Full Force

  • Full Force
  • Full Force (Columbia) 1985 
  • Full Force Get Busy 1 Time! (Columbia) 1986 
  • Guess Who's Comin' to the Crib? (Columbia) 1987 
  • Smoove (Columbia) 1989 

The six members of Brooklyn’s Full Force — three brothers and three others — write, play, sing and produce themselves as well as other artists. In a very short time, boundless energy and a positive outlook have turned Paul Anthony, Bowlegged Lou, B-Fine and their three associates into a remarkably successful full-service hit machine and one of the most influential organizations in “black music.”

Full Force first found fame by creating and performing the music for U.T.F.O.’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” smash. They did the same for Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam, yielding huge hits in “I Wonder If I Take You Home,” “Head to Toe” and “Lost in Emotion.” Their own debut album ties things up in a neat package, with “United,” a track that features U.T.F.O., Lisa Lisa with Cult Jam and the Real Roxanne with Howie Tee. It also includes an answer to their own (rhetorical) song, “Girl If You Take Me Home.” Full Force is nothing but genuine urban contemporary music, a vibrant mix of rap, rhythm, soul and rock.

Get Busy 1 Time! displays the same stylistic dexterity. Whether they’re juicing up a mellow soul tune (“Temporary Love Thing,” “Body Heavenly”) with restrained beatbox percussion, harmonizing over a busy scratch track (“Never Had Another Lover,” “So Much”), or showing their affection for Sly Stone (“Old Flames Never Die”), Full Force absorbs and processes various influences into a unique collection of dance sounds.

In a strangely directed crossover bid, the cover of Guess Who’s Comin’ to the Crib? shows a white suburban family breaking out over the Full Force record in the hands of their sunglasses-sporting little girl. Musically, the band is on an energy rush, busying up the tracks with synth horns, complex vocal arrangements and all sorts of percussion action. Downplaying the ballads for a funkier streetwise rhythm sound, Full Force employs dialogue, slang, sound effects and turntable tricks to enliven the dance-ready cuts and provide surprises at every sonic turn. An entertaining record that, cover aside, isn’t especially geared to appeal across color (or format: check out “Black Radio”) lines.

Smoove is so diverse, accomplished and easily appealing that it doesn’t take much imagination to envision Full Force hosting a Saturday night variety show on network television. Besides carefully thanking everybody under the sun, the polite sextet runs a master class in modern African-American music, setting their songs in handsome, lush productions with enough rhythm to move even the most casual listener onto the dancefloor. The program contains rap, soul (a reverent medley of classics from Motown, New York and Philadelphia avoids any single stylistic identification), mild house (with guest vocals by Samantha Fox) and new jack swing, all walking a rare line between street credibility and mainstream accessibility.

[Terry Rompers / Ira Robbins]

See also: UTFO