The American Breed – Bend Me, Shape Me: The Best Of The American Breed (1994)

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Having established a loyal fan club in and around their home base of Chicago, Illinois, Gary and The Knight Lights were clearly geared to raise their profile to an even higher degree. Aside from being a hot live act, they released several singles that harvested a decent amount of airplay. But things really started happening in a big way for Gary and The Knight Lights when inking a contract with the ACTA label and switching their name to the American Breed.

Comprised of 17 songs, Bend Me, Shape Me: The Best Of The American Breed (Varese Sarabande Records) certainly does contain the finest hours of the ace band — and then some. Adhering to the old adage, “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the American Breed remained hopelessly devoted to a select style of music, which was bold and brassy pop rock. Stupendous four-part harmonies and whopper hooks peacefully rub elbows with the hearty horn arrangements carpeting the band’s material. Oodles of danceable rhythms also grip the reins, making it hard not to shake your buttocks when hearing an American Breed tune.

The summer of 1967 saw the band score their first nationwide hit single, “Step Out Of Your Mind.” Peaking at No. 24 on the charts, the song was tailgated by “Bend Me, Shape Me,” which soared to the No. 5 position as the year came to a close. Early 1968 witnessed the American Breed visiting the top forty once again, as “Green Light” reached the No. 39 slot. All the earmarks of the band’s distinctive sound, from the skyscraper choruses to the honking instrumentation to the plucky tempos to the groovy vibes, are firmly wedged within these winning numbers, which are of course featured on this collection.

Other juicy jewels included on Bend Me, Shape Me: The Best Of The American Breed are “Train On A One Track Mind,” “Keep The Faith,” “I Don’t Think You Know Me,” “Don’t Forget About Me” and “Ready, Willing And Able.” Although the American Breed’s power popping horn rock pieces were very similarly-inclined, they did venture beyond their comfort zone on “Master Of My Fate,” a moody, slinky sitar-salted slice of psychedelic royalty, which is presented here as well.

Splitting up in 1970, the American Breed evolved into Rufus, a great soul funk band starring the saucy vocals of Chaka Khan, that went onto have major hit records like “Tell Me Something Good,” “You Got The Love,” “One You Get Started” and “Sweet Thing.” And good for them, being the tight and tasty unit they were they deserved the continued success.

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