funk music

Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Analog Son

Posted by funkatop On July - 1 - 2014 1 COMMENT
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Analog SonAs we mentioned in another review, we very rarely get amazing funk CD’s, but June proved to be the funkiest month that we can recall in a very long time. Two debut releases hit the market within a few months of each other, one from the band Analog Son and another from 22 year old bass phenom Mike Zabrin called Funktastic. And just like Zabrin, Analog Son came out swinging a heavy funk mallet to do some serious soul damage.

Two friends, Josh Fairman and Jordan Linit have put together some amazing original funk tunes. They finally decided to commit their creations to CD with the help of some of the funkiest musicians in the business. The credits of their self titled debut album Analog Son is a virtual Who’s Who of funky goodness including members of Lettuce, The New Mastersounds, Dumpstaphunk, The Motet, John Scofield, Soulive and more. And when that much talent joins forces, the end result is inevitable.

While many may not have ever heard of Analog Son‘s members previously, you’ve almost certainly experienced their work supporting acts such as Trombone Shorty, The Funky Meters, The New Mastersounds and Orgone to name a few.

The 10 song album doesn’t simply have bits of brilliance. It is immaculately brilliant in itself. No wasted space, no boring fillers, and all sharing the same commonality of foot tapping funk riffs and sways that it will bring tears to your eyes. Like watching your firstborn win their first award after years of driving them to practice. That “YES! It’s finally paid off!” feeling. In this case, “YES! Finally some amazing new funk music!

The album presents itself in a mode similar to The Monophonics offerings where they commit to the “sound”. In keeping with that tradition, they made sure that they recorded the songs on vintage recording equipment and tape machines to make sure that the nostalgic feeling was present all the way down to the bone. The album is littered with horn stabs, rolling bass grooves, and hard smacking snares and creates a literal time machine back into the 70’s putting it squarely in the hippy zone.

The commitment to doing it right continued to the opposite side of the microphone when they armed the board with live audio engineer Joe Michaels who has worked with The Rolling Stones, Blood Sweat and Tears, and even Larry Graham who didn’t waste time denoting the similarities by stating that, “Mixing these guys is like pure funk heaven….reminds me of my Larry Graham days!“.

While the album is all about hand delivering more funk than your brain can handle, there are still plenty of wide open breathy moments of straight out instrumental jam sessions like Analog Island that will have Tower of Power fans reaching for their blood pressure medicine. And just enough vocal moments to keep Brand New Heavies junkies wide eyed and shaky tailed.

As mentioned, the album is littered front to back with some of the most incredible musicians on the planet including The Motet keyboardist Joey Porter, Dumpstaphunk‘s Ivan Neville on the track Struttin’, The Shady Horns of Lettuce and The New Mastersounds fame and a literal endless library of immense talent you’ll have to witness for yourself. Vocally they brought Devon Parker on for 3 tracks, Ivan Neville, and Adam Lufkin although the meat of the album is primarily instrumental. A fact that is neither its strength or its weakness. It’s just mastered funky perfection emblazoned on record.

From the straight out horn stabs and Leslie keys of The Professor, the shuck and strut of She’s Somethin, and the bump and sway of Cadillac Sundays, Analog Son has something to bring to the table for every funk fan. If you’re a fan of the family tree of funk, they’ve got a monkey to swing from your branch.

Without a doubt, Analog Son took the time to do this debut album the right way and not since the debut album Emergency on Planet Earth from Jamiroquai have we witnessed it done so phenomenally well the first time out of the gate. It’s pretty undeniable that you’ll see more of Analog Son in the very near future and we’re stoked we were here to witness it.

Without a doubt, head to Amazon to snag a copy of Analog Son‘s debut album. We give this work of art 5 out of 5 afros.

5 out of 5 afros

 

Review: Mike Zabrin – Funktastic

Posted by funkatop On June - 30 - 2014 3 COMMENTS
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SMike Zabrin Funktasticometimes you’ll hit a dry spell where it seems like no one is putting out any new funk music and then there’s a sudden deluge of great material coming out from surprise locations. In this case, we had two amazing entries into the funk arena which we’ll simply just cross link once both reviews are finished because there’s so much to say about each one. Those entries are Analog Son and Mike Zabrin’s Funkatastic.

