funk music

Thursday, January 18, 2018

30 Best Funk Albums of 2017

Posted by funkatop On January - 12 - 2018 7 COMMENTS

Best Funk Albums of 2017This year we pick 30 of the best funk albums of 2017!

Every year, we pick the 20 best funk albums of the year. But this year showcased an enormous selection of albums and we honestly struggled to narrow it down. As a result, you get a bonus this year of 30 funk albums.  Taking any of these albums out of this top 30 list would be a travesty.  As you peruse them, be aware that they are not numbered in any order since they are all created equal in their funkiness. Funk has many new faces and we couldn’t be happier.

As always, it’s GREATLY IMPORTANT that you realize that if your favorite 2017 funk album wasn’t on the list, maybe a) it wasn’t released in 2017, b) we may have somehow missed it, c) we may have never even heard of it, or d) we heard it, but it wasn’t as great as you thought it was or didn’t bring anything new to the mix.  So if we didn’t list your favorite, PLEASE share it in the comments area below.

Click here to hear a handpicked playlist from these albums on Spotify!

Bootsy Collins – World Wide Funk
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Bootsy Collins - World Wide FunkThere are certain names that are synonymous with funk. Funk is all that they do. Bootsy Collins is one of those names. It’s been six years in the making since his last album Tha Funk Capitol Of The World and well worth the wait. Packed with 15 tracks and featuring a massive collection of guests including Doug E. Fresh, Victor Wooten, Stanley Clarke, Musiq Soulchild, Chuck D, Buckethead and so much more.

It also features a gut-wrenching tribute to the late Bernie Worrell entitled A Salute to Bernie with incorporated synth work from Bernie himself. Just remember to pay attention to all of the bass tracks to hear how a master bass player sounds that is still on the cutting edge of funkafied greatness.



PHO – two
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Pho - TwoPHO is one of our favorite new bands. We had the opportunity to exclusively debut this album to the world and accepted the honor. Funkatopia also had a chance to sit down and interview them to see what makes this super funky combo from Minneapolis tick tock.

PHO also got the attention of Prince himself as he would regularly have them reserve a quiet seat out the way at their shows just in case he could make it out.  He would later ask them to come to Paisley Park to open up as the headliner for the legendary Larry Graham. Needless to say, greatness is easy to spot and it’s right here on their amazing sophomore album.



Van Hunt – Popular
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Van Hunt - PopularSome call him a tortured artist, but Van Hunt takes a lot personally when it comes to his music. Technically this album was created many years ago as we cover in detail here. However, officially this album was just released this year by Blue Note. An occurrence that probably singularly derailed his career since it caused such a mass disparity in the evolutionary flow of his musical genius.

This album was his follow up to the critical darling On The Jungle Floor that preceded his Grammy win for his work with John  Legend on their cover of Sly Stone’s Family Affair, but it got shelved by his label and there it sat for the better part of 10 years. Now that it has finally seen the light of day being officially released in August of 2017, Van was very relieved that people could finally hear his masterpiece, but not before the damage had been done as he announced he would be leaving music as a performing artist. Could this be his last album ever?


Five Alarm Funk – Sweat
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Five Alarm Funk - SweatFive Alarm Funk came onto our radar many years ago with a crazy unhinged over the top delivery of funk and bravado brought to you by an entire band of misfit lunatics led by drummer and lead vocalist Tayo Branston whose voice sounds like a narrative version of a coked up Dr. John and with a backup band of a real life version of Dr. Teeth and The Electric Mayhem.  So when we heard that they were coming out of their Canadian homeland and would meander as close as Chattanooga, TN (we’re in Atlanta), we simply had to get there.

In concert, the antics are just as insane and brimming with energy like watching a pot boiling over where there’s nothing you can do but watch. Five Alarm Funk’s new album Sweat is truly a funky masterpiece full of energy and verve. And definitely check out their previous catalog and check out tracks like Payday and Higgs Boson to truly understand the madness. And even if you don’t, you’ll love it anyway.


Cissy Street
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Cissy StreetCissy Street is a prime example of what hard work will get you. The funk jazz instrumentalists from France would have gone completely missed if it weren’t for the efforts of putting a copy of their new album in the mail and delivering it into the hands of Funkatopia’s Mr. Christopher who immediately fell in love with the front to back funk slap jazz groove monsters.

France has always been a burgeoning ground zero for funk music, but many times it’s usually buried behind a French singer who makes it too difficult for Americans to embrace. Guitarist Francis Larue put together a handpicked selection of some fantastic musicians and put together an amazing band that rivals some of the best with incredible compositions. Enjoy.


