funk music

Monday, December 11, 2017

LISTEN: Van Hunt’s Popular Album Is Finally Here.

Posted by funkatop On August - 23 - 2017 2 COMMENTS

Van Hunt Chair

We’ve always loved Van Hunt here at Funkatopia, but he’s a tough person to decipher musically. He was already writing songs like Hopeless for Dionne Farris (from Arrested Development), which also got placed on the Love Jones soundtrack. He wrote quite a bit of music for Rahsaan Patterson for his Love In Stereo album and then in walked American Idol judge Randy Jackson who became Van’s manager to push him to the next level.

That led to Dallas Austin taking his collection of songs into Capitol Records and a resulting record deal which brought us his debut self titled album which was an R&B/neo-soul masterpiece when neo-soul was actually a thing. It gave us amazing tracks like Dust, Down Here In Hell (With You), Her December and Seconds Of Pleasure. Songs that still stand the test of time even to this day. It even got him a Grammy nomination for Best Urban/Alternative Performance.

Van Hunt - On The Jungle FloorThen in 2006, his next album On The Jungle Floor broke a lot of ground and got him opening slots with tons of acts like The Roots, The Brand New Heavies, Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Mary J. Blige, and even Dave Matthews Band. A year later he would win his first Grammy by joining vocal forces with John Legend and Joss Stone for the remake of Sly Stone‘s Family Affair. And many artists would probably skyrocket into the ether from that amazing launching pad. Then Blue Note records happened.

Van Hunt got shuffled to Blue Note by parent company EMI which didn’t seem too far of a stretch.  At his new label, Van had created a literal masterpiece called Popular which was a breathtaking followup to the fantastic On The Jungle Floor.  This was a progression from that offering and a perfect album to showcase his musical direction and growth as an artist. Then the unthinkable happened when Blue Note decided to shelve the completed album which proved a devastating blow to Van Hunt which would send him into a strange musical spiral.

While we at Funkatopia had already heard the album even though it had been shelved, we knew it was pure magic and were distraught because we knew, having met Van several times, that this album would have put him up on the pedestal where he deserved to be.

The following years would bring sporadic releases of bits and pieces in the form of an album called Use In Case Of Emergency which included various outtakes and mixes. A release that caused some concerns with his fans that his creative bones got broken in the aftermath of Blue Note. Many wondered if he was just holding out for Blue Note to change their mind on Popular or if he simply were so upset that he couldn’t get the mojo going again.

Van Hunt - What Were You Hoping For?Four to five years later he finally put out a new album entitled What Were You Hoping For? that was preceded by a debut track called June that finally gave people hope that he would be back in full form. It was so full of energy and bizarre song structures that seemed to change direction on a dime. It was as if his skull was pulled back and his full force creative flow was just pouring out raw and unfiltered.

Then he took it a step further a few years later with a fan funded album The Fun Rises, The Fun Sets which was more of the prior album, but a little more subdued in raucousness. But still unhinged.

The primary issue with those two albums was that the fans in the general public didn’t get the transition from what they heard from On The Jungle Floor to where he was now which seemed to be in a mode where he wanted to create music that no one had created before. It was so avant garde and far removed from the funky soulful structure of Jungle Floor, that it simply didn’t get the love that he had spent so much time building up. Even though in all fairness, Fun Rises did manage to find its way to position 31 on the US Billboard Top R&B/Hip Hop charts.

Van Hunt never let go of the hope that Blue Note would finally allow his Popular album to be released and his wish was finally granted this year when Blue Note agreed to release the finished album on August 11.

Van shared with Billboard, “I’ve cried three times in the last 10 years. And none of those were when I was told that ‘Popular’ wouldn’t be released. I cried whenever I felt justified for making that record. In the face of a churning reality, it took one online comment from a listener, and two emails from Blue Note — one with a release date, and one with the album’s press release — to let me know I wasn’t crazy for hanging on all this time.”

Van Hunt - PopularHere’s what we can say about Popular. It is magical perfection. This album has some of the best songwriting that we have ever heard since the prowess of a 1970’s Stevie Wonder. The production, the chord changes, the imagination, the flow, the lyricism, and a true continuation to what people most likely expected coming off of On The Jungle Floor. It is the perfect follow up in the hierarchy of when they were created.

The biggest question that many fans have been asking though is to try and understand where things might go next. Will he continue in the musical direction where Popular left off? The obvious answer would seemingly be “No.” since this is a step backwards in time and he has progressed to a very different level. But at the same time, Van has admittedly held a torch for this album which begs to question where his mindset is currently. Does this put him back on track or is he on a totally different track now.

The best thing we can hope for the next album is a blend of the two worlds of future and present. An album with good solid (and consistent) song builds that aren’t as chaotic, but that still showcase his genius in more digestible songs.

But for now, the public FINALLY gets to hear one of the best albums Van Hunt ever created. It blends a pure bright spotlight on his incredible songwriting, perfectly blending in powerful pastel colors, and a vast amount of stark surprising elements.

Shockinglyrical moments like The Lowest 1 Of My Desires, funky riffs like the opening tongue in cheek Turn My TV On, nice switch ups with snare shuffle steps like Ur Personal Army, and the two part masterpiece that is Ur A Monster. But most importantly, not a weak song in the mix.

It was easily one of our favorite Van Hunt albums when we heard it originally and we are more than ecstatic that the frustration is finally over and that the travesty of its silence is now not so deafening. PLEASE check this album out. We’ve said it a few times already. It’s magic.