Mike Zabrin came to us via Funkatopia friend John Heintz from Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown fame. Mike Zabrin is all of 22 years old and is already considered a bass player phenom. And to have a debut album that comes out swinging like Funkatastic is a feat in itself, but Mike surrounded himself with some incredible musicians, producers and performers to create what we consider one of the best albums of the year.

The 11 track collection of songs is a perfectly blended journey of funk, jazz, acid jazz fusion, and pop elements. Imagine if you had the funk jazz flow of Jill Scott, pieces of the experimental foundation of Bilal, and funk elements of Parliament and threw them in a blender. The end result would be Mike Zabrin’s Funktastic.

The special guests throughout the album include Parliament Funkadelic’s Kendra Foster, the insanely soulful pipes of Sam Trump and Anthony Pavel, horns from Clifford Adams (Kool & The Gang and Sun Ra Arkestra), Michael Ray (Kool & The Gang), Greg Hollowell (Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band), Norwood Fisher (Fishbone), and tons more. What could have been a mish mash of unrelated song structures ends up being soul artistry.

The overall feel of Funktastic lends itself to the aforementioned laid back acid jazz fusion in the overall spirit of early Jill Scott meets Erykah Badu. Songs that you will love but that may never find a home on Top 40 radio. However, one minimalist track entitled You Can Count On Me might actually have a shot at position on the Top 40 charts. Vocalist WOGZ adds her Lorde like approach scatting “Me, Me, I’m the one that you should be with. Me, Me, I’m the one that you should sleep with.” which creates a sweet radio hook if we ever heard one. With its spacey riff and ska flair, it very well might serve as gateway point to the deeper, more intricate song treasures that the CD has to offer. Radio might actually play this song for the riff alone, but if you get the listener in the door, there’s no way that they’ll escape without becoming a fan of everything this collection offers.

The release has so much to offer that it makes it incredibly difficult to pick specific favorites. From the two opening tracks of (You Are) Extraordinary and Life (see video below) to the amazingly beautifully structured The Other Side with Kendra Foster and even the quirky vocal delivery of Fishbone’s Norwood Fisher on Fact Fiction, Funkatstic delivers a wide variety of flavors that will soothe the savage funk beast for those that have acid jazz leanings.

It’s borderline travesty to not mention every musician and performer on the album, because there’s not a weak track in the bunch. But it’s a much better justice to be able to unpeel the layers of this album yourself and pick your favorite from the treasure chest this CD offers. And one of your future favorite songs is on this album.

And of course, we couldn’t finish the review without drawing attention to the name on the CD, Mike Zabrin. In a world where it seems like talented bass players are falling out of cracks like grains of sand, Mike Zabrin is truly a stand out. While his fast finger work is worthy of noting, his ability to fall into the groove for the sake of the song is admirable. That a young 22 year old bassist can hold his own in a roller coaster jazz romp is one of the most impressive angles you can focus on. While the CD could have been “All about Mike”, it appears that the intentional focus was on the quality of the music and strength of the overall product and the end result was well worth that attention to detail.

Without a doubt, this is one of two must have CD’s so far in 2014. You can snag Funktastic on Amazon or iTunes for currently only $9 and you’d be hard pressed to find many releases better this year. We have no choice but to give it 5 out of 5 afros.

5 out of 5 afros

Review: Finding The Funk Movie

Posted by funkatop On March - 10 - 2014 3 COMMENTS
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ftf

Music historian Nelson D. George and Ahmir “Questlove” Thompson put together a film called Finding The Funk that twists and turns a lot of what you know about funk with some elements that you most likely didn’t know.

The film is particularly refreshing because it’s rare that funk gets any coverage at all nowadays. It spends time talking about some of the roots of funk artists and spends a good but of time talking to funk legends like George Clinton, Bootsy Collins, and Sly Stone. It certainly added credence to its topicality. The film is filled with a lot of great moments and fun funk facts.  Plus the interview pieces are done fairly well including getting Sly Stone to really open up about his contribution to funk.