Funky Chimes : Belgian Grooves From The 70’s
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Funky Chimes : Belgian Grooves From The 70'sFunky Chimes was yet another album that was sent to us for review and we couldn’t believe that such a great compilation has gone relatively unnoticed. On top of that, the collection features 27 songs covering 2 hours worth of long, lost forgotten funk tracks from a very surprising source.

When you think of funk, Belgium is probably not at the top of the list or even in the top 20 locales, but this collection of lost tracks from the Belgian community that were recorded back in the 70’s begs to question, how in the world did the universe miss so much great music? Luckily you don’t have to do that.


Polyrhythmics – Caldera
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Polyrhythmics - CalderaThe Polyrhythmics aren’t new to our best funk list when they screamed  into our field of vision with the amazing Libra Stripes. It was a blazing showcase of muscle flexing that immediately gained them fans around the globe.

Not to rest on their laurels, Polyrhythmics put out another offering that has everyone sitting up and taking notice yet again. Caldera is a tour de force of Afrobeat, trippy journey and Stack-like soul. The layers are brilliant and crafted with a lot of thought so as to create a musical journey that has everyone talking.


Funkadelic – Reworked by Detroiters
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Funkadelic - Reworked by DetroitersThere is no doubt that Funkadelic will be consistently in the top 3 of almost any funk fans list, but many artists in the Motor City consider Funkadelic to be the perennial seed of the funk movement at the heart of Detroit.

The result? Many of Detroit’s most well known artists (Pronounced ar-teests) like Amp Fiddler (also on this list), Moodymann and others , take on the task of remixing and reworking some of Funkadelic’s most prolific works and the end result is well worth the listen. Relive some of the best of Funkadelic reimagined by the best funk artists of Detroit.


Rock Candy Funk Party – The Groove Cubed
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Rock Candy Funk Party - The Groove CubedEvery single album of Rock Candy Funk Party ends up somewhere on our best lists and their new album The Groove Cubed is no different. The supergroup never fails to deliver as they have put together yet another barn burner.

RCFP features Tal Bergman, Ron DeJesus, Mike Merritt, Joe Bonamassa, and other special guests like Prince‘s keyboardist Renato Neto, Ty Taylor and Mahalia Barnes. Once again, this funky congregation does not disappoint.


Calvin Harris – Funk Wav Bunces Vol. 1
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Lake Minnetonka - MelbourneapolisOn the pop side, top 40, enter-at-your-own-risk radio hell side of things, Bruno Mars did an admirable job keeping funk in the forefront of that world with his 2016 album. But not so quietly in the background was a DJ/producer by the name of Calvin Harris who released a great album in 2017 called Funk Wav Bounces Vol. 1 that only technically released a single track via top 40 called Feels with Katy Perry, Pharrell and Big Sean.

However, the album is full of funky tracks that will keep your toe tapping and features a literal Who’s Who of pop stars and up and comers like Khalid, Future, Nicki Minaj, Kehlani, Travis Scott, Frank Ocean, Migos, Ariana Grande, and the list just keeps going. Kind of makes you wonder how you only heard one song off of this album.


Will Sessions – Deluxe
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Will Sessions - Deluxe2017 was definitely the year of funk for Detroit. That year alone just in this list brought us Funkadelic – Reworked by Detroiters, Amp Fiddler, and the very busy Will Sessions. It appears that if anything is going to put Detroit back onto the map, it’s going to be the funky sounds of the Motor City.

Will Sessions started out as a house band for funk parties and began releasing singles, but then decided to start their own label Sessions Sounds and released a collection of fantastically funky tunes in the form of Deluxe, as well as a project with Amp Fiddler called Kindred Live. The journey has been filled with Detroit brotherhood and Will Sessions now appears to be the house band for the Detroit funk movement.


Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown – Volume 2
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Big Ol' Nasty Getdown - Volume 2The second volume of the infamous Big Ol’ Nasty Getdown has been a very long time coming. The brainchild of John Heintz has been a true labor of love. It features an insane list of funk heroes including members of Earth, Wind and Fire, Graham Central Station, The Time, Fishbone, Fred Wesley, The James Brown Band, Bill Withers, Parliament Funkadelic, Kool and the Gang, Bootsy’s Rubber Band, and GOOD LORD, the list keeps going.

A very close friend of Funkatopia’s Mr. Christopher who also got to go behind the scenes during part of the creation of the project deep in the mountains of North Carolina and watch the process. While it technically falls as a 2018 release hitting the public shelves Jan. 12, the album had soft dates in 2017 that the public was not privy to. So we had a choice to either put this funk gem on your radar now or wait until 2019 to share it with you. And that just wasn’t going to happen. You need to buy this right now. Like RIGHT NOW.


