In the mid to late 1970’s, there were few bands who could challenge the all conquering funk and soul behemoth, Earth, Wind and Fire. Worldwide, their record sales and sell-out concerts were legendary but in Canada, another band matched that at every turn, even outselling them in that country.
Crack of Dawn were (and are) that band. Still with founding members Alvin, Rupert and Carl (on sax, guitar and drums, respectively), Crack of Dawn have lost none of their incredible musicianship and intuition. Like Parliament and Funkadelic, both of whom it is easy to catch the influences of, this is a band first and foremost – real musicians playing real music with a chemistry that can’t be faked.
Their years-long hiatus, largely due to distribution woes and a failure to break to American singles market, is finally over, and Spotlight is a much-needed retrospective that allows listeners to, in many cases, hear their classic work dating back to 1976 for the first time, as well as their new compositions. Alarm bells may well be ringing at that phrase but rest assured, Crack of Dawn are not a band who reject their past or have felt the need to re-invent themselves for a new audience. Pure bloody mindedness? No, they’re simply so good that anyone of any age can immediately understand how they have become one of Canada’s best-loved and most successful bands of all time.
Crack of Dawn’s new old sound:
A quick aside – there’s something immensely pleasing about a band recording a song named after themselves. It’s like the key to a secret lock, a celebration of themselves. It really should happen more often. Suffice to say, the album opens with, yes, “Crack of Dawn”, opening with a fanfare of horns and a cavalcade of drooling keyboards and a driving, irresistible beat. Par for the course would be that an opener of such outrageous funk should be followed by a mellower, downbeat number. Lo’, Crack of Dawn gives us entirely the opposite – a slow swell suddenly explodes into a firework display of bravado musicianship. Third track, “Boobie Ruby”, trumps the previous two with an almost filthy level of funk, a sound which modern soul artists can only dream of summoning from the bowels of the Earth. A word too for lead vocalist, Michael Dunston, a perfect foil for the rest of the band – a groaningly assured voice which has no need for sonic gymnastics, its tone and power used with delicious restraint.
Crack of Dawn are a band worthy of re-discovery – indeed, the real tragedy is that to a large extent, it will be discovery for the first time. A magnificent and hugely life-affirming release.
Review originally appeared on Sonic News