Review: The Fixx – Live in Atlanta 2017

Posted by funkatop On August - 19 - 2017 7 COMMENTS

The Fixx - Jamie West Oram

A review and confession from Funkatopia founder Mr. Christopher;

Time to come clean. If it wasn’t already evident by the piece I did five years ago, I am a huge fan of The Fixx. I am indeed what they call a Fixxture. It’s difficult to be too involved in their career as of late because there’s not much going on considering their last release was 2012’s amazingly under-appreciated and under-valued Beautiful Friction along with sparse touring.

the-fixx-80'sAnd some are saying, “Wait. Why are you giving so much love to a band that’s not funk?” But I covered this before. They are funky. The bass lines and riffs are sick and even if you don’t accept that, every funk artist is over the moon about other non-funk artists. Prince had his Joni Mitchell. Nile Rodgers loved his David Bowie. Mr. Christopher has The Fixx.

I know you’re here to read a concert review, and if you are, just scroll down to the sub-header that says Concert Review because I’m going to geek out for some paragraphs about my history with The Fixx and why this funk fanatic got so wrapped into these guys in the first place.

I, like most people my age, were introduced to The Fixx via MTV‘s early days when their songs Stand Or Fall and Red Skies came on multiple times a day back when MTV only had a handful of videos to even play.  I loved them, but I hadn’t bit the bullet on actually buying their first album Shuttered Room. It wasn’t until Reach The Beach, their second album, that gave them monster hits like One Thing Leads To Another, Saved By Zero and Sign of Fire that I couldn’t take it anymore and went to the store to begin my obsession.

reach the beachOnce I was brain deep into the masterpiece that was Reach The Beach, I had to have everything that they ever released including imports, remixes, 45’s and otherwise. I even remember getting the 12″ version of Saved By Zero that had written on the back, “From their forthcoming album Reach the Beach” and I lost my mind. I said, “They have FOUR albums?!

I wasn’t officially embarrassed until I looked up the word forthcoming. Give me a break. I was all of 14 at the time. Still funny though.

To make the obsession worse, I was attending Northside School of The Performing Arts in Atlanta in 1983 and someone gave the school a huge stack of tickets to go see a concert at the Omni in downtown Atlanta featuring The Fixx on their Reach The Beach tour (their biggest selling album ever) opening up for The Police who were on their Synchronicity tour (their biggest selling album ever.)  However, I missed the handout period for my class and so I faked an injury to get a hall pass to go and get one anyway. The show was magic and while I loved The Police, by the time The Fixx left the stage, I couldn’t get over the buzz I felt from their performance.

Fast forward many Fixx concerts later to around 1991 when The Fixx was touring in support of their album Ink. They were appearing on a local radio station to promote the album and the show at Center Stage in downtown Atlanta. It was my first true starstruck spaz out moment, when I managed to get through and was able to talk to The Fixx on air while I stammered over my words and almost pissed myself. I was praising the album for the masterpiece it was and then a magic moment occurred when the DJ asked what song I wanted to hear from the album, and in frantic mode I screamed “SHUT IT OUT!

The-Fixx-InkThe band was excited that there was true hardcore fan on the line requesting a song not ordained from the label and I was excited that I got to call the shot on a major radio station on my chosen track. I was yammering on relentlessly off air to them while the song was playing, “Thank you so much for playing that song. It will be the best thing that’s happened for them and if people hear this song, it will put them back on the map. It’s perfect.” and more embarrassingly breathless, fanatic rambling.

The band was obviously appreciative of my fanaticism and while off air, lead singer Cy Curnin asked me to make sure that I was front row that night and guitarist Jamie West-Oram asked if I wanted to come to the after-party. Um, of course and yes. I was 23 at the time, but I might as well have been a giddy 14 year old the way I was handling myself.

I got to the show early and of course, front row and beaming. The show started and as Cy Curnin came on stage, I yelled “SHUT IT OUT!” and he came over and slapped me five. My night was officially set at that point. It didn’t even matter if a concert happened. Lucky for me it did and the show was this side of inspiring and full of energy. Pure musical heaven.

Then after the show, I immediately went to the venue where the “after party” would be happening and reality struck as my name was not at the door to get into the event. I sat in disbelief. I should be happy that I got as much attention as I already had. There was plenty of greatness for one evening anyway, but I still stood a bit distraught at the door and after a few minutes I had decided that that was all the evening had in store and to walk away and just be thankful.

I turned to leave and then from around the corner comes running the guitarist Jamie West-Oram who locked eye contact with me, brightly smiled and yelled, “Chris! I was looking for you.”  He then grabbed my arm, walked me to the door and announces to the doorman, “It’s okay. He’s with me.” and to the after party I went.

Needless to say, the remainder of the evening was a 23 year old Mr. Christopher in the most nirvana of places blathering directly to the band and anyone who would listen about how great they were, sitting at the bar with drummer Adam Woods tossing back drinks, and just enjoying the opportunity to hang out with one of my favorite bands of all time.

Over the years, I’ve seen The Fixx many more times than I could count.  They have one fantastic album after another and a multitude of material to pull from, but they’re not an easy band to talk about to friends and co-workers, because no one remembers them. You’re lucky if you can get them to remember One Thing Leads To Another without the need to sing a few bars first. So at the risk of just seeming out of touch or stuck in a time warp, you just relish the fact that you get the privilege to enjoy a fantastic band that everyone else has just missed the boat on.

However, their music is more relevant now than it was even back when it was made. I can’t think of one single album that The Fixx has made that was weak or uninspired. Every album was breathtaking. Even the two albums that I thought I didn’t like that were released in this century have slowly begun to grow on me. It’s amazing how impeccable their material is even to this day.

So if somewhere I have peaked your interest into checking them out, I’ve put together a handpicked playlist of some of my favorite songs that was a bit painstaking because there were a lot of amazing songs that Spotify did not supply such as the Elemental album, their debut album Shuttered Room, the amazing acoustic album 1011 Woodland, and some other deeper cuts like The Fool that just have to be experienced.  I even started it off with Shut It Out so that you could understand what I was so excited about back in the day.

