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Category: Funk

Still Wishin’

I had all but given up checking the news wire for the new release from the original members of The Time.  Jimmy Jam told us it was “coming soon” when I saw them in June of 2010 and I think the last time I googled “The Time” and “New Album” was in September of this year.

Imagine my surprise (I guess a watched pot never boils) when I opened the Minneapolis Star Tribune today and saw that the original 7 members of The Time (now called The Original 7ven) had played a gig here in town last Saturday night at the State Theater. More shocking was their new album, Condensate, had slipped out on October 18 and I didn’t even notice! Kicking myself for not being more attentive, I immediately scrambled for my iPhone and downloaded it straight away.

As I was watching each song load onto my iPhone, I wondered if the disc would live up to the hype I had built up in my mind. I had been waiting for a new album from The Time since their 1990 release, Pandemonium and my dream to someday be Morris Day had actually grown stronger as I had gotten older. I admit that I had my doubts about this new offering. Would they still be relevant in the year 2011?

As soon as I heard the opening dialogue between Morris and Jerome as they visit their old hood in North Minneapolis, I knew that I would be: a) way the fuck off for ever having any doubts whatsoever and b) in for a real treat.

The first track, “Strawberry Lake,” is straight from the same shop where one can buy paisley dripped rasberry berets. In fact, this tune, being the lead off number, almost makes me wonder if it isn’t a giant middle finger to Prince who would not allow the lads to use the name “The Time” for this record.

After this we have a “press conference” in which Morris explains to a reporter why he is still cool. The answer is hilarious and leads straight into the title track. This skit, along with many others sprinkled throughout the album, is vintage Morris/Jerome and ranks right up there with “If The Kid Can’t Make You Come” and “Sexy Socialites/Jerk Out.”

“#Trendin”, the album’s single, fits perfectly into any club at 1am when the bodies are moving and sweating…it’s beat, relentless and pounding…and has lyrics that bring the boys firmly into the 21st century with Morris singing about “tweetie pies posting on blogs.” Regardless of what time it is (:)), we can always count on Morris to be the hippest of the hip. Honestly, our current age of digital vanity and Morris Day are a match made in heaven.

The next two tracks “If I Was Yo Man” and “Role Play” are up beat love songs that both shine in their own special way. The latter oddly reminds me of Tony Carey/Planet P Project with Morris’ haunting voice seemingly coming from another world. It’s here that we fully realize how important it is to have Jimmy and Terry at the producing helm.

Then we come to the albums two gems: “Sick” and “Lifestyle.” The former showcases some serious shredding by Mr. Jesse Johnson. His solos are nothing short of stunning and several of the lyrics made me grin from ear to ear. The lyrics to “Lifestyle,” the true ballad of the album, made me laugh out loud at several points and brought my desire to be Morris Day to an all time high. The song is simply perfect for every single thing that these guys are all about….vanity with none of the downside…rampant materialism that’s not shallow in any way but is actually cool…ego with perfectly understandable reasons…swagger that is completely justified because…well, it’s Morris!

Next up is “Faithful” which showcases some great back up vocals by some very hot sounding ladies. “Cadillac” could easily be on their self titled debut or “What Time Is It?” and continues that materialism-is-the-best meme in yet another successful way. “Aydkmn” makes use of the word persneckity in its chorus which marks the first time I’ve ever heard that used in a song. “One Step” and “Toast To The Party Girl” both sound like they were recorded in 1983 but that’s probably the (wonderful) idea. “Hey Yo” is also straight from that decade (now working on 30 years ago!) that saw so many power ballads just like it.

The last track, “Go Home To Yo Man,” gives us that last little gift that these guys have always given us: melancholy humor. The story in this song is amusing but also somewhat serious as Morris croons, “Play time is over and you got to go home to yo man.” As the final strains of this last track fall away with Morris (fake?) crying, one has to wonder why the 07 waited so long to make new music. I’ve always been an impatient fellow and this is especially true when it comes to my great love…music. Perhaps they didn’t have the tunes or maybe they were just taking their time (I know, I know…the puns are too easy:)) but do any of us care? I know I don’t because it was well worth the wait. This record is fantastic.

