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11 Sep 2016

F.B.I “F.B.I” 1976 UK Soul funk

F.B.I  “F.B.I” 1976 UK Soul funk…recommended……
FBI (Funky Bands Inc) were a critically acclaimed 9 piece band formed by Herscel Holder, Lloyd Smith, Lennox Meade, Raffi Pereira and led by Herscel Holder, which were together from 1974 to 1978. They had a distinctive ‘good time’ sound with sharp horns and both male (Root Jackson and female (Bonnie Wilkinson) vocalists. Root had previously had a few minor hits in late 60s under the name Root and Jenny Jackson. They started on the college, club and pub circuit and graduated to supporting major US acts like Kool and the Gang and The Temptations, touring with rock bands like Alvin Lee Band, also appearing at Ronnie Scotts club. This their only album was recorded in 1976 at Alvin Lee’s Hook End Manor studio near Reading and was engineered by Chris Kimsey, who went to produce reggae legends Jimmy Cliff and Peter Tosh and several Rolling Stones albums. Due to a delay in releasing it and lack of promotion the album did not fulfil its full potential when released on the Good Earth label through RCA in the UK in 1977. The album is mixture of hard driving funk ‘FBI’ and ‘Bad Deal’, Soul ‘Let me love you’ and a cover of JR Bailey’s ‘Love Love Love’ with a Caribbean influence ‘The time is right’. But the stand out track is the wonderful ‘Talking About Love’ (music by Herscel Holder, lyrics by Bonnie Wilkerson), surely one of the best soulful records ever made outside of USA. It is this track which has made the album an underground in-demand £80 rated album for the past fifteen years. FBI have become in demand again thanks to footage of one of their appearances on the TV show ‘Magpie’ being featured in an episode of the BBC2 series ‘I Love the 70’s’. In the meantime we are proud to re-present the original FBI album remastered from the original tapes and reunited with its original sleeve design, enjoy the good vibes ! ….. 

F.B.I. were a UK-based outfit, much in the same vein as Average White Band and Kokomo, with maybe a slightly more raw and edgy feel to their range. Boasting a male and female lead, the nine-piece were clearly destined for bigger and better things. But alas, this solitary album from 1976 is the only fruits of this carnation of the band. However, although cruelly neglected in its day, we are pleased to give you the chance to enjoy a mixture of funk, rhythm and blues, calypso, reggae and soul that you might just fall in love with. .. 

Their self-titled debut was warmly received by radio jocks in the UK. Like their UK contemporaries (AWB and Kokomo spring to mind), it is that vision of a stage presence that really carries this record from the turntable and into our lives. Indeed, the first track, “F.B.I“, really is AWB at their brassy finest – those crazy horn riffs spicing up an ever-changing rhythmic base, you can almost smell the sweat off the frenzied audience. Fabulous. “Talking About Love“ has a special place in my imaginary DJs box as I recall this getting heavy airplay at the time of release. Easily Bonnie’s best vocal and an awesome triumph of melody and ingenuity. This earns every second of its 6 and a half minute length. Spectacular. Their version of JR Bailey‘s “Love Love Love” is very pleasant and a delightful inclusion in keeping the vibe varied, showcasing both Root’s and Bonnie’s mildly limited but very warm vocal stylings. And another one of my favourites on here, “Free Prison” is a stunning marriage of spiritualism and music – the whole ambience is gently engaging and wonderfully realised as we float and soar with its message. Glorious. 

The calypso-driven “The time is right” changes the vibe again, this time conjuring up the joy of Notting Hill’s carnival and clearly a crowd pleaser. Far stronger for me is the African-influenced “Bad deal“ reminding me of Manu Dibango – yes it’s that good. And both tracks carrying powerful condemnations of inner city life. Then we have the sole ballad on the LP, but it certainly is no obligatory attempt to provide a well-rounded album. This is a wafting beauty that hits you with the caress of a summer breeze. And it is a real grower – “Let me love you“ is another of my faves. Probably my least favourite is their version of Stevie’s “Keep on running“, but it is a lively inclusion that was probably an established part of their touring repertoire. As a bonus track, there is a cover version of Patsy Gallant’s “Get the ball“ hit from ’72 – an intriguing choice of song, but a decent rendition nonetheless. 

In 1986, Root Jackson decided to re-unite much of the force behind FBI, into a revised version aptly entitled Unfinished Business. They released a CD in 1991 entitled “Freestyle“ which was a somewhat forgettable collection of originals, with only the reggaefied “Unjust laws“ really catching my ear. However, Bonnie (now Colette) Wilkinson was later recruited back to the ranks, and the CD “Funkin’ with da Blues“ released in 2003 was a much more confident affair, with a revised tag for the group, UFBI. Root’s eldest daughter, Vernessa Simon also released a couple of CDs in the 90s, her wonderful second (‘Definitive Source‘) being a proud member of my collection. He has also being heralded as an inspiration by artists such as Omar, Jamiroquai, Mica Paris and Incognito. And his own Congo record label was responsible for Omar’s first LP release all those moons ago. 

This is an essential peek into the British funk sound of the mid-seventies, maybe not as gifted as the premier US bands of the time, yet a vital part of the scene with definitely something uniquely exciting to bring to the party. Savour the flavour and educate your mind ! ….. 

A1 F.B.I. 4.58 
A2 Talking About Love 6.25 
A3 Love, Love, Love 4.23 
A4 Free Prison 5.17 
B1 The Time Is Right to Leave the City 3.30 
B2 Bad Deal 4.27 
B3 Let Me Love You 4.56 
B4 Keep on Running 9.18 
CD Bonus Get That Ball 4.40 

johnkatsmc5, welcome music..