F.B.I. – 1976 – F.B.I.
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F.B.I. were a UK-based outfit, much in the same vein as Average White Band and Kokomo, with maybe a slightly more raw and edgy feel to their range. Boasting a male and female lead, the nine-piece were clearly destined for bigger and better things. But alas, this solitary album from 1976 is the only fruits of this carnation of the band. However, although cruelly neglected in its day, we are pleased to give you the chance to enjoy a mixture of funk, rhythm and blues, calypso, reggae and soul that you might just fall in love with.
This is a @320 CD rip of the Soul Brother Records CD including covers.
A1 F.B.I. 4.58
A2 Talking About Love 6.25
A3 Love, Love, Love 4.23
A4 Free Prison 5.17
B1 The Time Is Right to Leave the City 3.30
B2 Bad Deal 4.27
B3 Let Me Love You 4.56
B4 Keep on Running 9.18
CD Bonus Get That Ball 4.40
Review by Trakbuv
F.B.I. stood for Funky Bands Inc and were a UK-based outfit that operated between 1974 and 1978. They were a nine-piece band with two lead vocalists, one female (Bonnie Wilkinson) and one male (Root Jackson). They were formed by Root and trumpeter Herscel Holder, who is probably the primary inspiration behind the brassy Tower of Power horny horns that drive many of the funk-powered tracks. Apparently, they were originally ‘thrown together’ as ‘Bakel’ to back Eddie Floyd with just 5 hours for rehearsal. They went on to perform as backing band for the likes of Ben E King and Percy Sledge before deciding to make a go of it in their own right. The remainder of the band included Jaime Black (guitar, flute), Lloyd Smith (sax), Lennox Meade (bass), Raffi Pereira (guitar), Alan Fealdman (keys), and Stephen Dixon (drums).
Root Jackson had already tasted vinyl with several releases on the Beacon label in the late sixties as Root & Jenny (his cousin) Jackson, including an incredible, storming version of Aretha’s ‘Save Me‘ – search this out at your peril !! For F.B.I., their big break came after their initial gigs got rave reviews and caught the attention of Ten Years After guitarist, Alvin Lee. Clearly Alvin was enamoured by their charisma and provided the opportunity to capture it at his Hook End Manor studio near Reading, UK, the album being released on the Good Earth imprint via RCA in 1976. It was produced by Chris Kimsey who later worked his magic for Peter Tosh and the Rolling Stones. On the strength of its release, they went on to support acts as prestigious as Kool and the Gang and the Temptations.
Their self-titled debut was warmly received by radio jocks in the UK. Like their UK contemporaries (AWB and Kokomo spring to mind), it is that vision of a stage presence that really carries this record from the turntable and into our lives. Indeed, the first track, “F.B.I“, really is AWB at their brassy finest – those crazy horn riffs spicing up an ever-changing rhythmic base, you can almost smell the sweat off the frenzied audience. Fabulous. “Talking About Love“ has a special place in my imaginary DJs box as I recall this getting heavy airplay at the time of release. Easily Bonnie’s best vocal and an awesome triumph of melody and ingenuity. This earns every second of its 6 and a half minute length. Spectacular. Their version of JR Bailey‘s “Love Love Love” is very pleasant and a delightful inclusion in keeping the vibe varied, showcasing both Root’s and Bonnie’s mildly limited but very warm vocal stylings. And another one of my favourites on here, “Free Prison” is a stunning marriage of spiritualism and music – the whole ambience is gently engaging and wonderfully realised as we float and soar with its message. Glorious.
The calypso-driven “The time is right” changes the vibe again, this time conjuring up the joy of Notting Hill’s carnival and clearly a crowd pleaser. Far stronger for me is the African-influenced “Bad deal“ reminding me of Manu Dibango – yes it’s that good. And both tracks carrying powerful condemnations of inner city life. Then we have the sole ballad on the LP, but it certainly is no obligatory attempt to provide a well-rounded album. This is a wafting beauty that hits you with the caress of a summer breeze. And it is a real grower – “Let me love you“ is another of my faves. Probably my least favourite is their version of Stevie’s “Keep on running“, but it is a lively inclusion that was probably an established part of their touring repertoire. As a bonus track, there is a cover version of Patsy Gallant’s “Get the ball“ hit from ’72 – an intriguing choice of song, but a decent rendition nonetheless.
In 1986, Root Jackson decided to re-unite much of the force behind FBI, into a revised version aptly entitled Unfinished Business. They released a CD in 1991 entitled “Freestyle“ which was a somewhat forgettable collection of originals, with only the reggaefied “Unjust laws“ really catching my ear. However, Bonnie (now Colette) Wilkinson was later recruited back to the ranks, and the CD “Funkin’ with da Blues“ released in 2003 was a much more confident affair, with a revised tag for the group, UFBI. Root’s eldest daughter, Vernessa Simon also released a couple of CDs in the 90s, her wonderful second (‘Definitive Source‘) being a proud member of my collection. He has also being heralded as an inspiration by artists such as Omar, Jamiroquai, Mica Paris and Incognito. And his own Congo record label was responsible for Omar’s first LP release all those moons ago.
This is an essential peek into the British funk sound of the mid-seventies, maybe not as gifted as the premier US bands of the time, yet a vital part of the scene with definitely something uniquely exciting to bring to the party. Savour the flavour and educate your mind !
Enjoy the music and please say at least “Thanks” to Trakbuv who spent so much time to research and write the review – as he always do. The whole text is original as all Trakbuv’s reviews and as he mailed me just before I post it :“I have finally finished it – this is one of those rare occasions where MOST my research actually gets to be INCLUDED in the post !! Most the time the details conflict, run to dead ends, and don’t have enough info to give a full picture. So I like to make the most when I can demonstrate my time and effort !!”