The bad part is that the journey is sporadic and seems a tad rushed and incomplete. While you didn’t expect them to be completely comprehensive, there are artists that were strangely absent from the film like Rick James, Isley Brothers, Cameo, Average White Band, Tower of Power, Zapp, Billy Preston, War, and the list goes on. Most of those bands went unmentioned at all minus a funk bands map graphic (shown below) even though they managed to give airtime to Lipps Inc. and Platypus. Even if it is a quick mention, we’re pretty confident that the list we just rambled off deserved at least the equivalent of that respect.

The other downside was some of the camera angles and filler pieces. Questlove was obviously reading a teleprompter or cue card because of his awkward eye movements where he simply looked uncomfortable. In one shot in particular, they made him stare straight ahead but focus on the camera peripherally while reading a cue card and it felt awkward just to look at him. And that in itself is a shame since Questlove is a fount of knowledge in the realm of funk and if anyone did NOT need a cue card, it’s Questlove. A simple natural conversation with him would have given Nelson way better scripting than a script that didn’t seem natural in the least.

And lastly, the editing discrepancies were also tough to ignore. Leaving out major funk players and not tying up the film neatly really did the film a disservice. Add to that grammatical errors like misspelling Sheila E’s name twice as Shelia on big title graphics over her video clips would be enough in itself to send Prince fans screaming towards the exits. But when you see it in a film like this, you think, “Certainly that mistake wouldn’t be up there twice, would it? Maybe she changed the spelling of her name?“.

In short, it’s great to have a movie about our favorite topic, but a shame that it missed so many marks. We in no way want to be discouraging, and if any website is all things funk friendly, it’s Funkatopia. But we’re a bit surprised at the final end product that Mr. George put out and even more surprised that Questlove let this film go out in its state. A fresh set of eyes and a couple more weeks of post production and editing would have made a huge difference to the grade, but we’ll give it a 3 out of 5 afros. Any more and our readers would question our integrity.

funk-map

Watch it in its entirety below, because overall, it’s still an entertaining film.

3 out of 5 afros

Review: Mayer Hawthorne – Where Does This Door Go

Posted by funkatop On October - 14 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
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Mayer Hawthorne - Where Does This Door Go ReviewMayer Hawthorne‘s previous albums sounded like they were ripped from Motown past and then wrapped in either sexy or tongue in cheek humor. But his new album Where Does This Door Go is a literal masterpiece and sign of incredible things to come.  While his previous albums like How Do You Do provided hints at the existence of these elements, this is the first time they have been so brilliantly constructed.

Mayer Hawthorne has stumbled onto a formula that has created a major double take because it is incredibly removed from his previous efforts. Part funk, part jazz fusion, but filled with pop sensibilities delivering plenty of radio friendly hits that will almost certainly change the game for his future. The genius is that Mayer Hawthorne offers the perfect convertible top-down bright sunshine tracks and blends them with the slow head bobbing five-toke grooves and ultimately creates a pallet full of many colors that can please even the hardest of curmudgeons.

The single Her Favorite Song hit the video airwaves and began a rolling all its own and serves as the perfect introduction as to what you can expect, but it then introduces you to many different levels of intricacies from the title track and its rolling harmonies reminiscent of XTC to the boppy silliness of Robot Love and the inevitable Top 40 of Allie Jones. There are even surprising moments such as The Only One that sounds like Dr. Dre married up with Maroon 5 and others like Wine Glass Woman that fell off the back of the Justin Timberlake truck. And you can definitely expect to hear the track Crime featuring Kendrick Lamar on your local radio station starting right about….now.

All in all, Where Does This Door Go? is a true musical gem that should be listened to by all fans of laid back pop funky fusion. It’s not too loud or raucous, and easily one of the best albums we’ve heard in 2013. Yeah, you best go get it.

Review: Janelle Monae – The Electric Lady

Posted by funkatop On September - 12 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
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Janelle Monae - The Electric Lady What do people truly want in music? A chance to get lost in a new world? Something totally different and thrilling? A story? A message? Look no further than Janelle Monáe‘s new album The Electric Lady that accomplishes all of these things.

From the James Bond-ish opening Suite IV Electric Overture that bleeds into the Prince accompanied Givin Em What They Love to the closing 80’s pop synth and pads of What An Experience, Janelle Monáe delivers on every level musically, artistically, and thematically.

