them - you remember with huge affection just how good AWB was. This is music that transcends Soul, Funk or Rock – a musical hybrid of all three that hits the mark more times than it misses. That the sporadic later albums maintain that standard is pleasing - 90's and 00's updated variants of their famous 70ts and 80ts sound.

All the charted single are here - "Pick Up The Pieces" (1974), "Cut The Cake" (1975), "Queen Of My Soul" (1976), ""Walk On By" and "When Will You Be Mine" (1979) and "Let's Go Round Again" and "For You For Love" (1980). But in-between the cracks you get forgotten 7" single gems like their UK debut of Joe Sample's ludicrously infectious "Put It Where You Want It" (the keyboardist with The Crusaders) and the stunning "You Got It" which was the B-side of "Pick Up The Pieces" in July 1974 (what a double-sider that was). Other huge fan faves include "School Boy Crush" (November 1975), "If I Ever Lose This Heaven" (August 1975), "A Love Of Your Own" (December 1976) or the Gorrie/Stuart ballad "Cloudy" originally from the "Cut The Cate" LP but brought out and lifted up into the stratosphere for the brill live double "Person To Person". And any variant of the sublime "Let's Go Round Again" is likely to have me wiggling my aged booty in an undignified manner...no matter who's laughing...

But there's also hidden album nuggets like the stunning Brass-Funk shuffle of "Goin' Home" from the overlooked "Soul Searching" LP (they released a 'live' variant of it in March 1977 in the UK on Atlantic K 10192) or the Arif Mardin produced Philly Soulful "A Star in The Ghetto" with Ben E. King from their collaboration album "Benny And Us" - an LP that featured Luther Vandross on Backing Vocals before he brook through himself. Ned Doheny penned the fabulous groove of "Get It Up For Love" - the opening track on "Benny And Us" and from his own "Hard Candy" album from 1976 (see separate review). His songwriting knack would turn up big time with "Whatcha Gonna Do For Me" - a co-write with AWB's Hamish Stuart. Chaka Khan would name her entire 1981 Warner Brothers LP after the song. It should have been released as a single and David Foster admits he made a big mistake on that one (Christine Day does a great version of it on her 2004 CD album "Cover My Soul"). The entire 'AWB' LP is a stone masterpiece to me ("Word To Do" and "There's Always Someone Waiting") and everyone else while the second RCA LP "Feel No Fret" thrills to this day. I've loved that record with its cool gatefold and inner sleeve and winners like the irrepressible 'sunlight in my eyes' of "Atlantic Avenue", the drum shuffling heavy-on-the-bass Side 1 funk of "Feel No Fret" and the very AWB 'get back home to you' joy of "Fire Burning" that ends Side 2.

On 1977's "Warmer Communication" they do a gorgeous cover version of James Taylor's "Daddy's All Gone" from his overlooked 1976 LP "In The Pocket" - a lyrical subject matter a travelling band must have identified with. "Our Time Has Come" from "Shine" is the perfect fusion of Funk and Soul and again should have been monster. "Miss Sun" is one of four new tracks on the 1980 US-only LP compilation "Volume III" and it's so damn good too. The 90's album "Soul Tattoo" was a return to form (if they ever left) - a new set full of JB's "Pick Up The Pieces" 70ts production values and songwriting nods to that sound on "Back To Basics" and "Oh, Maceo". The 1982 set "Cupid's In Fashion" has always been seen as a 4-star blot on a 10-star track jotter but I like the two singles "You're My Number One" and "I Believe" as well as the 'toss and turn every night' sexiness of "Easier Said Than Done".

A cheaper alternative is Edsel's own four-volume "The Collection" series put out April 2009 in 4 card-slip cases that make up an 'AWB' spine. Those four CD reissues contain the first 13 albums (1973's "Show Your Hand" through to 1982's "Cupid's In Fashion") as listed above and can be purchased for about 25 quid secondhand in total. But I'd advise go to thirty-five quid and get the box with Discs 14 to 18 added on and that gorgeous presentation. The casual buyer should just opt for either the "AWB – Deluxe Edition" or a simple 2CD 'Best Of' that contains both the classic Atlantic and RCA Records periods - of which there are loads for under a fiver. 

When MCA Records talent scouts at an Eric Clapton concert in 1973 got a load of the Scottish support act AVERAGE WHITE BAND - a bunch of hairy white dudes who came on 'funky' like a band of brothers born to it - they were smitten. And thus the AWB legend was born. Clearly aimed at the completist and uber-fan - "All The Pieces" has pride of place on my Soul shelf and I pet it every now and then with affection. I suggest you get that bat crazy too...and check out their duet with Daryl Hall at Daryl's House online doing "Pick Up The Pieces" - wow!

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