Concert Review

Jamie West-OramAnd now we fast forward over 25 years later to their Atlanta show at the City Winery on August 17, 2017. The show is sold out and luckily as I arrive in the parking lot, out walks Jamie West-Oram from a Binders store with a coffee. The same man who a quarter of a century ago changed my life.

I said hello, calling him by name and he seemed surprised that anyone recognized him. He didn’t recognize me (25 years and 80 pounds later) and I started into my story I told you above. One minute in, I realized there was no facial expression from him to indicate he remembered any of the story, so I left it alone. So is the life of a rock star who meets thousands of people every year. But that’s okay. I got a pic and it means a lot to me and that’s what matters.

I was lucky enough to score a front row seat to this show, albeit behind keyboardist extraordinaire Rupert Greenall, which is a treat in itself to watch him work. I also managed to capture a lot on camera for you to enjoy on and they’ll be coming soon. The intimate stage lighting is horrendous in City Winery for photography.

It seems that this time around, The Fixx was fully aware that the people attending this sold out performance were true fans. Even from the vibe felt in the room, it was immediately evident that everyone in attendance were actual fans who had their lives touched at some point by this band. You could see the smiles, the attentiveness, the appreciation, and the sing-alongs happening on lesser known songs.

The evening began with a keyboard intro started from the board and out walks keyboardist Rupert Greenall, bassist Dan K. Brown, and drummer Adam Woods. A little shocking that they walked out in reverent silence as the crowd seemed to just take it all in. Then you could feel the wave of applause begin to fill the room like the holy spirit that slowly came to a roar as guitarist Jamie West-Oram walked out, followed shortly after by lead singer Cy Curnin.

The Fixx Set List - Aug. 17, 2017 City WineryIt became clear that tonight was for the fans as they opened with a track from Reach The Beach called Privilege. The way they integrated their hits throughout the night was refreshing. No waiting until the very end of the night to wad them all of them in hopes of an encore. It would be a great emotional song, a hit, more deep tracks, a hit, some chatter about the state of the world, a deep track, a hit, and essentially a never-ending roller coaster of great selections.

While gone were the 80’s Cy Curnin that would strip off his clothes and paint himself and Jamie West-Oram‘s raucous guitar swings, the intensity was still there and seemingly more important than ever. The passion and realization that the content of the music was more meaningful now than it was back when it was written.

Cy Curnin was always a politically charged and stout vocalist that spoke out on injustice and he did so with a fervor. Back in the 80’s, they had released a hard to find promo called Talkabout where he delved into the meaning of each song on their album called Walkabout. At the time, it made little to no sense and as he described the tracks, the confusion just got worse. It was like listening to the ramblings of a mad man. And even Cy would probably tell you it was. His passion was never misdirected, but it was so overwhelming that it just came out in bulk thoughts. His knowledge was simply so massive, that it couldn’t be digested in small key points.

Tonight, he spent time to briefly put songs in context in this almost living room style show which was in stark contrast to their Germany shows where there was no seating and people were there were to take it all in, yelling and sloshing their beers in a raucous display. This crowd here was calm, reverent and attentive. That nuance wasn’t lost on the band as they realized that they could spend time crafting the songs and painting the picture instead of the need to make sure that the evening was a freight train of entertainment.

Tonight, the crowd stayed glued and there weren’t any wasted moments. But there was an analytical aura happening at City Winery as if people were waiting for information. As of they were watching a news broadcast as they were reeling from the tragedies of Charlottesville, Barcelona, Russia, and the political climate and just wanted answers. Needed answers. Here’s your soapbox. Please take it. This is your forte.

Cy refrained from saying too much because in today’s world, you never know where your audience falls and The Fixx has always ridden the line and somehow managed to be pragmatic, but still in your face at the same time. And looking over the faces of this audience and all of the years that had worn on them, it was near impossible to tell where that line was. But one thing was clear, they were scattered on both sides like a deck of cards thrown into the air.  It was probably why most of the banter was kept to a minimum. Everything that needed to be said was already written into the lyrics of these great songs over the decades.

Whether Cy was gripping the microphone singing his heart out with his hand gestures, Jamie was swinging the guitar, Dan and Adam were managing the bottom end, or Rupert was there creating all of those fantastic sounds and vocal effects from behind his keyboards, the message was clear.  Calm yourselves and loosen your grip. Just take it in and let music heal you.

While the early Cy would have been pro-activism, the Cy here tonight even mentioned from the stage that he wishes he could just forget all of the madness he learned over the years. There comes a time when you just know too much to the point where it just becomes ineffective to share it all. You become disenchanted with the realization that you are never going t be able to accurately communicate what you know to get people to your level. It’s okay. He did a hell of a job.

I can’t begin to describe how healing this show was for me and everyone there. If they make it to your town, it’s worth a visit and to treat yourself with a break. I know it’s not funk, but neither is most of Prince‘s music and that’s what makes this great.

Here are a couple of clips from the show to enjoy, a few photos, a link to the Spotify playlist above for those who want a handpicked musical journey from your truly, and then I’ll top it off with my apologies of this super long post.

The Fixx are very cathartic to my existence and it still speaks to me as I know it will for you as well.

Review: Prince – Purple Rain Deluxe Edition

Posted by funkatop On June - 26 - 2017 ADD COMMENTS

Mr. Christopher does a full extended review of the new Prince release Purple Rain Deluxe. Chris talks about each CD and the DVD, but takes an amazing amount of time  on the 2nd CD (The Vault and Previously Unreleased disk) and gives the background stories and feedback on each and every track.

The video review gives you the full monty, so tune in and enjoy!

Buy the new album today and support Paisley Park to keep the music coming:
Get it here!

Get it here!

Support the park!

