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Thursday, March 22, 2012

Average White Band: Shine


1) Catch Me (Before I Have To Testify); 2) Help Is On The Way; 3) Watcha Gonna Do For Me; 4) Let's Go Round Again; 5) Into The Night; 6) Our Time Has Come; 7) For You For Love; 8) If Love Only Lasts For One Night; 9) Shine.

Somehow I forgot to mention that the noticeable shift of sound from Warmer Communications to Feel No Fret had much to do with the band's change of label and, more importantly, producer: from Atlantic veteran Arif Mardin they went on to Victor Records and new producing guy David Foster, one of the big heroes of mainstream Eighties pop. It was under his guidance that the Ave­rage White Band began and completed the transformation into the Average White Automaton; which, naturally, does not take the blame off the shoulders of each individual member as well.

Shine is basically Feel No Fret No. 2, but goes even further in the direction of dispensing with the «live» feel and machinizing the sound of the band. They still play their own instruments, even the drums, but all of the grooves have been streamlined, and there is a stiff, robotic feel to all the tracks — exactly the kind of thing Foster was aiming for. Thus, it does not really matter any more if it is the AWB playing this shit, or any other run-of-the-mill dance band with ten years of heavy practice behind its back.

The pretentiously jovial ʽLet's Go Round Againʼ managed to become a minor hit single here; and as far as generic, but expertly produced disco goes, it is neither better nor worse than any other such minor hit single. The chorus is catchy, the rhythm is danceable, the strings and horns well placed, and Hamish even gets to play a melodic solo. But crowd pleasers like that really go for a dime a dozen, and I would rather take ʽHelp Is On The Wayʼ, whose vocal melody is nowhere near as easily memorable, but not as silly, either.

Alas, the only track on here that is vaguely reminiscent of the AWB's former «average greatness» is ʽInto The Nightʼ. It is almost completely instrumental (apart from a few mood-setting vocal lines in the «chorus»), so you do not have to put up with Gorrie's formulaic falsetto. It has a per­fectly well worked out brass groove that takes a brief, but effective musical idea and explores it, unlike the horns on the other tracks, which merely exist to provide an extra sonic layer. It is «fun­ky-pretty» rather than «disco-crappy», and is more influenced by Stevie Wonder than Donna Summer. If anything ever survives from Shine, it's gotta be this one rather than ʽLet's Go Round Againʼ — I'd rather have the mainstream disco epoch be remembered through its clever facets than its populistic anthems.

Still, if you like smooth, perfectly polished, un-annoying disco as background muzak to accom­pany your home chores or morning aerobics, Shine might find some sort of useful application: when played loud enough, it will effectively hinder your sleeping reflexes. This is why the pre­dictable thumbs down reaction arrives hatred-free.

Curious P.S.: It is exceedingly funny how all the reviews of these late-period AWB on Amazon rave about their greatness and consistently come furnished with 5-star ratings. It takes a stupid person like me a few minutes to realize that, in most cases, there are about three to four reviews for each, and that, most probably, they are all written by nostalgic 50-year old geezers whose me­mories of this music are inextricably tied in with memories of their first sexual experience. Tee­nage musical experience can be so detrimental, once you think of it.

Check "Shine" (CD) on Amazon

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