Cut the Cake is the third album by Scottish soul-funk group the Average White Band, released in June 1975 on Atlantic. The album is their second for the label and the first to feature drummer Steve Ferrone, who stepped in following the death of founding member Robbie McIntosh.
Bassist/singer Alan Gorrie and guitarist/singer Hamish Stuart trade instruments on the album’s first two tracks, “Cut the Cake” and “School Boy Crush.” All the songs are band originals except for the Leon Ware/Pam Sawyer composition “If I Ever Lose This Heaven.” American percussionist Ray Barretto appears on the tracks “It’s a Mystery” and “When They Bring Down the Curtain.”
The album’s title-sake opener begins with a twin-guitar figure in D-minor, where sliding upper-triads cascade over snaky low notes. An abrupt G/C sax refrain precedes the full onslaught of the verses, which are marked by wiggly sax, pocketed bass, and clipped/contrasting fretboard activity.
“It’s a Mystery” slides in on G7 with shuffling suspended notes. The verses are marked by strutting precision and accented third’s. During the chorus, an F-E-D-E-A-minor progression resolves itself with shifting root notes while an airy vocal melody is encircled with hazy mid-range harmonies. A light woodwind solo in Amaj7 graces the 3:00 mark.
“If I Ever Lose This Heaven” starts with randomized notes over a misty open-cadence before tightening into a 32-bar syncopated verse rooted in B♭. Soaring harmonies and flowing layers embellish the descending F♯ figure of the chorus, which reoccurs at 3:07 and rides out side one in a climactic two-minute fadeout.
The chorus of “When They Bring Down the Curtain” opens the tune over a harmonized, A-rooted chordal progression (1-3-2-4-3-6-2-5) that modulates to Cmaj7 for a second go-around. A half-step drop from low-F signals the crescendo-laden line “When it gets to you, girl, that’s the hardest part to win.” The verses veer between D-minor and G-minor with slow, open-cadence chords over tight beats, light wah-wah licks, and beaming synth tones.
At the outset of “Why,” a circular bass/sitar figure hovers over a full-step drop from E amid a closed hi-hat triplet. The verse vocals emphasize suspended second’s. The chordal backdrop floats in cushiony major-sevenths (F-E♭) during the bridge and reclines in lush Fmaj7 for the chorus. At 2:28, a smooth saxophone solo embellishes a repeat of the intro motif. Sixty seconds of soft, high harmonies ride the song to a modulated fadeout.
“Cloudy” beacons with slow piano and light, flangey guitar notes in D amid a rhythmless backdrop. Ghostly high notes and echoey bass sustains foreshadow the entrance of drums at 2:30. The ballad retains an airy, open-ended feel that stands at the threshold of a full-blown song.
Impact and Legacy
Released just months after AWB’s stateside breakthrough with their acronymic second album and the Billboard chart-topper “Pick Up the Pieces,” Cut the Cake and its title track consolidated the band’s international success.
Issued as the lead-off single, “Cut the Cake” made it to No. 10 on the Billboard Top 100 and No. 7 on the Hot R&B chart. Two other singles were released from the album: “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” (#39 pop, #25 R&B) and “School Boy Crush” (#33 pop, #22 R&B).
The album appeared just as soul-funk was taking off in the U.K. Comparable albums released the same year as Cut the Cake include Out In Front by the Olympic Runners, Our Only Weapon Is Our Music by Gonzalez, and the self-titled debuts by Hummingbird and UPP. The softer hallmarks of AWB were echoed by fellow Scots Cado Belle, who issued their singular album the following year.
“Cloudy” was covered by Tamiko Jones on her 1977 album of the same name.
A1. “Cut the Cake” (4:03)
A2. “School Boy Crush” (4:57)
A3. “It’s a Mystery” (3:54)
A4. “Groovin’ the Night Away” (3:41)
A5. “If I Ever Lose This Heaven” (4:57)
B1. “Why” (4:06)
B2. “High Flyin’ Woman” (3:46)
B3. “Cloudy” (4:21)
B4. “How Sweet Can You Get” (3:58)
B5. “When They Bring Down the Curtain” (4:44)
Alan Gorrie – vocals, bass, guitar (A1, A2)
Hamish Stuart – vocals, guitar, bass (A1, A2)
Roger Ball – keyboards, synthesizer, alto & baritone saxophones, arranger (Dundee horns)
Malcolm Duncan – tenor saxophone
Onnie McIntyre – guitar
Steve Ferrone – drums, percussion
Ray Barretto – congas (A3, B5)
Arif Mardin – producer