20 Best Funk Albums of 2016

Posted by funkatop On January - 7 - 2017 46 COMMENTS

Here it is! 2016’s best funk albums!

This year was insanely tough. There weren’t a lot of true funk releases, but we hear that 2017 has some great funk coming down the pike including a new album from both George Clinton and Parliament. But without retyping the same things we always say, here’s our pre-ramble.

It’s GREATLY IMPORTANT that you realize that your favorite 2016 funk album might not be here because a) we only pick 20, b) it may not have been released in 2016, and c) we may not have even heard of it. So if we missed it, PLEASE share it in the comments area.

You can check out the posts from previous years like 2014 and 2015 and also enjoy tons more selections in those comment sections.

Again, they are not numbered since they are all funky and created equal in their funkiness.

Check out the playlist of these bands on Spotify!

childish-gambino-awaken-my-loveChildish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

We love it when we are sideswiped by an album and Donald Glover‘s new Childish Gambino was just the distraction we weren’t expecting or even thought that we needed.  Taking a break from his positions of producer, star, and writer for the magnificent show Atlanta, Glover went completely off the rails for his newest offering.

Completely abandoning his normal rap delivery, he displayed his love for all things Parliament and Funkadelic that even got the attention of George Clinton who mentioned the album and offered his praise for the respect. No rap here. Only funk.

psychic-mirrors-nature-of-evilPsychic Mirrors – Nature Of Evil
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Psychic Mirrors was never on our radar either, but they certainly are now. If you are a fan of 80’s funk, it’s as if they are paying homage to every funk hit of that era. Every single song is dripping with keyboard and drum machine funk nostalgia.

The entire album seems like a blatant homage to The Gap Band, Cameo and everything in between that may had any pop sensibilities back in the day. It is pure 80’s funk nostalgia that will easily bring a smile to your face.


The New Mastersounds – The Nashville Session
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

The New Mastersounds are no strangers to Funkatopia and you can hear them online via the FUNKEDUP app as well as revisit interviews we’ve done with them in the past.

The Nashville Session is a superb collection of their funk fare and it’s just as great as it’s always been. They took specific selections from their many years together, got a small listening audience together and recorded their live performance in one grand evening at the Welcome to 1979 studio in Nashville, recording it onto 1 inch tape and limiting its release to a mere 1000 vinyl pressings. Luckily, you can also get it digitally.

the-apples-dragonzThe Apples – Dragonz
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

It’s literally is impossible to pigeonhole The Apples who are a collective of students from Jerusalem’s Rubin Academy of Music and they celebrate their heritage through music which somehow skewed and output a super funky delivery.

Armed with turntables, a horn section, drums, stand up bass and whatever else they can throw at it, The Apples end up with super funky songs that mix in DJ sensibilities and the end result is bizarre and funky all in the same breath.

snarky-puppy-culcha-vulchaSnarky Puppy – Culcha Vulcha
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Snarky Puppy is always a force to be reckoned with and 2016 proved to be another dominating year. Snarky Puppy is a group compiled of some of the finest musicians on the planet and lucky for us their newest offering keeps their normal formula in the form of Culcha Vulcha which tilts the needle to funk and jazz.

While there are still moments of grown folk music and smooth jazz, the album is filled with plenty of funk music with spicy jazz flavoring and plenty to go around.

the-motet-totemThe Motet – Totem
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify | Stream)

The Motet have definitely skyrocketed on the funk music scene since 2000 and are finally getting the appreciation they deserve. And they returned the favor in 2016 with the release of two albums including Totem and a new Live at Red Rocks album.

Even though they are 16+ years into the game, their albums still have that old school feel which is a feat in itself. That good feeling, party music that The Motet does to perfection and Totem is no exception.

dr-lonnie-smith-evolutionDr. Lonnie Smith – Evolution
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Dr. Lonnie Smith may be unknown to most, but he is one of the originals on the funk jazz scene and he is no joke on the Hammond organ. And his new album Evolution certainly puts him in the limelight again where he deserves to be.

He is a Hammond virtuoso and paid his dues with George Benson’s Quartet and was always actively involved with Lou Donaldson. From the opening 14 minute jam session with Robert Glasper, this album is magic and his first album back on Blue Note since his 1970 release Drives. Yes, we said 1970.

pigeons-playing-ping-pong-pleasurePigeons Playing Ping Pong – Pleasure
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Pigeons Playing Ping Pong not only have a great band name, they have a great funk album in the form of Pleasure. This festival funk band has been stealing hearts across the nation with their nutty on-stage personas that are off the wall and hard to resist.  If you’re not bopping your head to the music, you’re laughing and smiling at their antics.

Pleasure has that stoner funk jam band feel that they somehow managed to replicate on recording which many bands from that genre have a difficult time accomplishing. The songs all have a happy, dance, or psychedelic feel, but every bit of it is infused with happy funk elements. Yay!

lettuce-mt-crushmoreLettuce – Mt. Crushmore
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Lettuce is pure old school and they have been around for the better part of two decades. Being blessed to not only have seen them multiple times, but also to have captured recordings, Lettuce is a funk fans dream.

Their huge sound and massive vibe is so mesmerizing, that you can’t stop listening. Mt. Crushmore is not only a great new funky album from the masters, but a journey. The only disappointment with this offering is that the album is super short (under 20 minutes) since it’s essentially outtakes from last years Crush (which made it onto the 2015 list), but it’s still so frigging good.

lack-of-afro-hello-babyLack Of Afro – Hello, Baby
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Multi-instrumentalist, composer, producer and DJ, Adam Gibbons (aka Lack of Afro) has finally released his next creation onto the world and it’s a fantastic ride down the dirt roads of funk and soul.  Taking pieces of albums of the past and reconstructing them into new masterpieces is only part of the formula that makes Lack of Afro‘s new album so intriguing.