Sharon Jones – Soul Of A Woman
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Sharon Jones - Soul Of A WomanIt’s heartbreaking to know that Sharon Jones is no longer with us. We get comfort knowing that she is not in pain, but that she also left behind an amazing album to remember her by. Sharon’s voice is powerful and her onstage persona was larger than life. Her sound was huge and her soul was breathtaking.

Soul Of A Woman is her posthumous release and we were blessed enough that she completed it before her sudden passing and that we were able to hear for 2017. Full of funky soul classics that leave nothing on the table and in reality, flips the table over and kicks the chair across the room. If you love soul, get ready for a cleansing.


Sheila E. – Iconic: Message 4 America
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Sheila E. - Iconic: Message 4 AmericaWe are always shocked at how polarizing Sheila E. is to Prince fans. We have no idea how an artist can create so much praise and vitriol at the same time.  Her last project Iconic: Message 4 America was started on the PledgeMusic platform and funded by fans (like us).

The result is a collection of great funk and soul classics re-envisioned by Sheila. Her sources were obvious selections giving props to Marvin Gaye, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, James Brown, Beatles and many more including Prince.  The end result is a collection of funk classics that will make you so busy dancing and bobbing your head, that you probably won’t even notice that all of the songs are politically charged and focused on human rights. Ain’t nothing wrong with that.


Lettuce – Witches Stew
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Lettuce - Witches StewLettuce is one of those bands that loves to funk it up with the best of them. But sometimes they just simply have to get something out of their system and the influence of Miles Davis simply had to flow forth.  Titling the album Witches Stew as a variant of Miles’ Bitches Brew, the album is a selection of classic Miles Davis tracks covering his career across the board like Evil, In A Silent WayOn The Corner, and others.

A truly unexpected album that will most likely confuse their most loyal fans, but effectively sets them up to a different echelon of band by taking on some of the most difficult and challenging musicians of our time and doing it with great funky finesse that by the time you’re done, you’re not even sure what you just witnessed.


Anderson .Paak – Yes Lawd!
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Anderson .Paak - Yes Lawd!Anderson .Paak is so deserving of all of the accolades he receives and it’s undeniable.  His voice and delivery is both friendly and commanding at the same time that it embraces your ear drums. It’s also one of the great funk variants of our times that he shares with acts like Frank Ocean, The Internet, and others, where it breathes a hip alternative vibe, but yet oh so funkafied at the same time.

Yes Lawd is his latest offering under the name of NxWorries (which is duo of Anderson and Knxwledge) and it amasses some welcoming new tunes with most tracks clocking in right near the 3 minute mark making it easily digestible, but masterfully constructed where just when you realize that you love a song, it’s on to the next track.


Analog Son – Black Diamond
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Analog Son - Black DiamondWe always love it when we are ahead of the curve on an artist and Analog Son was one of those great bands. We had the chance to do a humorous interview with Jordan Linit where he was so busy in production, it was basically us asking him questions while watching him work on his computer.  But that’s why the latest album Black Diamond is the quality release that it is.

Analog Son has emerged a true funk force and a band that everyone is taking very seriously in a relatively short period of time in existence. When you look at bands that have been around for decades like Lettuce and The New Mastersounds, having a band that still has that new car smell that is able to make an impact so quickly is an impressive task. And when you listen, you’ll understand why just as quickly.


Speedometer – Downtown Funk 74
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Speedometer - Downtown Funk 74Speedometer is a band that has been around for the better part of 2 decades in the U.K. and their raw funk is not only a breath of fresh air, but it hearkens back to the sounds of the 70’s with the style and ambiance you’d expect to hear for the hippy era of funk.  Not many bands can recreate this sound well and only a few come to mind such as Orgone and The Monophonics.

For those looking for something new and refreshing, but you feel like you just can’t get that same quality of funk from “back in the day”, Speedometer‘s new offering may be exactly what you’re looking for to cure that nostalgic itch. It’s one of our new favorites and the only thing more upsetting is knowing that we’ve missed the boat on Speedometer all of these years. Never again.


Amp Fiddler – Amp Dog Knights
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Amp Fiddler - Amp Dog KnightsAmp Fiddler is another one of those Detroit-centric acts that has revitalized Motor City as the new home of funk music. Amp Fiddler is arguably one of the front runners of that movement and the multi-instrumentalist has been tirelessly recording. May know Amp Fiddler during his work with George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic when he replaced Bernie Worrell in the mid-late 80’s when Bernie decided to take a break from P-Funk for a while.

