Tag Archives: Average White Band

Old/New Albums: Average White Band’s “Person To Person”

averagewhitebandThis is a first for me in this blog series. Person To Person is a live album, and I’m curious if it might’ve been a better experience had I chosen a live album by a band I was more familiar with. If only because I’d have a fuller understanding of the studio incarnations of the tunes and could view the live versions through that prism.

But here I am, listening to a concert album from 1976. It’s not a bad record. It certainly shows that the band could easily recreate the magic funk they had done so well in the studio. And as almost all live shows do, it gives the band room to breathe on all their tracks, giving longer spaces for the various band members to solo.

This is shown most effectively in the band’s best-known song, “Pick Up The Pieces.” The version on this album is notable for a couple reasons. First, it runs over 18 minutes long. Even on live albums, very few current bands would bother putting an 18 minute song on their record. The length of this tune kind of betrays its age, back when people would want to listen to an instrumental for this long.

It’s not that it’s a bad song, it’s just really long. You’ve got to be in a very specific zone to jam out to an instrumental piece for that long. Bands in the ’70s loved letting their songs loose in this long form kind of way. Led Zeppelin, Allman Brothers, Grateful Dead. But I was a little surprised to find a band like Average White Band, not commonly categorized as a “jam” band, doing the same thing.

The other interesting thing about this song is that it is actually culled together from several different live shows on this tour. Since it features several members doing solos, they recorded several different shows and each member was able to choose the specific solo they wanted to featured from a specific show. It’s all spliced together and sounds fluid enough that I wouldn’t have noticed had I not uncovered it in doing research.

But there are parts of this album that could’ve been tightened. I would’ve rather heard another original cut from the band than a 10-minute cover of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” to close the album out. The long cuts of “T.L.C.” and “Pick Up The Pieces” also could’ve been shortened and left more room for other songs.

There are some awesome tunes on here though too. “Cloudy” and “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” are both slices of almost Bee Gees-level tightness in the soul/pop arena, and “I’m The One” and “Love Your Life” both have sample-ready horn parts (Exhibit A: A Tribe Called Quest’s “Check The Rhime”). But ultimately I’m left with the feeling that I’d enjoy the studio versions a bit more. A little more palatable than 18 minutes of the same song.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. If I Ever Lose This Heaven
  2. I’m The One
  3. Love Your Life
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Old/New Albums: Average White Band’s “AWB”

AWBWhy didn’t I fall in love AWB? It is a very fine album of R&B/soul/funk music from 1974. You’ve got great performances by all band members, a huge hit single in “Pick Up The Pieces,” and even a ringing endorsement by the number one authority on all things music, Ahmir Questlove Thompson (who calls Average White Band his favorite band of all time. Big words).

I think that for me, this album just never landed, never really caught my ear. Again, there are some great tunes on here, but nothing seemed particularly mind-blowing. Not that music always has to blow your mind, and oddly enough, I think that’s where the strength is found here.

This album is full of incredibly well-played and catchy tunes. It’s all very good. Songs like “Keepin’ It To Myself” and “Nothing You Can Do” are really well put-together. There are grooves for days on this album, but they never quite reach the stratosphere for me.

I’d say that’s more a reflection on me than the music though. If I was able to dissect this album with the ears of a DJ or had the tools to listen to the instruments individually, I’m sure I’d be blown away with how smooth the entire record sounds.

Ultimately, this is an album more geared towards grooves than hooks. Obviously, “Pick Up The Pieces” falls in the hooks category, but the rest of the album is full of some slow-burning grooves.

Take a song like “Got The Love.” Once I popped on my noise-canceling headphones, this song showed me what it had to offer. The rhythm guitar is so insanely clear and detailed, even when underneath the wah-wah-effect guitar part. Oftentimes in this genre, it can be hard for me to actually pick out rhythm guitar parts when they’re buried in layers of other instruments.

But AWB is full of songs that have just the right amount of everything. If you’re looking for some smooth ‘70s R&B/soul, you’ve found your album.

Top 3 Tunes:

  1. Pick Up The Pieces
  2. Nothing You Can Do
  3. Keepin’ It To Myself

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