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Friday, August 18, 2017

Fat Larry's Band - Spacin Out

Name: FLB (Fat Larry's Band)
Album: Spacin Out
Year: 1978
Style: R&B, Soul, Funk, Disco
Similar Bands: Delfonics, Commodors, Bootsy Collins, Parliament Funkadelic, Kool & the Gang, Harold Melvin & Blue Notes
One Word Review: Charming Space Funk
Based Out Of: Philadelphia, PA
Labels: Fantasy Records, WMOT records
 Spacin Out - Cover & Record
Spacin Out - Back & Record
Spacin Out (1978)
  1. Close Encounters of a Funky Kind 4:22
  2. Countryside 4:18
  3. Space Lady 4:41
  4. Boogie Town 5:52 /
  5. Good Time 3:25
  6. We Just Can't Get It Together 6:00
  7. Love Alive 4:50
  8. Starstruck 3:26
Album Rating (1-10): 7.0

Members & Other Bands:
Fat Larry James - Drummer, Producer, Conductor, Arranger (Larry James Band, Delfonics, Blue Magic, Damon Harris, Slick, Philly Cream, )
Art Capehart - Trumpet, Flute (Kent Gomez, Sweet Thunder, Blue Magic, Kool & The Gang)
Jimmy Lee - Trombone, Sax (Sweet Thunder)
Doug Jones Sax (Sweet Thunder, Carol Hahn)
Erskine Williams - Keys (Rick James, Melanie, Blue Magic, Damon Harris, Stone City Band, Temptations)
Ted Cohen - Guitar (Blue Magic, Damon Harris, Slick)
Larry LaBes - Bass (Blue Magic, Damon Harris, Slick, Philly Cream, Impact, Ultimate, )
Darryl Grant - Percussion
Alan Rubens - Exec Producer
Steve Bernstein - Exec Producer

Unknown-ness: Never heard of FLB. I assume it is a standard funky R&B act, and since it is dated 1978, that would make sense. Its interesting to see their take on the intergalactic style of music, probably matching style to Capt Sky and another album I have yet to review, Lenny White. Maybe a little like Parliament Funkadelic, but probably smoother and less challenging.

Album Review: Started in Philly by drummer “Fat” Larry James, this group came together and released 9 albums in 10 years between 76-86. They were bigger in the UK than the states, having 5 charting hits. At 38 years old, James had a fatal heart attack (Dec 87), and the group disbanded. This album, combined with the titles like Close Encounters and Space Lady, has a sort of Space Disco theme, which was a thing thanks to the combination of Star Wars & the era of disco. A majority of these songs were written with Larry’s Wife, Doris

“Close Encounters of a Funky Kind” begins with space noises and synth effects, which continue throughout the song, but the funky bass line and brass section create a fun groove, which is also quite silly lyrically. The chorus is just that; a harmonized chorus of vocals, and is quite catchy. They whole vibe puts the listener in a much more New Orleans mood than Philly. Not that anyone else should care or agree, but the piano reminds me of the 90’s band EMF.
“Countryside” is a slower, mellow R&B slice of butter that has more in common with male vocal groups like Smokey & the Miracles and Harold Melvin than any disco, even though there are some swirling strings, and punctuating brass. This has more laid back groove than Fresh Prince’s Summertime.  The lead vocals are higher pitch (and can hold notes for a long time), while a deeper set of vocals supports in call-back.
“Space Lady” was the b-side to the “Boogie Town” single. And is pure disco, with weird space vocal distortions (can hardly understand when they sing space lady) and a bubbling, rubber band bouncing bass effects. The song advances into a continually driving harmonized disco, with all of the stereotypical affects.
“Boogie Town” was a single. It starts with a drum beat, and is quickly added to with a funky zig zagging synth hook, and brass. The first vocals are distorted through a robotic effect, and then shuffling chorus adds to the disco groove. A different robotic vocal effect; a slowed down, digitized, auto-tune-like effect,  
 assists the next “verse” and all future verses. The jungle bongos feel very prevalent in the mixing. The song feels like a generic song someone would try to make today to capture and mimic the era of disco. I could hear Chromeo doing this.

“Good Time” begins with a simple guitar hook, and has other slight effects added behind. Then the strings are added, and an upbeat, care free disco jam begins to take hold. Assisted by trumpets and ringing guitars, the song continues to use the boogie theme to have a good time. This is like a more laid back version of Kool & The Gang’s “Celebrate.”
“We Just Can't Get It Together” starts with a twinkling piano intro. It builds into a swaying sorrowful slow song. Beginning vocals are deep, speaking directly to the listener. The vocals jump up in pitch, and sing an explanation of why the lovers can’t work out their differences, with the help of a chorus bringing up the background. Flute flutterings also bring in the sentimental vibe as a peace offering to work things out.
“Love Alive” is a cover of a Gary Wright song from 1975. It starts with swirling synth, and gets a little funky with call and response trumpet to keys. It takes the original song and speads it up, ads a little Detroit soul to an already soulful song, and adds some extra funk. The structure is basic, with verse leading to catchy chorus. The song, although able to, does not get out of control with the instrumentation, and instead keeps a tight reigned in melody that is enjoyable, down to the trumpets interpreting the vocal melody for a section. The song gets a little jammy- in a good way- with about a minute and a half to go.
“Starstruck” is a folksy, guitar picking song at first, but transfers to shuffling disco melody with horns and bass leading the way. Female vocals lay the groundwork for the melody and chorus. The verse is just a pleasant, good natured and upbeat male vocals having a good time. Squeaky synth leads the track out, and the female chorus singing Starstuck fades away.

Stand Out Track: Love Alive

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