The Fatback Band – 1972 – Let’s Do it Again & 1973 – People Music
The debut album by the soon-to-be venerable Fatback Band is a mostly instrumental – minus some “What’s Going On” – style exclamations and raps in the background — collection of pure funk grooves. More in the Curtis Mayfield vein of slick and nimble dancefloor fillers than loose Parliament/Funkadelic jams, these nine tracks are concise – only one track breaks the four-minute barrier – and tightly constructed, with little room for exploratory soloing or aimless vamping. The key tracks, however, are the three non-originals, cover choices that might surprise some folks who have never heard, say, Isaac Hayes‘ Black Moses: the Fatback Band strips down any cheesy sentimentality from Glen Campbell‘s Jimmy Webb hit “Wichita Lineman“, Bread’s wimp-rock classic “Baby I’m-A Want You,” and even the moldy oldie “Green Green Grass of Home“, purifying the tunes down to their melodic basics and transforming them into absolutely ravishing deep soul ballads. These are the sort of songs that keep people eagerly snapping up any ’70s soul or funk album they can find, looking for just this kind of effortless, slinky groove. Let’s Do It Again is highly recommended for the three covers alone, but the six originals, all powered by drummer/bandleader Bill Curtis, are equally fine. (AMG)
A1 Street Dance 3:15
A2 Free Form 3:00
A3 Take A Ride (On The Soul Train) 3:45
A4 Wicheta Lineman 3:10
A5 Baby, I’m A Want You 3:30
B1 Let’s Do It Again 2:45
B2 Goin’ To See My Baby 3:20
B3 Give Me One More Chance 4:25
B4 Green Green Grass Of Home 3:55
One of the best-kept secrets of the early ‘70s, Let’s Do It Again is a classic feel-good party album loaded with some of the tightest instrumental funk jams around. Released in 1972, the album gave The Fatback Band its first successful single, “Street Dance”. An infectious in-the-pocket vamp that crosses the danceable grooves of the Meters and the JB’s with the driving Memphis soul of the Stax Horns, “Street Dance” hits its delirious high with a funk-jazz flute solo by future Charles Mingus band member George Adams.
The album’s opening track, “Street Dance” is built on a brick house-solid funk foundation: catchy rhythm guitar hooks, punchy horn charts, thick bouncing bass, and, of course, those fatback drums. The prominence of heavy percussion in the mix makes it amply clear that Fatback was drummer Bill Curtis’ band. His unstoppable funk drumming is on par with the some of best practitioners of the art: John “Jabbo” Starks (James Brown), Steve Ferrone (Average White Band), and Joseph “Ziggy” Modeliste (The Meters). The drums on “Free Form” are anything but, as Curtis locks with bassist John Flipping in a bullet-proof groove that doesn’t let up. “Free Form” sounds as if it might have been a source of inspiration for Average White Band’s 1973 funk-instrumental hit, “Pick Up The Pieces”.
A pair of slow covers, Glen Campbell’s hit “Wichita Lineman” and Bread’s “Baby I’m A Want You”, give the album its obligatory “quiet storm” interlude (remember this was 1972), before things heat up again with the sizzling title track. “Goin’ To See My Baby” and “Give Me One More Chance” feature the album’s only vocals, which are little more than some simple lines repeated over and over, along with soulful backing chants and jazzy scats. As was the case with nearly all the band’s early recordings for the Perception label, the vocals and lyrics on Let’s Do It Again take a backseat to the groove. Only later did the band get really serious about singing and songwriting, shortening their name to Fatback in 1977 and scoring their first Top Ten hit a year later with “ I Like Girls”.
Their 1979 single, “King Time III (Personality Jock)” is considered by some to be the very first rap single ever made. A seminal early-‘70s funk ensemble that successfully evolved with hits through the ‘80s, the Fatback Band was one of the few groups that managed to stick with its trademark sound through successive musical styles. (Musthear.com)
Following up on its first successful R&B single, “Street Dance,” the Fatback Band released 1973’s People Music (their second album on the Perception label). While it doesn’t include any hits or even near misses, it does have a nice mix of the group’s signature, in-the-pocket funk-jazz jams. Combining the horn-driven soul of Stax with the tight groove of the JB’s (James Brown‘s early-’70s band), the band works through nine mostly solid tracks. The influence of the JB’s is readily heard on the fast-paced “Fatbackin'” and “Kiba,” while premonitions of the coming disco era are evident on bumpin’ cuts like “Nija Walk” and “Soul March.” Supplying contrast to these instrumentals, the band indulges in a few vocal cuts with various band members taking the mike; although the after-hours jazz and flutes cut “To Be With You” includes a regrettable vocal turn by bassist Johnny Flippin, guitarist Johnny King‘s pleading and vulnerable performance on “Baby Doll” does comes off nicely. And rounding out the group’s impressive roster are other original members like tenor saxophonist George Adams, trumpeter George Williams, and drummer Bill Curtis.(AMG)
A1 Nija Walk (Street Walk) 4:04
A2 Gotta Have You (Day by Day) 2:35
A3 Fatbackin’ 3:13
A4 Baby Doll 7:13
A5 Clap Your Hands 3:11
B1 Soul March 3:24
B2 Soul Man 4:16
B3 To Be With You 4:15
B4 Kiba 2:57
New York’s Fatback Band achieved commercial success in the early ’80s, but it had been releasing stellar, hard funkin’ gems a decade earlier.
‘People Music’, their second LP, probably also is their best. All that was great about Fatback is summed up nicely on “Nija Walk (Street Walk)“, a blast of unstoppable funk carried by Bill Curtis’ swooshing drums and Johnny Flippin’s four-note bass riff…
“Gotta Have You (Day by Day)” shows the band’s soul potential, delivering a great, mid-tempo, horn-filled strutter. Vocals were never this group’s forte, and they sound a bit strained here and there, but overall it ads superbly to the rawness of the music.
“Fatbackin’” is a slithering King Cobra of a groove, with more of Flippin’s high-end bass walks and plenty of brassy goodness. “Baby Doll” kicks off with one of Bill’s trademark drum rolls, but soon evolves into a quite creepy, minor-keyed ballad. The adolescent voice of guitarist Johnny King is an aquired taste, but on this selection, it works perfectly… Ghostly even…
But Fatback was best at partyin’ down, and they continue the funk festival on the stompin’ work-out “Soul March” and they turn in a frenzied, loose rendition of Sam & Dave’s “Soul Man” as well.
In sync with the album’s beginning, “Kiba” closes procedures on another afro-centric note with a vicious, syncopated jam featuring some razor sharp guitar chankin’.
Really, the only tunes here that are forgettable are the overtly happy and clean sounding “Clap Your Hands” and the overwrought ballad “To Be With You“.
But aside those two, ‘People Music’ offers a huge pile of FUNK…