Guest artists abound on the album including the aforementioned Prince (Giving Em What They Want), Erykah Badu (Q.U.E.E.N.), Miguel (Primetime), Solange (Electric Lady), Esperanza Spalding (Dorothy Dandridge Eyes) and for those that snag the Target version, Big Boi and Ceelo Green on the Electric Lady remix.

It’s virtually impossible to pick stand-outs on this double album since every song could stand on its own minus the segue pieces that feature DJ Crash Crash serving as the host to the radio show that essentially keeps the theme together and cohesive throughout The Electric Lady.

Janelle Monae - Photo courtesy of Billboard.comThe album’s story revolves around a world that has an ongoing discrimination between androids and humans. The songs support the story on an emotional level while DJ Crash Crash (also an android) keeps the story flowing by announcing happenings around town as well as taking calls from humans and androids who express their emotions and feelings about androids including everything from frustration (“I’m sick and tired of all these folks messing with us droids!”), sex (“Robot love is queer“), and the unavoidable ignorant call-ins.  The serves as a great purpose by giving insight as to the state of community in this new dystopia.

Janelle Monáe takes on the persona of Cyndi Mayweather who is a droid on the run being sought out by bounty hunters but that is protected and admired by fellow androids who refer to her as “Our Favorite Fugitive“.

The double album is filled up with a bunch of potential radio crashers including the boppy Dance Apocalyptic, the 80’s funkafied Q.U.E.E.N. where she’s joined by Erykah Badu (think Madame X - see official video below), and the sexy and thick Primetime with Miguel. Other standouts are the very James Bond-like Look Into My Eyes with simply beautiful and stunning vocal work from Janelle that closes out the first disk, but immediately allows you to understand why she is where she is musically.

Janelle Monae - Photo courtesy of OkayPlayer.com

Opening the 2nd disk is Suite V Electric Overture which carries the vibe of Look Into My Eyes before swinging into a Caribbean flow and then back into the orchestral movements that fill the album off and on and front to back in some capacity. Beginning from the song It’s Code, the second disk begins with a more Jackson 5 pop R&B feel and even Janelle’s vocals are so tightly wound and pushed out front similar to how Michael Jackson‘s was back in the ABC day, that it almost seems as if that’s exactly what they were trying to re-enact. The following song Ghetto Woman hearkens back to the same era, but a little more current with a Stevie Wonder Innervisions vibe.

The rest of the disk features some amazingly constructed songs like the intricate yet somehow familiar chord structures of Victory, the neo-soul slice of heaven Can’t Live Without Your Love, the Ohio Players slow jam guitar feel of Sally Ride, the absolutely incredible samba Sade-style Dorothy Dandridge Eyes that could stand as part two of Prince‘s Ballad of Dorothy Parker (a Dorothy coincidence?) and then to the closing synth pop of What An Experience that bounces into a reggae feel during its final bars.

This album is a carefully constructed masterpiece that you can keep in rotation for many years to come. It borrows some pieces of musical Americana, blends them and then pours them into a smoothie with careful precision. There is nothing like this currently on the market and hopefully we’ll hear the payoff on the radio sometime in the very near future.

Go and get it now. Snag a physical copy from Target and get some bonus tracks. Either way, get it. It’s that good.

Review: Dumpstaphunk – Dirty Word

Posted by funkatop On July - 30 - 2013 1 COMMENT
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Dumpstaphunk - Dirty WordDumpstaphunk should be on every funkmeisters playlist and their new album Dirty Word, which hits shelves today, is no exception. Ivan Neville and his band of funkafied funkateers have churned out yet another grinding, grooving, and grungy fortified funk classic.

The 11 song album features perfected pieces of music that they’ve played live for a while now and for those not in the know, Dumpstaphunk‘s members are Ivan Neville on vocals and keys (and occasionally guitar), their dual bass players Tony Hall and Nick Daniels, their female phenom drummer (and rapping priestess) Nikki Glaspie, and Ian Neville on guitar.

Not that the band requires any assistance, but it has its share of funky guests including Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Art Neville, Rebirth Brass Band, Ani DiFranco, Skerik, Trombone Shorty, and many more. The production values are superb and clean and showcase all of the instrumentation masterfully, so no matter what instrument makes you get up and scream, you’re going to be in audio nirvana.

