Drummer Bill Curtis is one of soul’s great unsung heroes. As founder and leader of the legendary Fatback Band he’s cut more tight soul grooves than anyone you could care to mention. Even before the Fatbacks, Bill was laying down the solidest of rhythms in the Harlem Apollo house band and even before that he was rocking juke joints down in his native Fayetteville, North Carolina. Politeness prevents me telling his actual age, but it’s no secret that Bill is approaching 80… and he’s still out there making fabulous, real soul music as this new 9 tracker proves. The cuts on the LP were dug out from Curtis’ personal vault and towards the end of last year he played around with them – adding little extras, dubbing some guest players onto them and generally tightening things up. The result is a wonderful real soul album with no gimmicks and no concessions made to passing musical trends or fads. It will put to flight all those who moan that genuine soul just isn’t being made any more! Witness the quite wonderful ‘My Friend (To The End)’ to hear what I mean. It’s a tight little dance groove with remarkable, meaningful vocals from Isabella Gordon and Oscar McMillan. Ms Gordon also features on the strident ‘Dem Words’ and the jittery ‘He’s A Player’. The album’s other featured vocalists are Quenetta Simpson and Cordell Everett who duet on the sultry ‘Do It To Me Now’, which was recorded live at the London’s Jazz Cafe in 2005. Elsewhere, there’s plenty of groove heavy instrumentals – some featuring chanted vocal lines or those semi-spoken interjections that the Fatback Band specialised in… ‘All About U Baby’ will give you the idea. ‘Gooshy Sushi’ is a big fun tune while ‘Open House (Partay)’ is fast and furious with a feel of prime time JBs about it. Throughout, the core music is laid down by original members of the Fatback Band with augmentation provided by players of the calibre of the late Bubba Brooks, Robert Damper and Reuben Wilson and together they sound like the process was a whole lot of fun. The album may look a little unprepossessing but I can assure you that investigation will bring rewards. It’s available via Ace records and visitors to their web site – www.acerecords.co.uk – can access an in-depth feature on Bill Curtis and his contribution to soul’s heritage.