Gibbons also joined forces with the talents of Joss Stone, Professor Elemental, Elliot Cole and others to create a really awesome  convergent sound. Somehow he found time when not creating spots from everyone from Disney to Adidas to put together this album that is also available in an instrumental version.

feeling-good-the-supreme-sound-of-producer-bob-shadFeeling Good – The Supreme Sound Of Producer Bob Shad
(Amazon | iTunes | Spotify)

Many people don’t know the name Bob Shad, but he was the production mastermind behind many great funk and soul classics and was an undeniable force to be reckoned with as he produced music for Sarah Vaughn, Big Brother & The Holding Company, Lightnin’ Hopkins, and plenty of others.

Decades after his passing, he finally gets the album that he deserves with a collection of funk and soul songs from various artists where he used his golden fingers to create worlds and put his undeniable stamp on the tracks. It’s like a trip down soul history lane.

diamond-ortiz-lovelineDiamond Ortiz – Loveline
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Released late in 2016, Loveline is a funk album full of deep synth bass tracks, talkbox, stabbing keyboards and thumping bass lines.  The sound that made the mid-80’s what they were, it’s undeniable and unmistakable.

This is Diamond Ortiz‘s first release for MoFunk Records and we’re already anxious to hear his next release. This really comes across as an unapologetic homage to Roger and Zapp, but it’s all new and super funky.

a-tribe-called-quest-we-got-it-from-here-thank-you-4-your-service-cover-artA Tribe Called Quest – We Got It From Here…Thank You 4 Your Service
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

In their first album in nearly 20 years, A Tribe Called Quest came back onto the scene with a new album that was everything people expected with nary a complaint from even the doubters.

It’s impossible to ignore the legend of the late Phife Dawg who stayed with us long enough to participate in the release extensively, but there are also many guests including Anderson. Paak, Andre 3000, and others that put on some extra spice and made this yet another classic to add to their legendary discography.

the-soul-snatchers-where-y-atThe Soul Snatchers – Where Y’At
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

You don’t often see a lot of funk bands com out of the Netherlands, but enter The Soul Snatchers who put together a smooth funk and soul album that has tastes of New Orleans and gumbo, but somehow compiled from the complete opposite side of the planet.

With soulful vocals, slick horn sections and cool blue vibes, they created a funky swayful album that will have your head bobbing and feet tapping. The Soul Snatchers create a dirty soul sound that harkens back to 60’s soul, but still keeps it new and fresh.

papa-grows-funk-the-last-leaf-livePapa Grows Funk – The Last Leaf (Live)
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Papa Grows Funk is no more as the members have all gone their separate ways a few years ago. So Imagine our surprise when 2016 still managed to give us one last chance to pay homage to one of the best funk jam bands to grace festival stages.

The Last Leaf was recorded back on May 6th in 2013 and was their last show performing together. Everything was captured brilliantly from the band’s energetic performances to the crowd’s intense appreciation from one of funk’s finest.

the-funk-ark-high-noonThe Funk Ark – High Noon
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

The Funk Ark‘s High Noon is a southwestern funk roller coaster that could easily serve as a background for any of Quentin Tarantino movie.  With funky deep vibes, we were shocked to not see it on the Funkish list.

Delivering that Budos Band-esque horn section, staccato guitar picking and that south of the border flair creates an undeniable sound and flow that very few bands can pull off or somehow maintain for an entire album.

three-step-manoeuvre-three-step-strutThree Step Manoeuvre – Three Step Strut
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Three Step Manoeuvre has a band name that gives spell check a fit (that’s not how you normally spell maneuver.), but they have that hip poppy feel that only great bandslike The New Mastersounds can deliver.

We had to check to see if it was Eddie Roberts on guitar because the playing style is so dreadfully similar that it will make you do a double take. That quick picking, shuffling snare drums and riding bass is a recipe that very few can get right, but Three Step Manoeuvre do it magnificently. Maybe that’s how maneuver is spelled in another country.

space-orphan-shut-up-about-the-sunSpace Orphan – Shut Up About The Sun
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Space Orphan is simply fantastic. Mr. Christopher got an opportunity to sit down with John Wirtz and discuss what makes this album so special. Check the interview here.

All of the tracks are well over or near 6 minutes in length which makes for some fantastic listening pleasure. The songs are constantly changing to keep you drawn in and the production strategies are fun and interesting. This is straight jam band funk styling, but with enough variants to make you want to listen again and again.

corey-henry-lapeitahCorey Henry – Lapeitah
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

If straight New Orleans Treme style funk is what tickles the soles of your shoes and wiggles your butt in your seat, then there won’t be any reason to look any further than Corey Henry’s Lapeitah offering.

He stays true to the sound, feel and history of the New Orleans sound like many before and alongside him such as Trombone Shorty and Galactic. He has certainly earned his badge of black and gold with this album.

kendrick-lamar-untitled-unmasteredKendrick Lamar – Untitled Unmastered.

(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Yeah, yeah. Stop rolling your eyes. Kendrick Lamar is no joke and 2015’s To Pimp a Butterfly was a literal masterpiece and deserved every award it won. The impressive Wesley Theory backing band that hit the road for Kunta’s Groove Session (including Atlanta <) was simply funky and breathtaking.

Untitled Unmastered. is a compilation of tracks that should have been on TPAB, but somehow ended up on the cutting room floor. These songs were incredible and stunning. There isn’t any way we can avoid not putting it on our list.

Added Funky Bonuses!

As we do every year, there are always a few albums that should be on the Best Of list, but don’t offer enough funk selections to qualify. But they are simply fantastic albums that you cannot miss.

Kendra Foster albumKendra Foster
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Kendra Foster has spent her days supporting some of the best artists on the planet including providing background vocals for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for many years and doing the same as a crucial part of D’Angelo‘s rise back to fame during his Black Messiah unveiling.

