Friday, May 28, 2010

Funky P

Funky P



CD Review

By Barney Quick,

It’s always been interesting to observe how Europe – both its audiences and musical acts– have filtered American music according to its own experience.You never know what elements are going to appeal to Europeans and in what combination.

A Luxembourg-based ensemble called Funky P Society is currently tearing up the
continent with its amazingly tight, bright, fresh take on the prototype of the danceoriented
horn-and-rhythm section powerhouse. The Society has crafted a classic,
timeless sound, combining the most venerable aspects of every r&b style to come along
in the last forty years. One hears snippets of Philly soul, disco, 70s-era Stevie Wonder,
90s-era balladeering, and even deep-south juke-joint grits-and-collard-greens styling.
The sum total of all this is presented with supreme polish. It’s dressed up for downtown.
The Europeans apparently like their neo-soul with lots of class.

The band’s new self-titled offering includes two discs: a CD sporting twelve tracks, and a
DVD that puts videos with five of them. The most appealing videos are those that show
the entire group, although lead vocalist Isaac Roosevelt knows how to work a camera
with his slick dance moves and his repertoire of facial expressions.

The two standout songs are “Real Love” and “Days of Pearly Spencer.” They most
effectively showcase the band’s signature strengths: the depth, range and dynamic variety
of Roosevelt’s delivery, the punchy horn charts, the general fullness of sound, and the
authenticity of the feeling being expressed.

“Real Love” builds through the verse to a robust rhythmic stride over which Roosevelt
sings “I’ll just climb from a mountain / fly over trees / rise from the ocean floor / to be at
your feet,” and then breaks through into a full-throttle exuberant groove for the refrain.
This tune also provides a fine example of another of the Society’s attributes: an
unabashedly light-filled outlook. It’s so refreshing to hear dance-club music that uplifts
and celebrates. This record proves conclusively that being hip most definitely does not
mean being jaded or decadent. Remo Cavallini’s bright, churningly percussive guitar
contributes to this tune’s impact as well.

“Days of Pearly Spencer” is a compassionate look at a lonely soul starved for connection
in a bleak urban landscape. Still, it’s not a portrait devoid of hope; indeed, there is an
exhortation to the protagonist to rise up and claim his humanity. Roosevelt delivers the
spoken-word verses in a worldly-wise baritone that is at once candid yet rich in hope.

Other tunes sport noteworthy traits as well. The vocal effects on “Get the Funk” lend the
proceedings an air of modernity without being gratuitously gimmicky. “Smile Baby” is a
plea to a woman to see past the glitz of her social whirl and recognize the genuine love of
the singer. “Falling” is perfect hustle music. The interaction of the staccato electricpiano
chords and slap bass create the perfect tension for maximum flair on the dance
floor. That’s just the first version. As a bonus track, a remix is included. It puts reverb
and delay on Roosevelt’s vocals, and there is a synthesized gallop to the beat, as well as a
wah-wah guitar riff, that open up a whole new set of possibilities for those moving to the
aural propulsion. “Live by Your Side” provides some stately harmonies. Lyrically, it’s
yet another example of that expression of belief in everyone’s basic humanity, that
conviction that none of us are alone, that characterizes so much of this album.

That, in the final analysis, is what sets Funky P Society apart from the multitudes of
dance-music purveyors out there. This is not an easy world; sometimes joy seems to be
at a premium. The message that it’s worth it to keep looking for it is always welcome,
particularly when it also makes your feel like doing slides and crossover breaks up and
down the dance floor.

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