Another year, another plunge into the inspired world of funk music. This year has been both invigorating and frustrating because so much great funky music is being released, but the lack of recognition of the music outside of our funk networks is galling. Nowadays the funk is both everywhere and nowhere, as you cannot find any great funk release on the R&B or hip hop charts, but through our doo doo loops we often hear of killer music before it is even released. So if you want to find The Funk, here's some good starting points:
Ronkat Spearman’s Katdelic: D.O.T.M.S.
P-Funk guitarist sideman Ronkat Spearman left George Clinton’s touring group a few years back to concentrate on his own band and his own production and it has taken off in blazing fashion. Katdelic is a great experience live, but one of Ronkat’s greatest talents is songwriting, and he has put together a deep, diverse, thunderous, tender, sentimental and stylish celebration of the magnificence of The Funk. Utter funk slabs like “Oh Hi” and “Mackin’ with No Hands” are complimented by ever so groovy trips as “Drive Away,” “Change Generation” and the haunting tribute to Garry Shider: “Peace to You.” This disc is silly, serious, soaring, subtle and superior in every way. Bustin’ “Bob” Mitchell at The Funk Store.com wrote a spectacular review of the CD that I could not have said better myself. http://www.thefunkstore.com/CurrentCDs/JustTheFacts/CRNT_RonkatDOTMS2012_TFS.htm
Check this review here, or better yet, check the CD and you’ll see it is THE ONE for this year, and you will be Dancing on the Mothership.
Larry Graham and Graham Central Station: Raise Up!
FINALLY! Larry Graham is back with The Thunder and he’s here to let every body know what The Funk is all about. Graham has been in collaboration with Prince for a number of years, and it hasn’t always produced music that brings out the best of each artist. Raise Up! is the most Larry Graham-ish record in years! By far the best production quality of any record on this list, the record has that ole school Bay Area feel of atmospheric soul, and incredible bass tone that the REAL GCS was all about. Some of the surprise of this is taken away by Larry’s remakes of original GCS tunes like “It’s Alright” and “Ain’t No Fun to Me.” I’m not entirely sold on those, but the redo of “Now Do You Wanta Dance” is in another place altogether, and reconfigures the notion of 2000s funk in about 30 seconds of hump.
Ida Nielsen: Sometimes a Girl Needs Some Sugar Too
Formerly known as Bass-Ida, Prince’s astoundlingly funky bass player Ida Nielsen delivers a brilliant stomp fest here, with some vicious chops and an excellent range of moods to compliment her butt ripping bass slams. Listening to this set gives a clue as to why Prince has been getting so deep into the super strong funk sound nowadays. The hard funk tracks like “Feed Me” and “Rubber Toy in my Bathtub” and the title track are just the front lines to a nonstop slice of multiple mood funky heat from an underrated master of the craft.
GoGo Get Down Compiled By Joey Negro: Pure Ghetto Funk from Washington D.C.
This one brings it! The days of the wacky and badly mixed Go Go comps are finally over! 24 of the wildest, looniest, meanest and ghettoest 80s Go Go tracks ever put to disc shine here in this one of a kind celebration of the crank!! There are some tracks and some artists here that are fairly well known, but the true magic of this mix is the consistently grooving genius of Go Go street funk from the depths of the scene, captured and apparently remastered for a consistent mash of magnificent, endless funk joy! This came out just weeks before we lost Chuck Brown, and his legacy as the Godfater of Go Go shines brighter than ever here.
New Trinity Revolution: 9 and Zootzilla: To Lie With Wolves
These two discs are from P-funk styled Bay Area producer Phil “PTFI” Jones. PTFI keeps the groove slow, lean, tight, dirty and clean all at once. Both of these CD’s are in such a pocket that they should be listed together. Zootzilla is the lunatic George Clinton clone with the voice of a wild wolf in heat, and he growls and clowns over PTFI’s stomping bottom on each loony track. The bass goes off on “Long Gone Fishin” and Zoot just be clowinin’ on “Lord of the Wolves”. This is a nut case of crazy contemporary funky conduits, like “Parasite Dooky Drop” with George Clinton. The New Trinity Revolution is a slightly smoother PTFI project, with cleaner, meaner message music and stoopid thomps. PTFI is Phil the Funky Instrumentalist, and you get the real deal on songs like “Electrohipnoticbumpmusic” and “Funkin’ out of Time”. As serious as the groove gets, guests like George Clinton and Trey Lewd keep the nonsense factor higher than high, while guest Lil T, daughter of Dr. Illenstein, makes her case to keep Obama in the White House on “Letter to the President.”
Monophonics: In Your Brain
These bay area funk-rockers put a dirty 60’s rock feel into The Funk for 2012 and don’t miss anything. It is a throwback and blast forward all at once. This is that meeting of 60’s psychedelia and bottom heavy thump that we’ve been waiting for since 1972. Lead singer Kelly Finnigan has the look and sound of someone that played Woodstock and survived, and then did gigs at the Keystone Corner in Berkeley in 1971 fronting this band before time warping it to 2012.
D’Angelo: Live in Oslo
For years there has been a buzz about the new D’Angelo studio album, but no dice, no news, only cryptic teases. Then we started to hear stories of D’angelo’s magnificent live tour of Europe early in 2012. He had some great funk players with him, like Kendra Foster on vocals, Amp Fiddler on keys and Jesse Johnson on guitar. We kept seeing the great wobbly youtube posts of his tour, and were left to wonder how and when he would bring That Funk to the States. Then he returned and performed at a B.E.T. awards show, (a fantastic set) and toured – opening for Mary J Blige in a setting that wasted his growing funk legend. Meanwhile still no word about the new album. But lo and behold, his 2012 European tour was captured on a spectacular 2-disc set released in Europe. Everything you loved about D’Angelo is captured in full, thrilling effect on this disc. Why it was not released to great fanfare in the U.S. is a complete mystery because it is KILLER.
Danny Bedrosian’s Secret Army: Lost Froth
P-Funk keyboardist Danny Bedrosian’s Lost Froth is once again a brilliant mash a mug of his keyboard genius and soulful, jazzy song styling. Danny’s music takes you crazy places that sometimes you want to desperately stay in, and sometimes you want to get out of right away. Maybe anticipating this, Lost Froth features a crazy mix of some songs that are too short and some that are hella long. But once you take the plunge in the lunatic tripology, you’ll never want to climb out.
This Brooklyn based instrumental group once again packaged a lean and mean funky groove session that takes no prisoners and plays every song like it is their most important selection. Nonstop funk-jazz like it used to be done. Their cover of “Slippin into Darkness” is only the beginning of a deep tribute to the groove, including the killer “Let it Gogo”
Esperanza Spalding: Radio Music Society
The delightful bass playing prodigy (and dreamy vocalist) made her move toward R&B with her 4th album of exquisitely soulful jazz driven mellow groove music. She won the ‘best new artist’ Grammy Award in 2011 over the media favorite Justin Bieber, and her career has far more substance to it, regardless of her hit list. This album features some brilliant inspiring soul in the vein of Minnie Riperton, with tracks like “Black Gold” and “Cinnamon Tree” she clearly has a vision that needs to be heard. It is sad to me that she has so few contemporaries in the world of conscious, cool, positive black jazzy, soulful groove music.
On the hip hop front, Boots Riley's latest, "Sorry to Bother You" from The Coup is as wild as ever and pushes the boundaries of hip hop forward into headslamming conscious rage music, and the latest Public Enemy is doing an honorable job of reclaiming the roots of conscious rap, but the strate up funk connection is harder and harder to find in hip hop today. Maybe that's as it should be.