Posts Tagged ‘ Funk Rock ’

Album of the Week 35-2017: Living Colour – Shade


With ‘Shade’ only being the third album in the 17 years since Living Colour reformed – and the first in eight years – expectations were high. What exactly I expected, I don’t actually know, but it certainly wasn’t an album that sounds as raw and “live” as ‘Shade’ does, as ‘CollideĆøscope’ and ‘The Chair In The Doorway’ were both albums with a notable emphasis on the production. This shift in approach has pros and cons, which makes ‘Shade’ a bit of a confusing record, but it is a fact that Living Colour hasn’t made a record this lively since their early nineties heyday.

There is a bit of a drawback here, as the looser arrangements sacrifice a bit of memorability of Living Colour’s earlier work. None of these choruses will stay with you as long as ‘Cult Of Personality’ did. In addition, some of the songs are just too long. The bluesier tracks ‘Invisible’, ‘Who’s That’ and the Robert Johnson cover ‘Preachin’ Blues’ in particular outstay their welcome, all of which would have been fine tracks had they been a minute and half shorter. Especially the unlikely marriage of New Orleans music and grooving heavy metal riffs on ‘Who’s That’ is interesting enough.

However, ultimately ‘Shade’ is a successful album. There are not many hard rock bands that groove as mercilessly as Living Colour does, as evidenced by songs like the excellent ‘Program’ and the Notorious B.I.G. cover – no, seriously – ‘Who Shot Ya’. ‘Come On’ seems to successfully blend the visceral live feel and the more produced nature of the previous two records and ‘Always Wrong’ sort of shifts back and forth between a psychedelic rock song based on a driving bass line by Doug Wimbish and a power ballad. Again, the combination of styles seems unlikely, but works miraculously well. And that is, of course, Living Colour’s trademark.

Moreover, the album takes an interesting turn about halfway through. There are a bunch of really cool experimental tracks on the second half of the record, starting with ‘Blak Out’, which seems to have developed from a dubby jam of Wimbish and drummer Will Calhoun until Vernon Reid’s massive guitar riff takes over. Reid also really shines on the dreamy, almost spacey closing track ‘Two Sides’. And to keep that part of the album from losing itself in experimentation, there are heavier tracks like ‘Pattern In Time’ and ‘Glass Teeth’ to restore the balance. The latter in particular is an awesome track, even with its borderline silly chorus.

In the end, there is an excellent 40 minute record in ‘Shade’. The only problem is that it is almost ten minutes longer. The performances are as good as you would expect from this group of geniuses. Corey Glover still sings as good as he did on ‘Vivid’ almost three decades ago and Vernon Reid has a surprisingly bluesy, melodic approach here. It’s amazing how much he still sounds like himself even without all the atonality he has extensively toyed with. Avid fans of Living Colour can blindly purchase ‘Shade’. Casual fans may want to give it a listen before purchasing.

Recommended tracks: ‘Blak Out’, ‘Two Sides’, ‘Glass Teeth’

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Album of the Week 29-2017: The Meters – Rejuvenation


Within the funk idiom, The Meters are the prime representatives of the New Orleans sound. Not as angrily defiant as James Brown, not as dirty as the Ohio Players and not as crazy as Parliament-Funkadelic, the band focused on swinging, relatively relaxed grooves, which landed them a job as the backing band of New Orleans greats like Allen Toussaint and Dr. John. Their own material is worth hearing as well though. ‘Rejuvenation’ is their first album without any instrumentals, which were part of their charm, but the record is so full of inspired grooves and memorable melodies that it hardly matters.

On their first three albums, The Meters specialized in laid-back funk grooves, often making their songs sound like they belong on the soundtracks of one of the Blaxploitation films that were so popular at the time. The shift to predominantly vocal tracks on this album’s predecessor ‘Cabbage Alley’ may have raised some eyebrows at the time, but it is a fact that ‘Rejuvenation’ is full of excellent songs, some of which – most prominently the typical New Orleans rhythm of ‘Hey Pocky A-Way’ – sound like they could have been on one of their earliest records, except that these songs feature singing.