And I still wish I was Morris Day!

Here’s the video for the single “#Trendin” although “Sick” “Lifestyle” “Cadillac” and “Strawberry Lake” should be downloaded before it.

New Funk: Michael Dean’s ‘Stroke the Mind B4 the Behind’

Followers of the Funk, lend me your ears. You won’t be sorry…

Friend of Ickmusic and fellow avid Prince fan Michael Dean not only runs one of the coolest funk-centric sites on the web (Freedom Train), but the man is clearly a talented funk-man in his own right. I have to admit, I was pretty floored when I listened to his brand new album, ‘Stroke the Mind B4 The Behind’.

Like the purple man from Minneapolis, Michael produces, arranges, composes and performs everything you hear. As for the content, it had me from the start. “Kingdom”, which leads off the record, hooked me in with the insatiably funky groove. The handclaps, the synths, the sly exchange between Michael and his guest lady friend.

For you Prince fanatics, tell me that Michael’s vocals – especially on “Kingdom” – don’t remind you a little of André Cymone?

I’m impressed. Every track has something good: a little techno on “She Was a Problem”; the Four Loko funk of “I’m Coo”; slowed down R&B on “Epic Fail”; the 80’s new-wave soul of the title track (speaking of Mr. Cymone).

It’s like Michael takes everything we love about that Minneapolis sound in its prime and updates it for 2011. I’ve already listened to Michael’s joint more times than Planet Earth. That says something.

Michael Dean – “Kingdom”

Download the Stroke the Mind B4 The Behind for free on Bandcamp.

And be sure to check Michael’s ongoing series of podcasts on PodcastJuice.com.

Home Town Boys: The Time live in Minneapolis

I wish I was Morris Day.

This desire might seem odd coming from someone who is quite literally whiter than anyone – including all white people – on the entire planet. As Morris said long ago, “You got to shake your ass like the black folks, you might get some tonight!” Needless to say, I can’t really shake my ass without eliciting laughs and hardy guffaws from my family and friends. This has always been a source of enormous consternation on my part given the undeniable fact that I love funk and soul so much that they are pretty much exactly like my blankie that I had when I was a kid.

When it comes to the greatest funk band in history I’m not white, though, I’m CLEAR. And I always will be for The Time.

I had heard the original line up of Morris Day, Jerome Benton, Jesse Johnson, Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Monte Moir and Jellybean Johnson was back together again making a new record produced by Jam and Lewis. More importantly, there was little or no involvement by Prince. It would truly be a Time record unlike their first four releases. My favorite of those four will always be Pandemonium simply because the tyrant from Chanhassen allowed Jam and Lewis to really take the reins and make a great record with some of his songs. In so many ways, that record sums up the very essence of the band: silly, fun, happy, sexy, and super funkilicious.

Of course, I had seen Morris Day’s touring version of the Time with Jellybean, Moir and sometimes Jerome over the years but not the original (and best) line up. The yearning to see the original line up has always been strong and when I heard about the new record, I was amped that a tour would be forthcoming. That feeling went nuclear when I heard that two quick gigs were planned to get the band “feeling tight again” as Jimmy Jam put it. One was scheduled in Detroit and one in the band’s hometown – my hometown -Minneapolis. I found out about it two days before the show and snagged a ticket immediately.

The venue that was chosen was quite ironic. Now called Club Epic, it used to be Prince’s old club from the 90s, Glam Slam. They have since remodeled and it really looks and sounds fantastic. Everyone was in a great mood, dancing to the DJ and waiting for the band to come on. When they did, it was (pardon the pun) Pandemonium. Minnesota loves it’s hometown heroes and the adulation was insane – stunning really – when Morris and Co. first took the stage.

Their set list was the same as the Detroit show two nights earlier, and simply spectacular. “Wild and Loose” and “777-9311”, both almost 30 years old now, sounded as fresh as ever. Songs from Pandemonium (“Blondie”, “Jerk Out”) were completely out of sight. I also quite enjoyed “Skillet”, a hilarious number about the joys of cooking and food.

