Truly was Celtic soul; slippery, gritty, as dirty as you like
Daryl Easlea 2009-07-14
Originally released on Atlantic Records, the Average White Band’s second album, AWB (or indeed, 'the white album' as it became known) was one of the breeziest, greasiest funk statements ever to appear on record. From a bunch of scotsmen.
It's easy to forget just how much of an impact the Average White Band made when they appeared on the scene in the early 70s. Their first album on MCA, Show Your Hand went some way to capturing the magic of their live sets; but it was when they signed to Atlantic - the home of R&B - for millions that their recordings fell in line with their electrifying stage work.
Produced by no less than Arif Mardin under the watchful gaze of Jerry Wexler, this truly was Celtic soul; slippery, gritty, as dirty as you like. Wexler had seen them live and knew they would fit in to the label's roster perfectly. It was a case of the outsiders being welcomed to a seat at the top table.
Sharing vocal duties were Hamish Stuart and Alan Gorrie, who both swapped guitar and bass. Along with this came the metronomic rhythm playing of Onnie McIntyre while Robbie MacIntosh, who was to die tragically later in 1974, provided the robust backbeat. Pick Up The Pieces was, of course, the showstopper. With tight, unified playing from the Dundee Horns (Roger Ball and Molly Duncan), it blasted its way to the top of the US charts in early 1975 and into the UK Top 10. When you know that James Brown put together a side project with the title Above Average Black Band and called the track Pick Up The Pieces One By One, you can understand how deeply the feathers had been ruffled. A convincing cover of the Isley Brothers Work To Do showed that AWB were not afraid to take on the heavy hitters – the irony of a white group embracing soul playing a black group embracing rock was noteworthy.
The record was a huge hit and established AWB for the best part of a decade in funk's first division. Hear it today and you’ll still be surprised by its vibrancy.