Amp Fiddler has done so much work since then including working with Prince, Brand New Heavies, George Clinton and many others including assisting in bringing the mighty Slum Village into our view.  His new album is full of great funk jazz compilations with hints of new soul. It’s a very welcome album and easy on the ears in that pass the dutchie head-bobbing way that we live and breathe.


BB Boogie – Standing On The Wall

(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

BB Boogie - Standing On The WallMany folks aren’t familiar with BB Boogie, but if you love funk, you’ve definitely heard of the funk outfit Bugz In The Attic. BB Boogie is one of the original members of Bugz who went by the name of Daz-I-KueBB Boogie is the stage moniker for Daz-I-Kue‘s disco boogie persona and Standing On The Wall is BB’s debut album and holy crap, it’s an amazingly funky album.

Daz relocated to Atlanta after establishing himself in London as one of the founders of the burgeoning Broken Beat scene and since relocating has absorbed the rich culture of funk and soul in the Dirty South and mashed those southern fried influences with  all of the many years of production mastery to create a audio shout-out to the funk of the 80’s with a Cameo meets Roy Ayers vibe that is insanely fun to listen to and just as hard to stop.


The Haggis Horns – One Of These Days
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

The Haggis Horns - One Of These DaysAbout 17 years ago, a horn section graced the now legendary funk album Keb Darge presents The New Mastersounds. They were the backbone for Eddie Roberts’ project just as much as Maceo, Pee Wee and Fred Wesley were for James Brown. They helped establish that Afrobeat-soul-funk vibe that now has a life of its own in London. They’ve built a repertoire of appearances in performances with everyone including The Roots, Jamiroquai, Adele, Amy Winehouse and many other greats.

A mere few years after that groundbreaking New Mastersounds release, the horn section stepped out on its own to create The Haggis Horns and quite a few albums later sees the release of a new album entitled One Of These Days.  This album finally once again lets them focus the spotlight on themselves and shine, oh so brightly.


Jamiroquai – Automaton
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Jamiroquai - AutomatonYet another polarizing act in the funk community exists one of our favorites. The Mighty Jamiroquai. They first shot onto the scene in the early 90’s with the funk classic Emergency on Planet Earth. Then slowly and gradually they started changing their vibe and becoming slowly more disco and then eventually landing in the land of electronica.  This musical chrysalis slowly became the bands sales downfall in the states, but helped them stay current in the U.K..

Automaton has had stagnant results on this side of the pond, but has helped the band to continue its level of notoriety as the forefathers of the funk and acid jazz movement in the UK scene. This was one of the newer flavors of funk that has begun surging into the music scene that is being ushered in by the DJ movement in the states and Jamiroquai makes it well known that they are still very relevant even though a completely different band then they were almost 30 years ago. But then, aren’t we all.


Pimps of Joytime – Third Wall Chronicles
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Pimps of Joytime - Third Wall ChroniclesPimps of Joytime are one of those bands that are simply undeniable. Whether you’re intrigued by their incredibly unique sounding lead vocals from Brian Jay, curious about why percussionist Mayteana Morales left acting (she was Gaby on the TV show Ghostwriter in the 90’s), wondering how bassist David Bailis can get those sounds he does, why Kimberly Dawson doesn’t have her own band with that voice, or how in the world John Staten is such a funky drummer, it’s still one cool recipe.

Third Wall Chronicles is exactly the release that people have come to expect (and wanted) from the formidable group and it does not disappoint. It’s full of that edgy alternative-vibed funk that people have been gravitating towards since their debut almost 10 years ago. It’s a funk-tinged odyssey with a hint of New Orleans merged with California sway and soul.


Mononeon – A Place Called Fantasy
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Mononeon - A Place Called FantasyThere is a new sound that has crept into the funk world and was ushered in by the likes of two amazing bassists that seem to hail from the same planet and cut from the exact same cloth. And of course, we’re speaking about Mononeon and ThundercatMononeon was also performing with Prince and had recorded quite a lot of funk-jazz in the mindset of Madhouse that still remains unreleased to this day.

That didn’t stop him from completing his own release A Place Called Fantasy that is that offbeat, off-kilter and downright bizarre display of bass prowess. The super funky bass slapping, overloaded effects and over the top delivery are all mashed together in the bizarro world of Mononeon. And he just can’t help it.


