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  Average White Band
 

 

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Click below for an Average White Band sample:

Let's Go Round Again

Queen Of My Soul

  

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Black music has long been noted for its universal appeal. Despite this reality, there have often been contentious debates about who is "qualified" to perform black music, often revolving around racial lines.  Any doubts that whites were capable of being legitimate soul performers were answered by the Average White Band, one of the genre's most solid acts during the 70s.

The roots of the band go back to Scotland, where Alan Gorrie (bass, vocals), Malcolm Duncan (saxophone), Roger Ball (keyboards), Hamish Stuart (guitar, vocals), Robbie McIntosh (drums), and Onnie McIntyre (guitar) played in various local groups.  They adopted the name Average White Band as an inside joke with a friend, who in discussing his overseas travels explained that the terrain was too hot for the average white man.  After running into a bit of controversy with the name (James Brown once recorded a record as the Above Average Black Band), they went by the abbreviation AWB.

MCA was the first label to sign the band, but Show Your Hand failed to yield any hits. Released from their contract, they moved to Atlantic Records, the legendary soul label whose records had been formative influences on AWB.  Working with Arif Mardin, a self-titled LP turned them into international stars on the basis of "Pick Up the Pieces," a driving instrumental that charted as a top 10 single.  

While riding the momentum of their newfound celebrity, tragedy struck when McIntosh died following a heroin overdose in 1974. His replacement was Steve Ferrone, who anchored them for the rest of the decade.

1975 was a banner year for AWB, as Cut the Cake had three tunes that cemented their place as one of the world's best soul acts: "School Boy Crush," "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," and "Cut the Cake."  In particular, "If I Ever Lose This Heaven," a cover of a Quincy Jones number, was the first demonstration of their masterful handling of ballads, with Stuart's falsetto becoming a fan favorite.

As popular as their previous albums had been, many feel AWB hit its peak on 1976's Soul Searching. An underrated classic, the LP contained flawless performances but only "Queen of My Soul" made the charts.  After Searching, the band's fortunes declined.  Collaborations with Ben E. King and the popularity of "Let's Go Round Again" and "Your Love Is A Miracle" showed their continued vitality, but they broke up in 1982.

Average White Band reformed in 1989 without Hamish Stuart, who has his own band. They have recorded two albums in their new incarnation, and continue to tour.

Their official site is www.averagewhiteband.com.

Average White Band's Deepest Grooves

Show Your Hand (MCA, 1973)
Debut LP with two of their early highlights in "Twilight Zone" and "TLC."

AWB (Atlantic, 1974)
The production skills of Arif Mardin shine through once again, as he molds AWB from a talented, yet inconsistent, band into steady hitmakers.  There's a creditable version of the Isley's "Work to Do" and the smoothness of "Keepin' It To Myself" to complement the firepower of "Person to Person" and "Pick Up the Pieces."

Cut the Cake (Atlantic, 1975)
Immortalized because of "School Boy Crush," a very popular hip-hop sample in the 80s.

Put It Where You Want It (MCA, 1975)
Reissue of Show Your Hand with the addition of "How Can You Go Home" and removing "The Jugglers."

Soul Searching (Atlantic, 1976)
One of the best soul LPs of the 70s, with passion, grit, and excellent material.  Brilliance abounds on the slow jams "Would You Stay" and "A Love Of Your Own," a quiet storm staple.  "I'm the One" and "Love Your Life" continue the funk tradition of "Pick Up the Pieces" and "School Boy Crush."  

Person to Person (Atlantic, 1976)
The truest test of a band's effectiveness is to capture them in a live setting, and this double LP delivers the goods.  Culled from concerts in Philadelphia, Oakland, and Pittsburgh, the energy could perhaps be higher, but all the hits are represented in extended versions, including a 14-minute "TLC."   

Benny and Us (Atlantic, 1977)
Interesting concept behind this LP, since AWB was at the peak of its powers while Ben E. King's career was floundering.  "Get It Up" and "A Star In the Ghetto" are the highlights of this set.

Warmer Communications (Atlantic, 1978)

Feel No Fret (RCA, 1979)

Shine (Arista, 1980)
Something of a last gasp, notable for the unexpected disco groove of "Let's Go Round Again."

Volume 8 (Atlantic, 1980)

Cupids in Fashion (RCA, 1982)

Aftershock (Track, 1989)
Comeback LP with Alex Ligertwood replacing Hamish Stuart.  Ligertwood does a good job, but Stuart was an irreplaceable figure within AWB.  His absence relegates this to second-tier status.  Odd that dance music wizard John Robie would be interested in AWB, but he's behind the boards for this album.

Pickin' Up the Pieces: Best Of (Rhino, 1992)
This collection is an excellent summary of their career, but true fans should spring for Soul Searching as well.

Soul Tattoo (Artful, 1997)
Perhaps this should be considered the real comeback for AWB.  Refusing to bow to contemporary trends, Tattoo is Average White Band doing what they do best - horn-driven funk and appealing ballads.

Face to Face (EMI, 1999)
Live album shows the band in good form.  Let's hope they hit the studio soon.

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