She’s finally got another album and it’s amazing. Her first was heavily influenced by Parliament, but this time around she definitely opted to do her own thing. There are so many great songs that it’s one of the most impressive albums from any artist that you will hear.

eric-krasno-blood-from-a-stoneEric Krasno – Blood From a Stone
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Eric Krasno could probably hold the title for busiest man on the planet dipping his guitar neck into way too many guest spots to count. But when he’s not playing guitar full time for Lettuce or full time with Soulive, he somehow found time to put together a solo album.

Soulive had already blew up when Dave Matthews tapped them to open several shows for DMB, when he decided to break out and push out his own solo album by talking to God to add a few more hours into a day so that he could get into the studio and create a super cool album that you should hear.

ittle-simz-stillness-in-wonderlandLittle Simz – Stillness In Wonderland
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Little Simz back story is super intriguing, but way too involved to get into here. Let’s just say that she’s a phenomenal British female rapper who strives to avoid being called a female rapper and wants to be appreciated as simply a hip hop artist without the added sexist adjective.

This album will set her on the right path for sure as it is full of production nuances and that high vibe that made Digable Planet‘s Blowout Comb so essential.  The same chemistry exists here and well worth a listen.

vaudou-game-kidayuVaudou Game – Kidayu
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

We can’t take credit for this selection as we got turned onto Vaudou Game by Funkish, but we’re glad they did. Vaudou Game (Voodoo Game in English), is straight French funk that is unapologetic and still somehow startlingly reminiscent of Fela Kuti, even though it’s completely in French.

The entire album is pure afropop and full of funk jams that seem like they were stripped from the 70’s, but everything is simply pure and raw and more impressively, brand spanking new.

Extra Bonuses from YOU!

Check the suggestions below from you, our readers. We know we missed a bunch, so help us out. Add them to the comments below!  Hook us up and remember, the albums had to have been released in 2016 to qualify for the list.

Remember to check out the playlist of all of these bands on Spotify!

Also check out Funkish’s excellent list also.We appreciate our friendship.

Review: Childish Gambino – “Awaken, My Love!”

Posted by funkatop On December - 5 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Childish Gambino - "Awaken, My Love!" album coverWe’ll just say it. This is one of the best albums we have heard this year by a long shot. 5 Afro Award right out of the gate and it will undeniably be on our 2016 Top 20 list when it’s released in January. Expect it.

It’s just beautiful when some artists decide to experiment and especially when that experimentation has them creating the next great funk album. Childish Gambino aka Donald Glover did just that by recreating early 70’s funk and soul with his newest album “Awaken, My Love!”

Donald Glover is super busy. When he isn’t acting in one of his many projects like Community or his TV show Atlanta, he’s playing the part of Lando Calrissian in the upcoming stand alone Star Wars movie Han Solo.

In the music world, most know him as Childish Gambino who has already released a few critically acclaimed rap albums. So when the new Childish Gambino album “Awaken, My Love!”  hit the internet, critics expected more of the same and that he would expand his horizons even further as he had done progressively with previous albums. And boy, were they not wrong.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, were taken off-guard by the release of what was supposed to be the next hip hop album from his alter ego Childish Gambino. But instead of hearing some new groundbreaking sounds of the rap realm, people sat by in shock. Even The Roots drummer, bandleader and musically astute Questlove found himself speechless and woke D’Angelo at 4am to have him share his enthusiasm.

Dude I’m so fucked up right now. I can’t even form the proper hyperbolic sentence to explain to D’angleo why I woke him up at 4am to listen to this. I’m like—when is the last time someone sucker punched me on this level…..I mean I knew #AroundTheWorldInADay was coming & it was a left turn—I’m about to blow the wigs off music historians… but I thought I was getting some fresh millennial 2016 hip hop shit and I got sucker punched. The last sucker punch in black music I remember in which NOONE had a clue what was coming was Sly’s #TheresARiotGoinOn—read my IG about it (the flag)—I’m writing in real time cause —Jesus Christ the co-author of #WearwolfBarmitzvah just SONNED the shit outta me. In the best way possible. I was NOT expecting a trip to Detroit circa 1972 at United Sound Studios. I haven’t written or been stunned by an album I wasn’t expecting since that time I got an advance of #BackToBlack. The music is so lush man, I can see the kaleidoscope color mesh of the #Westbound logo. Dude I can’t curb my enthusiasm. All I know is if #P4k try to play him again with these ratings there WILL be a riot goin on.

A photo posted by Questlove Gomez (@questlove) on

What has transpired with “Awaken, My Love!” was pure funk and no rap to be found anywhere on the entire album. Which begs to question, did Childish Gambino just lose some rap fans or gain some funk fans? From our perspective, it was the latter. But could his rap fans truly be upset about an album of this magnitude?

From the moment the album begins, the music is laced with thick melodic vocal funk orchestration circa 1970’s. All throughout “Awaken, My Love!”, you’ll hear different components of Funkadelic like the Eddie Hazel style of guitar work in The Night Me And Your Mama Met and the ambient keyboard in the spirit of Bernie Worrell.

Even the closing multi-dimensional track Stand Tall delivers a clean crisp lead vocal and background female vocals which leaves no question that Donald Glover is one amazingly talented dude and not “just another rapper” trying to sing. You can’t even be mad that you didn’t get what you expected.

While most rappers need a lot of production work to sing any parts on their albums, Donald’s vocals are just fantastic. He’s in tune, has strong vibrato and the only studio magic added is simply for effect like echo and delay which is designed to add to the floaty feel of the funk. He is a great singer and talented vocalist who is comfortable in his screams, falsetto and vocal theatrics.

Songs like Have Some Love and Riot have a very Van Hunt style of staccato and theatric delivery that not only sound super funky, but also add a lot of layers and dimensions to the music. The album is just pure magic front to back.