Ikebe Shakedown – The Way Home
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Ikebe Shakedown - The Way HomeClose your eyes. It’s 1974 and you’re in a custom painted caramel brown Plymouth Valiant on a beautiful day. Somehow while driving through the deserts of Arizona, somewhere near the Mexican border, your mind wandered off and you veered off the road onto a hard sand desert plain and the dust is kicking up behind you in your rear view mirror. But it’s okay. The AC is working fine. You’ve just set the backdrop for Ikebe Shakedown‘s new release The Way Home.

Ikebe Shakedown is stuck somewhere in that timewarp in the sound. Somewhere between how The Way Home was recorded and the vibe it sets lies all of its pristine magic. It’s something you can’t quite escape and nor do you want to get away from it. Your drawn to it. If you’re a true fan of the funk and all of its origins, you need this fix.


Thundercat – Drunk
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Thundercat - DrunkAs mentioned above when we listed Thundercat‘s “cut from the same cloth” cohort, Mononeon, these two bassists are from someplace other than our resident Earth. The fact that they both released an album in 2017 means that bassists around the world must be in an orgasmic nirvana to have so much to absorb in such a short period of time. There certainly have to be some health risks involved.

Drunk is the latest addition to the Thundercat arsenal and a worthy adversary to the cookie-cutter bass player offerings you often hear. Sometimes he reminisces about what it must be like to be a cat, or just discussing the rigors of masturbation, Thundercat is all over the map just like his fingers on the frets. His topicality is everywhere at the same time, as is his mindset and mental stability. And it’s such a good thing.



The Allergies – Push On
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

The Allergies - Push OnThis seems to be a very big year for UK based bands and this sophomore album from the power duo know as The Allergies definitely deserves a spot on the list. Calling them crate digging extraordinaires is an understatement. Most of the sounds they pull from are the roots of 60’s soul and elements of 50’s jazz.

Push On is only their second album and extremely impressive considering their limited public exposure as this relatively new project. There are some bands that can fake the funk and it seems to come very naturally for this group which is remarkably refreshing. It’s a very current feel and the only thing shocking is that these songs aren’t on the radio right now.


The Floozies – Funk Jesus
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

The Floozies - Funk JesusSpeaking of duos, The Floozies are always on the edge of greatness. Their live shows are fantastic and full of lights, lasers, smoke and the most thumping bass that your body can possibly absorb without being physically scooted back. See them live once and you’ll be hooked. The guitar work and programming of Matt Hill and the power drumming of Mark Hill combine to create one big massive huge sound.

Funk Jesus is their newest release from the electro-funk kings The Floozies and it’s just as fun as you’d expect from the duo that can’t ever seem to stop smiling. The roots of the thump are highly contagious including the soon to be dance floor classic Arithmetic, and the fun voicebox antics of Honeymoon Phase. There’s a lot to love if you love that 80’s funk.


Quentin Moore – Black Privilege
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Quentin Moore - Black PrivilegeThere are certain acts that are simply not shy about just being dirty. Quentin Moore does not shy away from talking about sex and booties and it’s a blast of refreshment. Right out of the gate, the album opens with the chant “Bounce that ass like they used to do.” and then followed by Quentin claiming the he’s got the tools to make the booty move. And he ain’t lying.

This is funk like it’s supposed to be; complete with horn stabs, chicken scratching rhythm guitar and heartfelt call outs. But he’s like the Clarence Carter of funk with songs like Booty Sweat where he simply wonders if the “booty smells good” and to “put it in my face.”  And there’s tons more where that came from. It’s something completely different than you’d expect and the reason why it grabs your attention as effectively as it does.


Tuxedo – 2
(Amazon | iTunes | Website | Spotify)

Tuxedo - 2Tuxedo‘s second album, aptly titled Tuxedo 2 is yet another entry into the never-ending funky late 80’s timewarp that has forever entrapped the duo of Mayer Hawthorne and producer Jake One.  Both of which are avidly obsessed with that clean keyboard-synth funk sound and they do it so amazingly well, that it’s a great side project outlet for the both of them and it truly has a life of its own.

Tuxedo 2 opens with the stage setting Fux With the Tux that will give you a magnifying glass into what you can expect for the duration of this great album.  Mayer Hawthorne is one of our favorite acts and he brings his superb songwriting skills to the table and Jake One levels everything out with thick synth tracks and high-level funk production. The Wonder Twins of funk if you will. And we do.


Extra Bonuses from YOU!

Check the suggestions below from you, our readers. Tell us about the albums that our readers should also check out beyond our massive list of 30 albums.  Add them to the comments below!  Hook us up and remember, the albums should have been released in 2017 to qualify for the list.

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

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 48 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.