The Gap Band - 1980 – Gap Band III
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When Gap Band III came out in 1980, the Wilson Brothers were widely regarded as true heavyweights in the funk field. Many funk experts will tell you that creatively, they were right up there with the likes of Cameo, Rick James, the Isley Brothers, and the Bar-Kays in the early ’80s. Over the years, The Gap Band III (which was the group’s fifth album, not its third) has often been described as the ultimate Gap Band album — and it’s hard to disagree with that assertion.
Produced by Lonnie Simmons, this exceptional album boasts three of the Wilson Brothers’ biggest radio hits: “Burn Rubber on Me” (a funk classic), the Parliament-minded “Humpin’” and the quiet storm slow jam “Yearning for Your Love“. But The Gap Band III is also full of gems that weren’t big radio hits, including “Gash Gash Gash” (another funk classic), the perky, Earth, Wind & Fire-ish “Are You Living” and the ballad “Nothin’ Comes to Sleepers“.
There isn’t a dull moment on The Gap Band III, which is excellent from start to finish and is essential listening for funk addicts.
A1 When I Look In Your Eyes 4:58
A2 Yearning For Your Love 5:41
A3 Burn Rubber On Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me) 5:16
A4 Nothin’ Comes To Sleepers 5:34
B1 Are You Living 4:24
B2 Sweet Caroline 3:21
B3 Humpin’ 5:06
B4 The Way 4:46
B5 Gash Gash Gash 5:18
By Daryl Easlea
Although now principally remembered for their party anthem I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance – known by its colloquial title Oops Upside Your Head – The Gap Band were a marvellous addition to the US 70s funk scene. Originating from Tulsa, the brothers Wilson – Charlie, Ronnie and Robert – were raised in the church and were made to learn music from an early age. Their early outfit, the Greenwood, Archer and Pine Street Band soon abbreviated its name to the more straightforward Gap Band, and their multi-instrumental approach made them one of the most exciting groups of the era.
Signing to Mercury in 1979, and working with long-time mentor Lonnie Simmons, The Gap Band III (actually their fifth album) was their most complete offering to date, bringing together their strident funk, party jams and sensual ballads.
Their US R&B number one single Burn Rubber on Me (Why You Wanna Hurt Me) arrives amid the screech of tyres. High and mighty, it is probably the single greatest Gap Band song, with its dirty synth bass – played by Cavin Yarbrough of Yarbrough and Peoples’ fame – and climatic hand-claps. It features the ultimate example of Charlie Wilson’s deep, mannered funk vocal style.
If Oops had established a template for them, then Humpin’ and the improbably titled Gash Gash Gash found them mining this seam even further, with loose raps over squelchy party anthems, complete with Charlie’s trademark chuckle. When I Look in Your Eyes is similar to Earth, Wind & Fire of the era, while Yearning for Your Love emphases the sweet ballad side of the group. An almost otherworldly listen, it manages simultaneously to be tremendously mellow yet somehow slightly unsettling.
By 1980 The Gap Band were much in demand – for example, Charlie and Robert provided backing vocals for Stevie Wonder’s I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It that year. Their good-time, propulsive groove commercialised P-Funk and paved the way for the later commercial period of acts such as Cameo. It was also a key influence on later New Jack Swing artists.
If you want to go beyond the hits, The Gap Band III is the best place to start.