You’ll get to the other side of “Awaken, My Love!” and try and wrap your head around what you just experienced, enjoy the smile you realize is on your face, and start the album over again for another listen. A chain of events that we’ve been lovingly stuck in for 4 days now. Come join us, won’t you?

See why we give Childish Gambino‘s “Awaken, My Love!” a very much deserved 5 afros.  You can thank us later.

5 out of 5 afros



Review: DNCE’s Perfect Debut Album

Posted by funkatop On November - 21 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

DNCE AlbumDNCE has just released the greatest pop record in years and earned the first 5 afro award that we’ve issued to an album in a long time.

For those not in the know, DNCE is a project by Joe Jonas who has put together a group of electro-pop masterful virtually unknowns who are brilliant and skillful in every sense of the word.

Among all of the pop garbage that falls on and off the airwaves, very few songs have staying power for any length of time. DNCE‘s debut single from their Swaay EP called Cake By The Ocean stayed on many charts and lived for well over a year on replay. Despite the fact that the Swaay EP featured some other amazing (and in our view, even better) tracks like Toothbrush and Pay My Rent which were just as catchy and airplay-worthy although the one remaining EP track Jinx did not make it onto the full album.

In typical record label fashion, they were given the green light for a full album after the undeniable success of the Swaay EP and people that may have expected the full album to be littered with filler to tie the strong elements together would be pleasantly surprised to find a wall to wall album packed with potential hits and over the top sick ear-worms.

The self titled album which found its way onto most of the music services last week is an end of the year blessing for pop music lovers. Joe Jonas‘ vocals are pitch perfect with the backing band of Jack Lawless on energetic drums, Cole Whittle on thick thumping bass, and the beautiful JinJoo Lee on frenetic guitar which is all impeccably put together in beautifully crafted electro-pop perfection.

There are so many highlights and strong songs, that if the singles were strategically released, this album could live for a few years on the radio and never feel old. Every song has longevity potential and a “this is going to be a hit” feel.


And while this seems like over the top praise for a top 40 style album, the last time we blathered on about a great pop album was Bruno Mars Unorthodox Jukebox and we’re confident that we were just as right then as we are now.

Whether it’s the fantastic cuts like the flowy bounce of Toothbrush, the Smash Mouth feel of Blown, the earworm inducing Good Day, the kinetic energy of Naked, or even the breezy calm of the acoustically laden Truthfully, you can’t lose with this self titled album from DNCE.

It is without reservation that we grant DNCE‘s self titled debut album the illustrious 5 afro award. Just because it’s that damn good. Buy it now.

5 out of 5 afros

Review: Bruno Mars – 24K Magic

Posted by funkatop On November - 18 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Bruno Mars 24K Magic AlbumA couple of years ago, we were smitten with Bruno Mars release of Unorthodox Jukebox which we predicted would result in a wealth of hits. His new release of 24K Magic goes to the next level.

To start, Bruno Mars is not ashamed in the least about borrowing from the funk pioneers that led the way before him. Even though last year’s Uptown Funk was under the umbrella of Mark Ronson, it awoke a beast in Bruno Mars soul and 24K Magic is ultimately the continuance of that 80’s funk and 90’s ballad resurgence. Not mad.

The opening title track song (and first single) 24K Magic borrows heavily from Cameo keyboard funk right down to the chorus riff and he continues to borrow from his predecessors throughout the entirety of the album.

Even the collections’ two slower tracks called Versace On The Floor and the closing Too Good To Say Goodbye sound exactly like tracks that would have fallen off of a New Kids On The Block recording session.

The structure of the 24K Magic album has a very distinct fault line with the first 4 songs of the album being a decidedly obvious hat tip to late 80’s funk and the last 5 songs rehashing 90’s boy bands medium grooves and ballads.

While most online reviews we’ve seen have been harsh, we think it’s simply a few more funk songs short of perfect. If the previous releases of Uptown Funk, Locked Out Of heaven, and Treasure had been housed within this collection, the discussion would simply be how many awards he would scavenge for 2017.

For folks who love the nostalgia of the late 80 and early 90’s, this album is a great one. And even though it doesn’t feel filled up or complete, you can certainly expect to hear nearly all 9 of these songs on the radio waves over the next 6-9 months and you’ll almost certainly hear a few select cuts on FUNKEDUP and that’s no doubt.

So get ready for Bruno world again in 2017.

Review: Kendra Foster (2016)

Posted by funkatop On July - 25 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Kendra Foster albumFor many, Kendra Foster may not be a household name to most, but if you’re a funk fan, you’ve seen her and you know her work. She has sat in the shadows singing background for some of the most prolific names in funk from George Clinton to Parliament Funkadelic to D’Angelo and many others.

Whenever she appeared on the projects of other musicians, her jazz inflections and amazing presence were always breathtaking.

From her prowess on songs like Mike Zabrin‘s The Other Side, Sub Swara‘s Nectar, The Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown track Mantra or even just being in the background of Parliament’s Live at Montreux, her voice is undeniable.

And many don’t know that she was essentially a co-writer on D’Angelo‘s award winning Black Messiah for many of the songs and according to a recent interview with Complex, it won’t be the last we’ll hear from D’Angelo and the Vanguard in the near future.

So it was only a matter of time before she decided to do a full blown album of her own and it is one of the best albums we’ve heard this year.

Where 2011 gave us her first “official” album produced by George Clinton entitled Myriadmorphonicbiocorpomelodicrealityshapeshifter, it seemed like a great collection of tunes and was simply euphoric. It was a very good sign of things to come.

And came it did. This time around we have a brand new self titled album Kendra Foster and it is this side of magic. And by this side of magic, we mean that you get to the magic line and then cross over into bliss.

