Born in 1970, Wild Cherry began life as a rock band. Gigging the local circuit, the Ohio group struggled to gain the success they strived for. But then one night, at a show, a fellow in the audience queried why they didn’t play funk music, and a light went off.
Switching their devotion from rock to funk, Wild Cherry finally found their calling and literally struck platinum.
Come summer 1976, the band netted a nationwide #1 hit single with “Play That Funky Music,” which recites the story of how they morphed into funksters. The pelvic-swaying tune starts out with a riff that could easily be mistaken for either Sly and the Family Stone’s “Thank You Fallentinme Be Mice Elf Agin” or Stevie Wonder’s “Superstition” before slipping into its own heated groove.
Catchy, a bit goofy and suitably attired for the disco age, there was no way a song this dance-worthy could be ignored.
Aside from “Play That Funky Music,” the band’s debut album, Wild Cherry (Epic/CBS Records) entails a dollop of comparably unforgettable tracks. Pierced with tooting horns, drifts of sincerely soulful choruses and bump and grind rhythms by the boxful, the disc checks in as a freakingly fine funkfest. Cool synthesizer drills, burly drumming and thumping bass lines steer the point home.
Every cut on Wild Cherry stirs the blood and body, but select favorites include the sassy and seductive “The Lady Wants Your Money” and a heavy duty cover of “I Feel Sanctified” that was initially done by the Commodores. Flawless timing, powered by smoking chops, compact arrangements and an earnest instinct for the music, Wild Cherry is essential ear candy for any true funk fan’s collection.