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* * * * Great Balls of Fire * * * Good Vibrations * * Maybe Baby * Running on Empty : : BRITISH BITE

October 11, 1987|CONNIE JOHNSON

* * * "OBVIOUS." Black Britain. Virgin. In recent years, several chart-worthy black groups have emerged from England. But where Loose Ends, Mel & Kim and Five Star mostly update '70s American soul and give it a British accent, Black Britain's sound is grittier, funkier and often politically-oriented.

It would be hard to imagine visually and musically stylish groups like Five Star tossing off Black Britain's lyric about obsessive love: "I would kill this man in this jewelry shop / Just to keep you dressed up."

The quintet's debut album (mostly produced by Ted Currier, who worked on George Clinton's hard-biting "Atomic Dog") also offers a hint of Parliament-Funkadelic on "It's Not Material," a bit of David Bowie-ish phrasing by lead singer Ron Elliston on "Real Life," and a taste of social commentary on "Ain't no Rockin' (In a Police State)."

"They whipped us and shipped us," bellows Elliston on "Black Britain Man," a tirade against England's white back-to-Africa advocates. The group contends that blacks are entitled to an equal share of the pie even if--as implied in the album's title cut--it's rare to even receive an invitation to the table.

But they also go for pure fun in cuts like "Night People" and a smoky remake of the Beginning of the End's 1971 dance hit "Funky Nassau." While making no obvious bid for Top 10 accessibility, Black Britain tops much of what passes for originality on the record charts.

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