Average White Band: Aftershock

FROM CALEDONIA to California, the Average White Band pick up the pieces and bounce off the ceiling.

Arguably, the high-water mark of blue-eyed soul was side one of Average White Band, the album, released in 1975 and featuring the instrumental single, ‘Pick Up The Pieces’ – funk of such force that it hospitalised large sections of a populace not yet versed in jacking their bodies. Thereafter, AWB declined quite gracefully to dissolution in ’82. And it has to be said their comeback was not the subject of clamorous anticipation. They appeared to have served their turn.

Which makes it all the more pleasurable to report that Aftershock comes with warm glow guaranteed. Whether or not shortfalls in the current account had anything to with these Scottish Californians getting it together, the record was obviously made because they really wanted to do it. Alan Gorrie (guitar, vocals), Onnie Mclntyre (guitar) and Roger Ball (saxes, keyboards), half of the original team, are not striving for anything revolutionary but, quite simply, they have recaptured the spirit.

With the exception of the title track, an oddly rinky-dink reggaefied contraption, every song has them bouncing off the studio ceiling. ‘Later We’ll Be Greater’ is the inevitable and welcome hard funk instrumental with Mclntyre’s almost religiously fervid rhythm guitar and Ball’s coarse, carved sax lines stirring it up to dancing delirium. ‘Sticky Situation’ is similarly sweaty, but embellished by a Gorrie vocal imparting the sort of salty tale, true or not, that only the more weather-beaten rock stars feel free to fell against themselves – in a bar a “lady” picks him up, his girl arrives, the two women give each other the eye and go off together leaving him with the bill.

There’s no call for such barbs in the cruising ballads ‘Love At First Sight’, sung with a passion by former Santana member Alex Ligertwood, and ‘Let’s Go All The Way’, in which Gorrie seizes the chance of a minor meltdown with Chaka Khan. A couple of times their sheer exuberance is the redeeming feature of an otherwise routine piece of work. But up- or down-tempo, what AWB put across, as ever, is tough, ultra-feelgood, but funny and charming in their fashion.

© Phil SutcliffeQ, September 1989

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