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Review Fri Jan 23 2015

Fall in Love with the Universal Togetherness Band

Universal-Togetherness-Band.jpgThe Numero Group is easily the most well curated archival record label. They find a way of digging through decades of musical offerings and shining a light on forgotten or mishandled musicians, giving them the spotlight the always deserved. Their releases span the world with the label's hometown of Chicago being no exception.

Recently they have been looking a pretty obscure segment of Chicago history. During 23 weeks of 1982, "The Chicago Party" hit WCIU airways with a heavy dose of R&B, disco, funk, and soul. It was a more authentic and outrageous "Soul Train," embodying the Chicago South Side at the time. This week The Numero Group released a small collection of songs from one of those performers, Chicago's Universal Togetherness Band, a band that you didn't know you loved until now.

The reason you might not have realized your love of Universal Togetherness Band is because they only recorded during a five semesters in the late '70s and early '80s at Columbia College, led by the amazing Andre Gibson. Despite their short tenure, Gibson and crew racked up dozens of songs and performed throughout Chicago spreading their good vibes. This past December Numero Group released four 45s from this manic Chicago Party era, including The Universal Togetherness Band's "More than Enough." The song and subsequent video release served as a primer of what was to come.

Universal Togetherness Band is mined from the massive library of tracks from the group. The first time I played the collection I was enthralled by every one of the songs. They all had a familiar quality to them, carrying a rhythm and overall groove that make them feel like instant classics. The music is such a great example of the disco funk era that it truly feels like a pillar of the time instead of a forgotten addendum. I'm actually hard-pressed to say that any of the songs were anything but amazing.

The deep funky bass off album opener "Ain't Gonna Cry" sets the stage in the best way possible. It sets the base of the band's sound. There is really no stopping Universal Togetherness Band once you get introduced to the smoothness and positivity of their sound. The pensive "Try Try Try" has Gibson crooning about working hard with utmost sincerity. That genuineness permeates throughout the groups songs. Gibson's voice has this soft an tenderness to it that makes songs like "Call For Love" and "I Want You" at the end of the disc hit hard. The album's love ballads hit a tremendous high towards the middle of the collection with "My Sentiment." The crooning lyrics of desire paired with the overwhelming suaveness of the sax make it the perfect synthesis of a funk love song.

While I really leaned towards the funk ballads on the collection, there is no hiding how great the party songs are. "Once in a Lifetime," probably the sonically densest song in the collection, hits the ground running. The song raises up the dance punk aspect of the band so high that you just need to throw down you moves to its boisterous celebration of everything. Then there are songs like "Real Thrill" that just flow so effortlessly as it combines funk, disco, and copious amounts of bravado as Gibson chants "It's the real thrill coming through!" I dare anyone who listens to it to try not sing along to its chorus. You will absolutely succumb to its party-starting catchiness.

Like all of Numero Group's releases, this collection is incredibly well produced. The songs sound pristine and the included booklet contains candid photos of the band There is also a lengthy essay from Numeros' Jon Kirby, who meticulously combs through the group's unfortunately short career. That's the biggest take away for me from this collection of songs, how these musicians were able to create such quality tracks and not get more recognition in their time. Universal Togetherness Band should have been played in clubs with the classics of the era. The silver lining is that they're getting their due now.

Numero will keep up pumping up this strangely infectious era of Chicagoland disco funk with their forth coming release Ultra-High Frequencies: The Chicago Party due out in March. This compilation will document musicians who appeared on the 23 week run of the show, including the Universal Togetherness Band. For now you can appease the wait with The Universal Togetherness Band. The collection is available now on LP, CD and MP3 from Numero Group's site. I seriously can't recommend this collection enough.

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Feature Thu Dec 31 2015

Our Final Transmission Days

By The Gapers Block Transmission Staff

Transmission staffers share their most cherished memories and moments while writing for Gapers Block.

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