New Birth was originally culled from five groups in the Louiseville, Kentucky music scene; The Niteliters, a savagely good funk band of rhythmic and 'horny' melodicism, singer Allen Frey, a quartet of male singers named the Now Sound, and a quartet of female voices entitled The Mint Juleps. They were discovered by Harvey Fuqua of the Moonglows, and over time (and some whitteling out of excessive members) became just one comprehensive and very good group, The New Birth. This compilation seeks to achieve, in its scope, to capture and display these fine musicians at their finest (and slightly harder) funk moments, and boy, what an ensemble of sounds! The element I have always admired of New Birth is how a mesh of talented individuals could come together and equally exhibit their individuality within a tight, musical atmosphere, both instrumentally and vocally. The opening title 'We're Back' is from an older Warner Bros lp released in 1982, and though is a solid funk/disco tune, thankfully the rest of the project focuses on their 1970's RCA/Buddah catalogue. 'I Can Understand It' sets of the tone of those times with the deadly rhythm work of Robin Russell on drums and the magnificence of Leslie Wilson on lead vocals. This rehash of Bobby Womack's original track breathes life and danceability, as well the perfect weaving of the very different vocal styles of the singers assembled, who make a fantastic backing chorus to support the lead vox and create the perfect tension for this six-minute climactic opus. Not only one to fare soul/funk tunes well, down-home groove talents are displayed on the slow-roll of 'Down and Dirty', 'Damn' and the now classic (and highly ifluential) 'Con-Funk-Shun'. The instrumentals mainly belong to one of the five Nite Liters albums released in the first past of the 70's, and after that group disbanded the remaining musicians combined with two vocalists became the New Birth. The singers in question were the aforementioned Allen Frey and Londee Wiggins, and at a later date they would also be joined by Michagin brothers Melvin and Leslie Wilson and Ann Bogan to share vocal duties. But more on that later :) 'Pretty Words don't mean a thing (lie to me)' featuring Tanita Gaines from the Mint Juleps on lead duties is a wonderful call-and-response slice of finger-wagging 'watch for him' brashness that definately makes its point clear. Ditto for 'One Way Bus' which also features Ms. Gaines. These two tracks possess big wholloping 60's style arrangements that are too irrestable to ignore. Next up is one of my slower-tempo personal favourites, 'Never Can Say Goodbye', a cover of the Jackson 5 track. New Birth always had a knack of outshining the original tunes, and this is no exception. Londee's naturally high girlish reaches and sighs create a perfect and timeless pop moment. On 'Patiently', a song she also co-wrote, her fragile delivery is gorgeous with an intro complete with wailing wind samples and the crisp clap of a snare, with back-up addlibs swirling around her voice as it quietly makes its way elsewhere. Than there is Ann Bogan; her focused wails and tart delivery on the self-penned 'Honey Bee' are just, well, awesome, you know? On the male front, Leslie pretty much headed most of the lead vocal duties, and his gospel inflected, vibrato rich honeyed sound adds the perfect resin to the blues of 'Lonely Room', the groove romp of 'Come and dream some paradise' and definately stands out on the shared vocal duties of the explosive 'Buck and the Preacher Man'. When Allen Frey gets his rare turn to deliver his versatile tone, he sure as hell does on the the same track as well as the incomporable 'I've got dreams to remember'. Pretty much this is a perfect compilation, and combined with its partner, 'The Very Best of the New Birth Inc. -Where Soul Meets Funk' makes for an excellent insight into the evolution of these talented groovers and their musical collaborations together in whateva hybrid was there at the time. A must have. (Props to A. Scott Galloway for an excellent accompanying essay as well).