B.T. Express – “This House is Smokin'”

I wonder if B.T. Express knew how significant their debut record would be.


Well, they probably did.

Originally a three-member session band comprised of members Bill Risbrook on tenor sax, Richard Thompson, guitarist, and Carlos Ward handling alto sax, the group soon grew to seven members, adding bassist Louis Risbrook, drummer Terrell Wood, percussionist Dennis Rowe, and vocalist Barbara Joyce, dubbing themselves the Madison Street Express. Not long after getting signed to the soul and nascent disco label Scepter Records they settled on the name Brooklyn Transit Express, after the NYC borough they hailed from, and after hooking up with songwriter Billy Nichols, the band recorded an irrepressible single in “Do It (Til You’re Satisfied),” a tight listen which felt like the funkiest subway ride you’ve ever been on. The track was a major hit on release in 1974, and the band quickly followed it up with their debut album of the same name, which was a smash, eventually going gold. The album itself is a treat to listen to, full of authoritative jams and righteous headnodders, paired with some strong singing from Barbara Joyce and Bill Risbrook. The keys, bass, horns and percussion are all on point with some nasty grooves. This is a supreme, shake ya ass-kind of record, making you feel like you’ve stepped into a Soul Train party. Do It would go on to have an enduring popularity, as damn near every song on the record has been sampled since by artists like DMXN.W.A.EPMD, Beyonce, SWV, Janet Jackson, and countless others.

From a record stacked with some fonkee moments, one highlight for me is the closer, “This House is Smokin’.” With the powerful bassline and fleet horns, this track really is smoking, and it’s a fine piece of work. Just wish it was longer!

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