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Pick Up These Rock and Soul Pieces On Rhino AWB Hits Set
on December 14, 2000
The Average White Band hit in the right place, at the right time (the pre and early-disco mid-70s) with the right on the right label (Ahmet Ertegun's Atlantic Records, which understood a decade before with the Young Rascals how potent rock and soul combined could be). Rhino's generous, well-remastered "Pickin' Up The Pieces" is a first-rate, career spanning collection from one of music's tightest, funkiest bands in either genre.
The album is full of rumbling bass lines courtesy of Hamish Stuart, who with drummer Steve Ferrone lays the bottom on the indescribably funky "Cut The Cake," and "School Boy Crush"(featuring stop-time horn lines only hinted at in the group's #1 hit "Pick Up The Pieces.") Alan Gorrie and Hamish Stuart's soulful harmonies recall the Isley Brothers at their smoothest, swirling around the melodies of "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," "Queen Of My Soul" and the Isleys' own "Work To Do." Then you get the Latin-flavored "Queen of My Soul" and the shimmering Quiet Storm favorite, "A Love Of Your Own" from 1976's "Soul Searching." The group acknowledged its influences directly with Ben E. King's vocals on "Give It Up" from 1977's "Benny And Us."
Things quieted down for AWB as the 80s began; disco polarized the funk audience while its minimalist successors, rap and new wave, had little connection to the group's sophisticated big-band funk. (MOR Production from adult contemporary aces Bill Champlin and David Foster on a mostly unsupportive Arista label didn't help, although rap sampling of earlier hits eventually restored some of AWB's cache'.) Nonetheless, those huge early hits on its first half make "Pickin' Up The Pieces" a recommended collection from a band anything but average. It's worth picking up for 70s rock and soul fans alike, but also check out the 1974 Atlantic debut and 1977's live "Person To Person."