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Album Review

The title may imply to it merely dips into the classic Ohio Players' funk hits of the '70s, but Renaissance's Backtrack certainly reaches into the past. Everything on the 11-track collection is taken from their brief stay at Capitol Record in the late '60s. This happens to be the only label where the group did not have a hit, but historically, the material is fairly interesting, since it sees them tenatively moving away from their straight soul roots and incorporating elements of Sly Stone-funk. However, it's very tenative — there's not a whole lot of funk here ("You to Me Are Everything" has a spacey wah-heavy groove that doesn't go anywhere, "Street Party" is cut-rate Sly), just a lot of Stax-Volt styled songs. That sounds intriguing on paper, but too much of this simply lies flat, due to underdeveloped songs and mild performances. Another problem is the audio is really muffled on Backtracks, so much that it makes it difficult to pay attention. For those dedicated fans that do, they may discover a gem or two (the uptempo "Stop Lying to Yourself" and the slow soulful "Here Today, Gone Tomorrow" are the standouts), which makes the whole thing worthwhile. However, Backtracks will just make them wish that this neglected period has been packaged in a better-sounding, comprehensive set, instead of this lackluster collection.


Formed: 1959 in Dayton, OH

Genre: R&B/Soul

Years Active: '50s, '60s, '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s, '10s

With their slinky, horn-powered grooves, impeccable musicianship, and eye-popping album covers, the Ohio Players were among the top funk bands of the mid-'70s. Emerging from the musical hotbed of Dayton in 1959, the group was originally dubbed the Ohio Untouchables, and initially comprised singer/guitarist Robert Ward, bassist Marshall "Rock" Jones, saxophonist/guitarist Clarence "Satch" Satchell, drummer Cornelius Johnson, and trumpeter/trombonist Ralph "Pee Wee" Middlebrooks. In late 1961, a relative...
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