Every song selection on the album could be stated as a highlight since there are no real weaknesses to be found here, so we’ll briefly cover them all. The opening Dance To The Truth sets the stage like a locomotive just starting its journey with a mid-tempo flux that starts your full body funk massage. Then Ani DiFranco rips up the title track Dirty Word that’s accentuated with a stutter step groove line that makes it extremely hard to even sit down. Then Troy Andrews (aka Trombone Shorty) and saxophonist Skerik come in and destroy your psyche with insane hornwork on I Wish You Would. And at that point you’re not even 30% through your funk expedition.

The first slower jam on the offering is They Don’t Care and the least adventurous musically, but still furnishes a good reflective piece of lyricism, because then the train starts up again with a rolling 80’s R&B bounce called I Know You Know with tight horn pieces weaved in, and even some vocoder work.

DumpstaphunkNext up is a cover of Betty Davis‘s If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up (just titled If I’m In Luck here) which features drummer Nikki Glaspie on the vocals and she brings it with powerhouse delivery and screams adding a Mother’s Finest level of rock aesthetics to an already underground classic tune that’s further accentuated by the bass playing of Red Hot Chili Peppers Flea. Then comes Larry Graham‘s funk classic Water which they keep structured closely to the original because why mess with a perfect recipe? It doesn’t hurt that its backed by The Grooveline Horn section (Carlos Sosa, Fernando Castillo, and Reggie Watkins)

Blues Waves is a blues-funk tune giving shout outs to some blues greats and painting on nice blues guitar riffs. That’s followed by the album’s second and final slower piece entitled Reality Of The Situation serving as a duet anti-unity song speaking to the fact that people just aren’t going to get along with each other in all instances. Get over it and make it work anyway.

The last two tracks are Take Time and Raise The House which finish roasting your funk sensibilities with a clap and shuffle delivery that showcase everyone’s abilities vocally and instrumentally. Art Neville, Rebirth Brass Band and Trombone Shorty all come in to assist in the final body slam that puts the album down for the count with the closing Raise The House that is the true essence of a party track.

All in all, Dumpstaphunk‘s new album is a funk masterpiece that should be in your collection if you love to dance, bob your head, tap your foot or just absorb great music. It’s Mardi Gras incarnate on wax. Get the album, check out the photos that we took of them live the last time they came through Atlanta, get tickets to their upcoming shows supporting Dirty Word, and get ready for more coverage from Funkatopia when they hit Atlanta again.

We give Dumpstaphunk‘s Dirty Word a whopping 5 out of 5 afros.

5 out of 5 afros


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Mo Meta Blues: The World According To QuestloveMo’ Meta Blues: The World According to Questlove is Questlove‘s first true dive into what could be considered his mini-biography is an amazing adventure not only through some key moments in his life, but also a music lesson into the birth of the neo-soul movement and the artists that breathed life info the soul genre and even Questlove himself.

The book clocks in under 300 pages, but is filled with funny moments with Prince, run-in’s with Kanye West, the unfortunate Michelle Bachman incident, and plenty of things you may not have ever known about Ahmir Questlove Thompson. His unquenchable love for music led him into amazing opportunities such as being Music Director for Dave Chappelle’s The Chappelle Show, putting together the infamous Dave Chappelle Block Party, producing for Al Green, D’Angelo, and a laundry list of other accomplishments including their current gig with Jimmy Fallon‘s late night show. A gig that that’s about to put them into the illustrious position of having the most coveted spot on late night as Jimmy takes the reins from Jay Leno.

To fully grasp his musical journey, it’s filled with sections that wander into the artists and albums that most influenced his life. Everything from Prince and Stevie Wonder into other jaunts like Tribe Called Quest, Sly Stone and some select surprises. He discusses each album and not only why it had an impact on his life, but historical notes and individual notations about what made it special to him personally and what was unfolding in the music world at the time.

In making the experience of reading the book more pleasurable, I took it upon myself to cue up each album he discussed and listen through each album he mentioned as the book went on in order to really delve into his mindset and the end result was very rewarding for me personally. Being born in 1968, I grew up in the 70’s like Ahmir and experienced first hand the impact of music on my childhood during that tumultuous decade.

