Long after the Average White Band disappeared from the charts, its impact was being felt. Hip-hop, urban contemporary and new jack swing artists sampled AWB's '70s classics to death in the late 1980s and early to mid-1990s, and such retro acts as the Brand New Heavies wore AWB's influence like a badge of honor. When Soul Tattoo was released in mid-1997, AWB was a quintet consisting of longtime members Alan Gorrie (lead vocals, bass), Onnie McIntyre (guitar, vocals) and Roger Ball (sax) and newcomers Eliot Lewis (keyboards, lead vocals, bass and guitar) and Pete Abbott (drums, percussion). Although not in a class with Cut the Cake or Soul Searching, the album (AWB's first since 1989's Aftershock) is surprisingly good. Thankfully, the band makes no attempt to appeal to 1997's urban contemporary market, and material ranging from the invigorating, horn-driven funk of "Soul Mine," "Love Is the Bottom Line" and the instrumental "Oh, Maceo" to the laidback soul of "Back to Basics," "Welcome to the Real World" and "No Easy Way to Say Goodbye" sounds like it could have been recorded 20 years earlier. Longtime AWB fans will be glad to hear how well Gorrie's voice has held up, and they'll definitely find Soul Tattoo to be inspired and satisfying. ~ Alex Henderson, Rovi

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