Friday, March 7, 2014

Average White Band - Feel No Fret

Today (March 7th) marks the thirty-fifth anniversary of Feel No Fret, the eighth studio album from the Scottish funk group Average White Band. It spent fifteen weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 32. It also went to number 15 in the UK.

The line-up for the band at this time was Alan Gorrie (vocals and bass), Roger Ball (saxophone and keyboards), Malcolm Duncan (saxophone), Steve Ferrone (drums), Owen McIntyre (guitar and vocals), and Hamish Stuart (guitar, bass and vocals).

Side one begins with “When Will You Be Mine”. As the second single, it reached number 49 in the UK and number 33 on the US Billboard R&B chart. This song, which ponders the possibilities of a relationship, features a mid-tempo, at-ease bass groove.

The mid-tempo “Please Don’t Fall in Love” warns of the risks of a broken heart.

“Walk On By”, the lead single, went to number 92 on the US Billboard Hot 100 and number 46 in the UK. It is a smooth cover of the Burt Bacharach and Hal David penned tune that was first a hit for Dionne Warwick in 1964. This version features a funk/reggae flavor to it.

The title track, which is also the longest on the album clocking in at over six and a half minutes in length, closes the first half. “Feel No Fret” cooks on a steady simmer of a beat, accented by the backing horns.

Side two starts with “Stop the Rain”, a funky jam that uses the aged-old musical symbolism of cloudy skies for the aftermath of a romantic break-up. The lyrics briefly make reference to the Bill Wither's 1971 hit "Ain't No Sunshine" and the Ann Peebles' 1973 hit "I Can't Stand the Rain".

The band then rolls down “Atlantic Avenue” for a little bit of escape and renewal.

The B-side to the second single was the mid-tempo love song “Ace of Hearts”.

The ballad “Too Late to Cry” was the B-side to the first single.

“Fire Burning” closes out the original vinyl release on an up-tempo note. This was a welcome change at this point after a slower second half of the record.

The later 1994 CD release, under the title Feel No Fret...And More, included four additional tracks. They were the bouncy "Kiss Me", the sauntering "Love Won't Get in the Way", "Love Gives, Love Takes Away" and the toughing "Growing Pains". These four tracks would appear as the first side on their 1980 album Volume VIII; the second side served as a mini greatest hits set.

Overall, for me, the original vinyl release of this album from the Average White Band was just average. Back in the late 70's, it would have certainly been way too mellow for me.

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