Spending a good chunk of my life in the projects, I had a lot of the same musical experiences, but many weren’t even close. I decided that I wanted to listen to his musical influences under his thought process and try to re-imagine what that sounded like in his sphere. His ability to capture his emotion at the time and dedicate so much energy to studying record labels is amazingly documented here and you learn very quickly that it has served him very well throughout the years.

Richard NicholsAnother highlight of the book is the on-page banter that occurs between himself and band manager Richard Nichols. Rich’s input is integrated in the footnotes throughout the book and one thing you learn is that both Rich and Questlove love for people to make judgments based on their appearance. Afros and dreadlocks tend to lead people down certain paths of assumption. But once either of them opens their mouth, you learn very quickly that these books are the total opposite of their covers.

That stony looking cat with dreads who’s their manager is not just someone who happenstances into a great gig, but is a very articulate and multi-faceted individual from the Dennis Miller school of conversational magnitude. And of course, Ahmir is a walking music encyclopedia that surprisingly knows just as much about KISS as he does song origins from the hip hop realm.

All being said, Mo Meta Blues is a great music journey that is less about The Roots than you’d expect and more about Questlove‘s personal journey and the people he met and influenced along the way. This book is a must-read for hardcore Roots fans, but people expecting more behind the scenes drama from Jimmy Fallon need not apply although you do learn a lot about how they arrived at that envious opportunity and some pretty funny moments under the NBC umbrella. Everything you would expect to be covered is dished here, but probably not in as much detail as you might like.  Ahmir keeps some memories and details close to his chest, but the nosy voyeur in us wishes he would have revealed more on certain factoids and nuances.

About the only negative we found were some grammatical errors in the Kindle version which we’re not sure were evident in the printed version, so we couldn’t let the score be affected by those issues. We give this read a 4 out of 5 afros and it’s best if you can opt for a Kindle version that will give you easy travels back and forth between the book and the footnotes to capture Rich’s quirky input and dialogue. Go get it.

Review: Orgone – New You, Part 1

Posted by funkatop On May - 28 - 2013 2 COMMENTS
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Orgone - New You, Part 1

For those new or not familiar with the regional movement of funk across the country, there are some groups that have begun to acquire national attention and at the forefront of that movement is a California based band called Orgone.

We’ve hipped you to their incredible concerts and had even done an interview with Sergio Rios where he discussed the creation process that was happening with this album and we waited on pins and needles for it to land and now we finally have the New You EP and it’s incredible.

Orgone has pushed out a product that rivals the Brand New Heavies debut. The EP clocks in at just under 29 minutes, but offers enough of a taste of what’s to come to make us insanely even more impatient.

On this EP, Orgone utilized 3 different singers on the 7 song jaunt and all of which sound eerily similar. So much so that we even erroneously were under the impression that all featured Niki J Crawford. We learned that was not the case as they also brought back singer Fannie Franklin to perform and a new singer named Tiffany Austin.  Niki J Crawford only performs on the song Strike on this EP.

The difference between the three vocalists is surprisingly very difficult to pinpoint. Fannie Franklin was Orgone‘s original vocalist and when she stepped away, her duties were aptly filled by Niki J Crawford who had even toured with the band last year. Tiffany Austin is new to their mix and part of Orgone’s extended family. But for those on the concert trail, you can expect to see Fannie Franklin back behind the microphone for this leg of the tour.

Orgone has gone back to the basics that they broke out with on The Killion Floor and have managed to maintain that same old school sound that sounds as if the album was an underground treasure that you somehow missed from the 70’s. Even the recording has that analog quality and Orgone has begun to make a habit of distributing their releases on vinyl making time-travel truly possible here, so audiophiles will be in funk nirvana very soon.

The album is filled with hipped swaying grooves, intricate horn parts and tight licks. The opening track Ronin has the almost cliche wah-wah guitar and rolling horn lines that are the perfect backdrop for any bellbottom movie. Then you finally get your first taste of new singer Tiffany Austin with Don’t Say Stop followed by Orgone’s original vocalist Fannie Franklin on Say Goodbye which have the perfect recipes that sound like lost N’Dea Davenport tracks. The two singers sound like replicates of each other with Fannie delivering with her original intense style.