At other times, ‘Rejuvenation’ features the band leaning heavily towards more contemporary funk. Opening track ‘People Say’ has a suprisingly propulsive, stomping beat that nods strongly towards the harder funk that was gaining popularity at the time, while ‘Just Kissed My Baby’ is as close as The Meters ever came to the slinky, sexy grooves of the Ohio Players. ‘Jungle Man’ and the excellent closing track ‘Africa’ are great examples of the band adapting the sparse, prominent grooves of Sly & The Family Stone to their New Orleans background and bridging the gap between several types of funk in the process.

The album’s centerpiece, however, is the massive, 12 minute track ‘It Ain’t No Use’. This masterpiece of a song starts out like a blues track with some excellent stinging guitar fills by Leo Nocentelli, which are strongly reminiscent of Clapton during his best days in Cream. Art Neville’s passionate vocals are incredible as well. After the more song-oriented part is out of the way, a long, inspired funk jam starts, during which every member gets a chance to shine. Especially the rhythm section of drummer Ziggy Modeliste and bassist extraordinaire George Porter Jr. is beyond incredible here. Its jamtastic nature makes it stand out from the relatively concise material on ‘Rejuvenation’, but that’s not a problem.

‘Rejuvenation’ is the ultimate proof that The Meters could handle any kind of funk. As such, it is one of the most versatile and varied funk records released to date, as its styles range from the highly poppy ‘Loving You Is On My Mind’ all the way to the hard driving ‘Africa’. And The Meters tackle all of these styles with equal enthusiasm and inspiration. The album is definitely where the musicianship and the songcraft of The Meters is in perfect balance. Which is great, because as much as I love their contributions to the records of all these New Orleans legends, making their own music is really what The Meters do best.

Recommended tracks: ‘It Ain’t No Use’, ‘Africa’, ‘Jungle Man’

Album of the Week 13-2015: Mother’s Finest – Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts


Damn, it’s been a while since Mother’s Finest released a studio album. As a fan of their combination of Funky R’n’B grooves and heavy Rock guitars, the announcement of the release of ‘Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts’ was amazing news to yours truly. Especially after hearing it; where predecessor ‘Meta-Funk’nPhysical’ contained a couple of brilliant songs – ‘Funk-a-Wild’ is so good it hurts – but relied a little too much on modern production techniques, the new album is full of live energy. The album contains all the guitars and grooves you need and the singing couple of Joyce Kennedy and Glen ‘Doc’ Murdock is on fire, the former especially.

While the contemporary production techniques haven’t vanished from the music – they’re quite prominently featured near the end of the album – they have been incorporated into the band’s sound more fluently than before and as a result, seem to support the guitars and rhythms rather than replacing the latter. Also, drummer Dionic, son of Kennedy and Murdock, has had a big hand in composing the material for the album – previously mainly the task of bassist Jerry ‘Wyzard’ Seay – and he seems to prefer a Mother’s Finest that rocks heavily.

But as the band’s history has proven, it’s the variation that makes this band so special. And ‘Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts’ is no different. The exuberant opening rocker ‘Angels’ sound like something you would have come to expect from Mother’s Finest and therefore is the perfect introduction to the album. After that, the album moves effortlessly between Hard Rock (‘Shut Up’, the surprisingly heavy near Metal closing track ‘My Badd’), Funk Rock (‘Take Control’) and a single dark ballad (‘Tears Of Stone’, fantastically sung by Kennedy).

Highlighting the album is the fantastic ‘All Of My Life’, an Arena Rocker with a massive chorus. Everything just works in that chorus; the choral vocals that are guaranteed to get stuck in your head, the triumphant lead guitar against the wide chords of the rhythm guitar and the way it breaks the song open. Other stand out tracks include ‘Another Day’, which moves from an awesomely funky riff to a celebratory, almost gospel-like chorus and the swinging, yet crushingly heavy riff work in the stomper ‘She Ready’.

If ‘Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts’ warrants a twelve year wait since the last studio album, I’m not sure, but you can’t accuse the five men and one woman of the band of rushing through making another album. In fact, it’s all very well written and produced and very likely to please fans of the band, at the very least the ones who are into ‘Another Mother Further’ and ‘Black Radio Won’t Play This Record’. Their self-titled debut album will always remain the band’s ultimate piece of work, but ‘Goody 2 Shoes & The Filthy Beasts’ is a more than worthy addition to the band’s excellent discography.

Recommended tracks: ‘All Of My Life’, ‘Another Day’, ‘She Ready’