Always a dance band, the veteran funk group now add house rhythms to some of their classics
The Fatback Band have always kept abreast of the latest dance trends, whether it be crazes like 70s singles ‘Double Dutch’ and ‘(Are You Ready) Do The Bus Stop’, the disco they embraced at its peak, sublime excursions into New York’s early 80s boogie such as ‘Is This The Future?’ and ‘I Found Lovin’’ or periodically getting in the remixers to turn their classics like ‘Yum Yum’ into four-on-the-floor house music monsters. Not always following either: their 1979 single ‘King Tim III (Personality Jock)’ beat the Sugarhill Gang as the first rap record. ‘Spanish Hustle’ has even been credited with inventing line dancing!
Far from mellowing with age, for their latest album [they’ve made around 35] Fatback have gone one further and rerecorded several of their standards, including ‘Yum Yum (Gimme Some)’, ‘Spanish Hustle’ and ‘I Found Lovin’’ in a style which wouldn’t go amiss in UK club big rooms or even Ibiza’s hedonistic hotbeds. Modern dance music performed by master musicians who realise that dancing is universal no matter what time or place it is. They even enter the realms of peak-time anthem on tracks like ‘Let Me Take You Higher’ and the Cookie Monsterz remix of ‘Feel The Fire’ which manages to respect the original while adding 21st century synth flavours. Maybe surprisingly, the closing ‘Summertime Funk’ injects an unexpected Indian Bollywood flavour. Marrying the funk and stellar ensemble playing with house’s relentless beat seems to be another experiment they’ve pulled off in classy style. Long-time funkateers may splutter their peas against the ceiling but the Fatback Band have always been a dance band and this new take on their self-described ‘hip shaking party music’ will certainly shake the modern disco.
It’s around 40 years since Bill “Fatback” Curtis formed the band, which still counts original members Gerry Thomas on keyboards, bassist Johnny Flippin, guitarist Johnny King and trumpeter George Williams in its ranks alongside 80s veteran saxophonist Ed Jackson and more recent members Bob James on keyboards, bassist-vocalist Cordell “Pete” Everett and trumpeter Ledjerick Todd Woods plus new singer Isabella Dunn Gordon from Bicester, Oxfordshire.
The album is Ace’s 24th Fatback release, making them one of the most voluminous acts in the catalogue. The rest span the group’s entire recording career including classics like Raising Hell, Yum Yum, Keep On Steppin’, Night Fever, XII [which contained ‘King Tim III’], Is this The Future? and Hot Box through to 2003’s Second Generation and now this pumping nugget.
Talking about the band’s longevity, Bill Curtis says, “It’s like the circus or being on the train. It’s in your blood. These guys will play until they drop. It’s a driving force.”
By Kris Needs