Niki J CrawfordThe succession is then broken up by a stutter-stepped song entitled Powerfeed that features a buzzy synth that serves as the jugular for most of the structure with dashes of brilliance including flute solos and stabbing horn sections. Then Niki J Crawford rages in with Strike showcasing the EP’s most aggressive offering that has bouncing shuffle beats and vocal punches, but then Fannie Franklin puts the wheels back on the tracks with the title track New You with a poppy Lisa Stansfield-esque curveball.

The album then closes with a track entitled Vigilance that struts down the streets of 70’s Detroit on a sunny day with bellbottoms, stacks, afro picks, silk shirt and gold chains that occasionally stops to do a quick spin, stops, points at you with both fingers and shouts out, “Alriiiiight.”

We have no choice but to give the new Orgone EP, New You Part 1, an unequivocal 5 afros. The only downside is that you can only get it at their online store, at one of their shows, or win some from us coming soon via our Facebook page.

So head to OrgoneSpace.com, see where they’re playing and support them. This is super funky with a taste of acid jazz to boot and about as good as an EP can get.

5 out of 5 afros

Review: Rock Candy Funk Party – We Want Groove

Posted by funkatop On May - 10 - 2013 1 COMMENT
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Rock Candy Funk PartyPlayers that performed with the likes of Prince, Chaka Khan, Eric Clapton, Sheila E., Stevie WonderBilly Idol, and many more gathered together for a few days to create a full album of funk lovingly called Rock Candy Funk Party.

Tal Bergman who has drummed for everyone from Rod Stewart to LL Cool J put together a collection of artists to create an album that would show homage to the funk of the 70’s and 80’s. He pulled in guitarist Ron DeJesus who has played with The Emotions and Tito Puente. Then he added keyboardist Renato Neto who most know from Prince’s NPG, but who has also played with Sheila E., Justin Timberlake and Christina Aguilera. Next up was classic rock God Joe Bonamassa who has shared the stage with Eric Clapton, Paul Rodgers (Free, Bad Company) and even B.B. King. Then on bass guitar he brought in the venerable Mike Merritt who most know as Conan O’Brien‘s bass player from the Max Weinberg 7, but who has also been with Stevie Ray Vaughn, Chuck Berry and Bruce Springsteen just to name a few.

The result is a 10 track album called We Want Groove that is filled with funk jams hearkening back to the 1970’s and 1980’s class of funk. The era that began to heavily blur the lines between jazz and funk forever distorting and scattering the genre into obscurity. Their job was to revive and redefine that funk era and they did so very well.

From the driving force of the opening Octopus-E (which you can get for free by the way), to the fast rolling Living Color‘esque Spaztastic, to the title track We Want Groove with its stabs that are eerily reminiscent of Prince’s Sexy MF, this completely instrumental album is filled with instant sing along funk classics.

Rock Candy Funk Party - courtesy of funku.fr

While most of the album’s tracks are hard hitting funktastic grooves, the collective also included a couple of slow jams to bring the energy flow in line with a full on joyride. Funk junkies who love to sing along to verse-less grooves will be in fatback heaven here. Most of the jams lack solos that muddy up the mix as if they feel that the groove is moving right along even though at some moments that is its detriment.

Case in point, Renato Neto who is truly one extraordinary player, doesn’t have nearly enough solo on this album to showcase his capabilities. Even drummer Tal Bergman got in a Madhouse style drum solo on the album’s track entitled Animal. But for Renato, a tickle here and quick tickle there isn’t anywhere near as much as most people familiar with his work to scratch the itch. We can only hope that there is more to come that will put Renato in his rightful glorified spot of righteousness. A second volume, maybe?

After multiple listens, it’s only 1/2 of an afro short of a perfect score. The missing half afro is for the two slow jams that go on a tad longer than may be necessary including the aptly titled The Best Ten Minutes Of Your Life that is a great song, but with not nearly enough variation to carry it beyond the 5 minute mark. The closing slow jam New York Song suffers the same fate although it is redeemed by a hidden track called Mr. Clean that kicks everything back into gear again,…at the ten minute mark.

