What does it sound like?:
The cynic in me rolls his eyes whenever The Hall Of Fame is mentioned, seeing them as an ever-expanding set of categories designed to make every musician that’s ever lived a winner at some point in their life, or afterlife. Steve Ferrone was inducted into The Drummer’s Hall Of Fame in 2014 after 24 years in The Heartbreakers. To help with the tribute to their old band mate, two ex-members of Average White Band turned up to play: Hamish Stuart with the raspy soulful voice and rhythm guitar and Malcolm ‘Molly’ Duncan on saxophone. Steve had joined AWB after the shocking death of Robbie McIntosh from an accidental overdose of heroin just as Pick Up The Pieces was about to knock Linda Ronstadt off the US number one spot and stayed until the big break up of 1983.
That reunion led to some gigs and this, a brand new album packed with original material and just a couple of covers over a total of nine tracks. Those covers are songs Tony Bennett and Barbara Streisand sing, well-written songs that demand to be properly sung. Their own material is easily good enough to rub shoulders with such esteemed company as equals.
The sound is wonderful, as though the people who made the 1974 classic white album, AWB, have grown up. It oozes effortless sophistication. Yes, they’ve slowed down a little and their edginess has mellowed, but the playing is detailed and intimate, the singing heartfelt and the horns lyrical, just as you’d hope an Average White Album would be in 2017. Every instrument plays its role equally in the blend of sound but there has to be a special mention for Ross Stanley, whose electric piano brings a touch of the blues to this soul outfit. Hamish’s voice, one of the finest in soul music ever, has to be carefully nurtured these days but he is still able to hit those high notes and does so with a professional sense of drama and timing.
The two best tracks bookend the album, both being affectionate tributes to fallen heroes. Mighty Falls, Pt 1 & 2 is about Mohammed Ali and Too Hip about Robbie McIntosh. They both stretch out into a blissful groove for the second part that could go on for several more minutes without overstaying their welcome. The other songs are more andante and romantic, Love And Learn and Just For A Thrill being especially flawless. Be warned, there is a reggae tune, Loose Change, but even that settles into the overall feel of the album after a few listens.
Average White Band still tour. There have only two members from the mid seventies. Three Sixty would be even better if Hamish had Alan Gorrie to push against vocally and Onnie McIntyre’s strutting guitar could add a bit more drive, a bit more actual funk. Roger Ball, the man behind the Pick Up The Pieces sax riff, these days chases solo pursuits. Sadly, there is no realistic chance of a reunion. In the meantime, Three Sixty is far better than any AWB fan could have anticipated. It’s an unexpected joy.
What does it all *mean*?
The Hall Of Fame has its plus points after all.
Goes well with…
Fond memories, a young heart whatever the chronological age and a continued faith in romance.
Might suit people who like…
Average White Band, Tony Bennett, old fashioned Soul music, a gentle vibe and a good groove.