The new album is a collaboration with Kelvin Wooten who has already garnered a name for himself with production work with Raphael Saadiq, Jill Scott, John Legend, Mary J. Blige, and Anthony Hamilton. The two have collaborated for many years and the album has been brewing for nearly a decade.

The 12 song collection is filled with vibes that only Jill Scott and Erykah Badu had created in the past where you just sat back and soaked in the grooves. Kendra Foster’s new album was done with such focus and verve, tracks thick with fat bass riffs, intricate vocal melodies, booming audio, and enough vocal gymnastics to soothe the savage melody beast.

The opening poppy track Respect is reminiscent and spray painted with a Janelle Monae level of energy complete with satisfying horn lines. Then followed by Promise To Stay Here that gives you a taste of the funky soul bass licks that you can expect to thump with throughout the remainder of the album.

There is so much to enjoy from all of the tracks on the album along with a lot of surprises like stutter stepped songs like Potency, lustful jams, and even Kendra’s beautiful voice filtered through Autotune on the closing Take Our Time.

We can only suggest that you move very quickly to check out this album and pick up a copy for yourself. It’s one of the first fantastic funk soul albums we’ve heard in a long while that serves as a complete collection of super solid tunes.

You can guarantee that it will have a place on the Best of 2016 list at the end of the year. Get it now on Amazon or also on iTunes.

Exclusive Interview: Analog Son

Posted by funkatop On June - 30 - 2016 2 COMMENTS

Analog Son

Mr. Christopher sat down with Jordan Linit of Analog Son via Skype to talk about their upcoming tour that has them all over the Northwest including the upcoming Arise Festival.

Mr. Christopher picked up on Analog Son back more than two years ago in 2014 (see his original review here) and immediately began getting the word out to people who could flip the switch for them including John Heintz of the Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown and also reaching out to The New Mastersounds.

Here we are two years later and Analog Son is actively playing and touring with The New Mastersounds, Lettuce, Orgone, and others. Chris finally sits down and discusses their future, live recordings and much more only right here at Funkatopia. Nowhere else.

Review: Esperanza Spalding – Emily’s D+Evolution

Posted by funkatop On March - 22 - 2016 ADD COMMENTS

Esperanza Spalding - Emily's D+Evolution


There are certain times when you see a spark of brilliance burn its way onto the world stage and then just as quickly flicker out and disappear. Not many can continue to follow an incredible debut album with a just as impressive sophomore album and then keep the booms coming album after album that they eclipse the previous efforts. Enter Esperanza Spalding’s Emily’s D+Evolution.

The beautifully talented bassist/vocalist Esperanza Spalding dug deep into her jazz funk sensibilities bringing out a breathtaking collection of songs that will take you down memory lane. But not because these are standards from the past, but because you can hear bits and pieces of influence from Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Thundercat, and a whole lot of Wayne Shorter.

During an interview with NPR she expounded on the album title indicating that the D+ was essentially a barely passing grade and can be seen as either an evolution or a de-evolution, but that we’re barely pushing through to the next level.

Whether you want to see it as devolution and evolution, and the place where they co-exist without one diminishing the other, or could look at it like barely having the tools that you need, but having to move forward, and having to keep moving,” Spalding says. “What do you do when you don’t really have all the tools that you need, but you have to survive? And you need to grow and expand?

I think that the best answer to that question of ‘What do you do?’ is, you get creative with the tools that you’ve got. I’m excited by that skill and the fruits of that intention — of that decision.

Emily is her middle name and this musical journey is very heavy jazz leaning and her insanely talented bass licks really are front and center in this musical masterpiece. No, really. It’s a masterpiece. The project focuses on her alter-ego Emily who she sees as a person that is the beneficiary of her hindsight. She is everything that Esperanza could have been, the good decisions she could have made, and the lessons she never learned.

She tells NPR, “I can start by saying that my personal relationship to Emily is that this is a spirit, or a being, or an aspect who I met, or became aware of. I recognize that my job — and it’s ongoing — is to be her arms and ears and voice and body. To say what she came to say, you know?

That’s my relationship with Emily — I see her and am informed by her, and recognize her spirit and her perspective. I get to be the researcher, the implementer and executor of that vision. It feels like I’m a side-person to her — I’m her artistic development team.

Through that process, I’m getting to know her more. I ask to Emily, ‘So, what did you come here to say? What do you want to do? What do you want to do that I didn’t do? Who are you and why are you here?

Esperanza then takes us on a journey through Emily’s life complete with off-putting forays into the realm of Flying Lotus to the perfect balance of sways and grooves. Powerful layered vocals marinating in-between snare shuffles and Sting-esque bass pops, walks and stiff riffs. Yeah, that’s how hard it is to describe what you’re listening to here.

It’s the moments where you let your guard down only to have the music drop out in songs like Ebony and Ivy where all of a of a sudden a monotone speech drones in, “…fill our minds with double standard vision by degrees we banish slaving over someone else’s questions test our problems and abolish all en-slavery and good grammar and forbid shovels picking your hammers and the starching linen to become the educated ones wrapped in them...” (we’ll let you hear it in its entirety for yourself.)

Funk The Fear is obviously one of our favorites with the intricate runs and slick bass licks and stutter stab drums and tasty fills complete with “Funk The Fear, Live Your Life” call outs.

album-coverThis is one of those albums that goes all over the musical landscape but one where you can never be prepared for what’s next as it jumps from one extreme to the other with a lot of musical theatrics similar to her live show.

There are tons of unexpected moments which has pretty much been Esperanza’s specialty from the day where she quietly walked on the Grammy stage in 2011 and stole away Justin Bieber‘s Best New Artist award. It was the first year that people who knew of Esperanza Spalding thought that it was one the few years that the Grammy’s got it right and you can guarantee that it won’t be the last time you hear her name.