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The Best of Hilton Felton

Hilton Felton

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Album Review

Washington, D.C.-based jazz keyboardist Hilton Felton put out a few privately pressed LPs and singles on his Hilton's Concept label in the 1970s and early '80s. This compilation has five tracks from those releases from the first half of the 1970s, all running between four and nine minutes. Even within its relatively brief number of selections, it spans a pretty wide range of soul-jazz, almost to the point that it wouldn't be surprising if each cut was taken from a different disc — which, alas, is impossible to ascertain, since the annotation doesn't specify the source of each cut. Felton's piano and Hammond organ don't dominate the proceedings, and he doesn't showboat, with one possible exception. Instead, he's an integrated part of band arrangements that draw from early-'70s funk, occasionally incorporating Latin percussive influences (especially on "Bee Bop Boogie"). On "Spreading Fever," greasy funk sets the tone; "Tell Her Love Has Felt the Need" sounds a bit like Booker T. & the MG's stretching out. "Dream Come True," by far the most commercial song (and the only one with vocals), combines both parts of a single credited to the Three of Us, and deftly blends wah-wah guitar, soulful harmony vocals, and a lightly spiritual feel. "Your Analysis" gives whatever unit he was working within at the time a chance to freak out, the guitarist unleashing a furious fuzzy blues-rock guitar solo before Felton takes the one extended organ solo on this set, really digging out some eerie groundswells of Hammond swirls at a couple points. True, a lot of soul-jazz acts were working the territory covered on this anthology at the time. But perhaps because these were privately pressed, the production is far more no-frills and the execution grittier (especially on the drums) than it was on virtually all endeavors of the sort on sizable labels. It's easy to envision this stuff going over well to patrons of D.C.-area joints not expecting something on the order of Donald Byrd, but appreciative of decent original material in a similar vein that rises well above lounge music. Considering that a good number of LPs and singles are listed in the liner notes' discography, however, the 35-minute running time seems short for a best-of.

The Best of Hilton Felton, Hilton Felton
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