Montgomery Express Does Party Fever

The Montgomery Express were five guys no older than their early 20s during their brief time together, circa 1974. You might think that their youthfulness would make for some energetic grooves. Instead, this obscure release, originally put out by the tiny Dove label, then distributed by Folkways (!), is as thick and slow as molasses. This sound never had a chance at pop or dance floor success, it's not produced enough to be soft soul, and not hard enough for the dance floor — it sounds like music made by much older men meant for closing out the bar at five a.m. Party Fever is an extremely compelling slice of mellow funk: the drummer sounds like he's being polite to his kit, or playing brushes only, guitars barely make it to a strum. What this leaves is room for the vocals. One of the vocalists was on sabbatical from the Five Blind Boys of Alabama, which gives an idea of the range and power on display. A keen falsetto powers "Steal Away," and the emotive power of "Precious Wing" is arresting. Even "Party Fever" is more of a slight temperature that nags you for a week than a fever. A point of reference would be the Meters on ludes — if head nodding is your thing, look no further. The Montgomery Express may only travel at 20 miles an hour, but you're gonna want to catch it. (Ikef)