Fatback Band Raising Hell Review

Released 1975.  

BBC Review

Captures most of their eclectic, if occasionally misfiring magic.

Daryl Easlea 2012

The popularity of the groove ensemble was strong in the early 70s. Kool & the Gang and Mandrill both came to prominence, but few groups held such a special place in the hearts of UK funkateers as the Fatback Band. The brainchild of drummer Bill ‘Fatback’ Curtis, the original intention of the New York-based ensemble was to blend the ‘fatback’ jazz beats of New Orleans with funk. Theirs was the sound of the street.

Propelled by the watertight rhythm section of Johnny Flippen and Curtis himself, gang vocals, well-arranged horns, scratchy guitar and squelchy primitive synthesisers, sixth album Raising Hell was a successful capturing of their good-time groove. Fatback were victorious in mixing street jams with bright, brief on-point singles.

So for every lengthy workout like All Day or Party Time we have the irresistible (Are You Ready) Do the Bus Stop, one of the most infectious formation-dance-friendly numbers ever, the sort of song that was played at fabled clubs such as Canvey Island’s Goldmine and the Empress Ballroom in Blackpool. (Do The) Spanish Hustle was another insistent groove that was devoured by UK soul fans, taking it to the top 10 in 1976. British Hustle by UK jazz-funk pioneers Hi-Tension was a clear tribute.

On the less relentless side of things, the P-Funk-influencing looseness of Put Your Love (In My Tender Care), with its repeated refrain of "got to put it in" accompanied by squealing female vocals, is the sort of double entendre-heavy disco-smut that came with the era.

The honeyed Groovy Kind of Day, though, is full-on floating jazz-funk. It’s only their version of the Four Tops’ I Can’t Help Myself that paints a moustache on this particular Mona Lisa. It’s shocking. Showing the band’s occasional tendencies to cabaret, it sounds like something James Last would have put on a party album in the same era.

Raising Hell forms part of the Fatback Band’s prolific mid-70s output. Still ahead of them was 1979’s King Tim III (Personality Jock), the first commercially available rap record, and I Found Lovin’ from 1984, the white sock soul anthem. But Raising Hell captures most of their eclectic, if occasionally misfiring magic.

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