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April 14 - 21, 2000

[Music Reviews]

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*** Andre Williams


(Tuff City)

Cult '50s R&B icon Andre Williams has recorded four comeback albums -- in the mold of the late Screamin' Jay Hawkins, these have been done mostly on the cheap for tiny labels with erratic, slouching accompaniment -- but his sizable back catalogue has remained frustratingly out of print. The only survey currently available -- an import, at that -- is Mr. Rhythm, which collects his sides for the Fortune label, including his best-known work: chitlin-circuit faux dance-craze faves ("The Greasy Chicken" and "Bacon Fat"), lascivious romps ("Jail Bait"), the occasional vocal-group weeper ("Just Because"). His jive-ass street patter (fashioned in part after the mile-a-minute slang-slinging personality DJs who championed his early hits) has gained him grandfather status in both hip-hop and garage punk, but it's the latter audience he's courted since being rediscovered panhandling on the streets of Detroit. Until now, the period between his Fortune novelty hits and his drug-fueled homeless stint has been ignored by everyone save a select group of DJs and obscure-funk collectors.

During the '60s and '70s Williams served primarily as a producer and an A&R man (to Ike & Tina Turner, among others), but he also continued to record. From these lost years, Pig Snoots collects a hefty dose of instrumental grooves (including the two in the title), which were apparently marketed as soul-food novelties in the tradition of "Greasy Chicken." But the material shows that Williams stayed hip to the times, unleashing hard, fatback funk with massive breakbeat potential and the same sly, wiry tenaciousness that marked his early work.

-- Carly Carioli
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