All in all, this is a great funk escape that snags a very honorable 4-1/2 out of 5 afros. While most people will tune in for a variety of reasons, this album is a “must buy”. It’s a culmination of 5 of the best musicians at their craft bonding for a common purpose and that purpose is funk. We can’t think of a better reason to get together than that. Until Volume 2 of the Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown hits, this collective is the best thing going right now for funk fans. Run, don’t walk to the Rock Candy Funk Party. Great name by the way.

4-5afros

Review: Justin Timberlake – The 20/20 Experience

Posted by funkatop On March - 19 - 2013 ADD COMMENTS
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The 20/20 Experience - Justin-TimberlakeReview of Justin Timberlake’s first installment of the 20/20 Experience. Yes, there will be two of them.

Justin Timberlake is all over the map including singer, actor, sponsor, producer, guest vocalist and he’s pretty amazing at all of them. However, his prowess as a vocalist takes precedence over all of his abilities and he showcases just how bad-ass he is on his new album The 20/20 Experience. The biggest mistake is to think the album is compete since Justin Timberlake just confirmed today that this is only Part 1 with a 2nd installation coming out in November.

Fans of his last two albums who are expecting a continuation of sorts from Futuresex/Lovesounds or Justified will be screaming foul. Those fans may also forget that it’s been 7 years since his last album and much has changed as is immediately relevant with the opening Pusher Love Girl which starts with a string section and eventually ends with a more sporadic breakdown over 7 minutes later.

Speaking of which, every song on the 10 song album clocks in at over 7 minutes with the remaining two clocking in around 5 minutes which puts the album length at over an hour. Most all of the album are mid-tempo grooves that are designed for laid back listening but just sharpened enough to be dance-able. This is his romantic sex album.

The first released track Suit & Tie (featuring Jay Z) has already seen more airplay on the radio in the past month than Prince has had in the last decade for all of his songs combined. Technically, only the song Spaceship Coupe is the slow jam of the album complete with lustful female moaning that’s immediately washed away with the tune That Girl with its Motown Temptations feel.

The only songs on the album that could even qualify as a dance song that would even have a shot to survive for any length of time in a club is the Miami meets Rio flowing sounds of Let The Groove In where you can practically picture the shaking feathers, short skirts, flamboyant stilt walkers and a lot of drifting confetti.

Justin TimberlakeJustin’s vocals are in peak performance and the production value is on high. The marketing is his true brain child as he announced the albums release a mere 2 months in advance while the world suckled on Suit & Tie while they waited. Followed by a week long appearance on Jimmy Fallon (complete with a History of Rap Part 4) and then topped off with a release on the streaming services like Mog and Spotify on the same day it physically hit the shelves which is highly unusual.

None of the songs jump off of the album…yet. This album is filled with songs that you know are going to grow on you and become a part of the pop thread of radio for the next year or more to come, so you might as well get ready for the ride. And truly there is joy in repetition here that is begging to be overplayed.

As mentioned, most of the album is a medium laid back groove that follows cadence with what Suit & Tie started. The aspect of this album that most people miss is that it’s this way by design. It’s not supposed to be a club romp like his previous efforts. This is a grown folks album and a damn good one. But guaranteed it’s not what most people were expecting and even if you thought you had a good idea when he introduced his orchestra that he calls The Tennessee Kids.

The primary standouts on this album are Suit & Tie which you’ve already heard a few hundred times, the aforementioned Let The Groove In and the closing Blue Ocean Floor which is a truly beautiful ambient track that is dreadfully easy to get sucked into and lost in.

If you’re a funk fan with your toes dipped in the jazz future soul sound pool, then take off your clothes and hop in because the water is amazingly fine. While we reserve the 5 afro ratings for amazing funk classics (with some exceptions), this album gets about the highest rating we can give it without sacrificing our funk cred.

Likewise, if you like pop grooves with jazz inflections, this is the album you’ve wanted. Just get it and stop acting like you don’t like it.

And remember, this is only the first half of the album so there’s a second coming before 2013 is even out which Justin revealed to Ryan Seacrest on E!.

We’re giving it 4 out of 5 afros.

4 out of 5 afros

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