Tuesday, 19 July 2016

"Feel No Fret" by AVERAGE WHITE BAND (Inside Edsel’s 2014 ‘All The Pieces: Complete Studio Recordings 1971-2003’ 19CD Box Set) - A Review by Mark Barry...

"...When Will You Be Mine..." 

You can find AWB’s brill “Feel No Fret” LP from 1979 in a few places – most of which are reasonably priced and good to go Audio wise. But I’d argue that Scotland’s AVERAGE WHITE BAND are worth more than a cheap-as-chips flutter and you should consider flogging the silver for this...

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 (the “Feel No Fret” album is amongst them) - so let's start cruising down Atlantic Avenue...

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. The 1979 album "Feel No Fret" is Disc 10 and plays out as follows:

Disc 10 (37:38 minutes):
1. When Will You Be Mine
2. Please Don’t Fall In Love
3. Walk On By
4. Feel No Fret
5. Stop The Rain [Side 2]
6. Atlantic Avenue
7. Ace Of Hearts
8. Too Late to Cry
9. Fire Burning
Tracks 1 to 9 are the album “Feel No Fret” – released February 1979 in the UK on RCA Records XL 13063 and in the USA on Atlantic SD 19207. Produced by AVERAGE WHITE BAND and GENE PAUL – it peaked at No. 15 on the UK LP charts and No. 33 in the USA.

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 ("Work To Do" and "There's Always Someone Waiting") – which brings by circuitous route to 1979’s "Feel No Fret"...

With its cool ice-blue gatefold and detailed inner sleeve – I’ve loved this RCA Records LP for decades – bathing in the warmth of summery 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. From the opening seconds of Hamish Stuart’s Bass and Alan Gorrie’s guitar on the hit single “When Will You Be Mine” – you know you’re in the presence of Funky magic.

Alan Gorrie co-wrote “Please Don’t Fall In Love” with Roger Ball (ex Fusion band Mogul Thrash who managed one album on RCA Records in 1971) – a catchy-as-a-cold Hall & Oates-sounding bopper. They then have a go at Bacharach and David’s Dionne Warwick vehicle “Walk On By” – pumping up those high vocals – anchoring the radio-friendly proceedings with a great Bass line, salsa shuffles and brass jabs. The genius bass run that underlays the Side 2 opener “Stop The Rain” would make Maceo and The JB’s envious. “Ace Of Hearts” gives it some Philly strings while “Too Late To Cry” is good without being great. But as already said the finisher “Fire Burning” is a fab AWB bopper capable of filling dancefloors from a hundred paces...

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 in this box set (1973's "Show Your Hand" through to 1982's "Cupid's In Fashion") and can be purchased for about 25 quid secondhand in total. Volume 4 lumps “Feel No Fret” and May 1980’s “Shine” together – a combo many will find appealing.

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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