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*** Prince Charles and the City Beat Band



These three CD reissues of LPs from 1979, 1982, and 1984 restore to life the entire oeuvre of Boston's most prominent band of the funk era. The City Beat Band made their mark purely by effort. Their voice, Robin Hood, hasn't much tone or range, and the songs struggle, and usually fail, to master the crazy-quilt rhythms and gothic melodies of their Parliament-Funkadelic role models. But all 36 tracks in these CDs exude a happy wonkiness far removed from the angry menace and cold mockery that underlie most funk bands' music -- a glad-times message much closer to disco than most funk bands wanted to go. In ballads like "I Need You," girl-watching treats like "Skintight Tina" and "Tight Jeans," and the soulful glide songs "Move Your Feet (to the Beat)," "City Life," "More Money," and "Jungle Stomp," the band actually find something like a voice of their own: Robin Hood's intoxicated, baritone smooch seconded by Prince Charles's loopy mellotron work. It's not exactly goofy, in the best funk style, but it's definitely a gorgeous sound -- almost lovable.

-- Michael Freedberg

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