required listening

CD Review

CHARLIE FAYE & the FAYETTES  -  The Whole Shebang

Bigger Better More (US) BBM 2008

1-2-3-4; I Don’t Need No Baby; The Cream Rises To The Top; The Whole Shebang; Stone Cold Fox; Night People; Baby We’ll Be OK; Tonight’s The Night; That’s What New Love Is For; Say Those Words; Riding High; You Gotta Give It Up (Party Song)

Charlie Faye & the Fayettes - Charlie Faye, Betty Soo and Akina Addeley - brought out their last, eponymous set in 2016 and it certainly went down well in this personal neck of the woods.  Since that time though, things, releases wise, have been somewhat quiet but the interim period has been used by the girls to expand their horizons, Charlie explaining:  “I wanted us to start venturing a little more into the early seventies, as so many of the great girl groups did.”  That said, the girls were - are - however much more than a pastiche of, or tribute to, the sixties finest and, while dutifully nodding backwards to their influences, they bring a refreshing element through to the pop-soul of today.  Faye’s name appears on the songwriting credits to all twelve songs here, sometimes as the sole author and sometimes with either the set’s producer/multi-instrumentalist, Eric Holden or Nashville singer/songwriter, Bill DeMain.  It is one of the songs from that latter pairing, ‘1-2-3-4‘, that opens the album with Charlie, Betty and Akina - enjoying full real music support throughout - bopping their way along the lines of an easy going pop number, complete with a harmonica break courtesy of Bill Barrett.  From there, it’s a move into Ronettes/Phil Spector territory for ‘I Don’t Need No Baby’, wisely chosen as the first single from the set and, if you’re like me, you’ll be instantly hooked, singing along to the title line well before the second minute.  ‘The Cream Rises To The Top‘ moves more towards the latter period alluded to by Charlie, the somewhat dramatic string arrangement derived by Jim Hoke and drumming provided by Pete Thomas of Elvis Costello’s group, the Attractions.  Faye and DeMain’s title track, ‘The Whole Shebang‘ takes us back to the earlier decade - we’re only at track four but I’m in seventh heaven.  Get your rocking shoes on for ‘Stone Cold Fox‘ and then kick them off to gently sway through ‘Night People’, enhanced by violin, cello and horn work!  Strings propel ‘Baby We’ll Be O.K.‘ until things slow up slightly for the bridge when the Spector influence sneaks in before the tempo creeps back up.  If things can be complex yet simple at the same time, this is it - a real classy number.  Doo-wop doesn’t get (totally) forgotten either - just set the laser on ‘Tonight’s The Night‘ which starts off in the perfect doo-wop mould before taking off into a neatly-harmonised beater, keyboardist Chris Joyner coming into his own.  Balladeers will definitely fall for ‘That’s What New Love Is For‘, its relaxing mood contrasting with the next up, ‘Say Those Words’, rocking along and taking us on to the soul/horn arranged (by Steve Elson) ‘Riding High’.  Closing all too soon, the cd goes out with ‘You Gotta Give It Up (Party Song)‘ and its rip-roaring funky finale, driven by guitar and drums.  Girl group fans could wish for nothing better than this - bloody fantastic!

review posted 2/2/19