The real treat of the night was Jesse Johnson. That guy can fucking play the guitar! There were moments when I felt the spirit of Jimi Hendrix and this was never more true than his mini 4 song solo set in the middle of the show. Playing old and new songs, Jesse stunned the crowd with his prowess on his gorgeous white Fender. Honestly, I really felt blessed to witness it.

The show wrapped up with the customary girls on stage for “If The Kid Can’t Make You Come”, a loving and dedicated-to-Minneapolis “Ice Cream Castles”, a heartfelt and surprisingly crushing “Gigolos Get Lonely Too”, a military crisp version of “The Walk” with the whole band dancing, and anyone who wanted onstage for the melee know as “The Bird”. As the rest of the band filed off to await the encore cheers, Jimmy Jam and Jerome Benton stayed on stage to thank all of us for starting their careers and talked a little bit about the new record due soon. Jimmy Jam is just a class act. No doubt about it. Everyone came back out and they did “Jungle Love” (natch!), and were then sent off into the night dreaming of phone numbers, sticks, COOL, birds and gigolos. Weary eyed, I dreamed of what always do…

I wish I was Morris Day.

More photos after the jump…

White Hinterland, “No Logic” (Alan Wilkis remix)

White Hinterland – “No Logic” (Alan Wilkis remix)

Remixing the ambient dream-pop of White Hinterland is not a task for the weak. Thankfully, electrofunketeer Alan Wilkis is no slouch in the remix chair. Taking the otherwise demure original “No Logic,” from the band’s new release Kairos, and spinning it on its end with a musical drumbeat and his signature sense of funk; Wilkis manages to breathe a gust of life into an otherwise lifeless track. Check it out:

White Hinterland – “No Logic” (Alan Wilkis remix)

Ick’s Pick: Jesse Johnson’s Verbal Penetration

As a Prince-obsessed maniac since the age of Purple Rain, I’ve always been interested in following those he helped spawn back in the day. The Time were obviously the most talented of the bunch, and a sizable contributor to the feel and sound of the band – along with Prince, Morris Day, Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis – was guitarist Jesse Johnson.

After the success of Ice Cream Castle (which featured “The Bird” and “Jungle Love”, tunes co-written by Jesse), he left the group for a solo deal with A&M Records. His body of work has always ranked up there as my favorite – his first two albums, Jesse Johnson’s Revue and Shockadelica, are classic Minneapolis synth-funk. Also solid were his other two studio efforts: 1988’s Every Shade of Love and 1996’s Bare My Naked Soul.

Except for a 2000 greatest hits collection, Jesse has been quiet all these years… that is, until Verbal Penetration came along. I know, I know, the album title is pretty cringe-worthy at first glance. But after picking it up earlier this week, I’m here to tell you – this is a fantastic collection of neosoul, retro-funk and R&B. It’s 29 tracks spanning two discs, and clocks in at almost two hours, and you quickly succumb to the verbal penetration ride that Jesse wants to take you on.

At the forefront is Jesse’s prolific guitar work. It’s been 13 years since his last studio album, and this album burns with a funky ferocity that feels like Jesse’s been bottling up this energy all these years, and he’s finally been uncorked. Case in point is the instrumental “Merciful” [mp3] – where a smooth, simmering groove sets the backdrop for a jaw-dropping guitar solo that kicks off 25 seconds into the song, and doesn’t let up until the song finishes at almost 5 minutes.

There are so many highlights, and I’m just a few listens in… Check out “Sheila Rae” [mp3], a dose of warm and sunny pop/funk with synth horns and some catchy female backing vocals (which show up a lot on this album).

“1000 Watts of Funky” is old school – you guess it – funk, paying obvious homage to Sly & the Family Stone.

There’s “Ali vs. Frasier”, where Jesse puts on his Wes Montgomery hat and kills with some jazz guitar.

“Letter From a Soldier (Reprise)” and “Love Letters” mashup classic Curtis Mayfield vibes with smooth neosoul grooves.

Even the strange ones are captivating. There’s “Redemption for the Soul, Enlightenment for the Earhole”, a tale set in the far future where music is banned. It is the “Days of the Deafening Quiet”, after the “Great Last War left the Nurennus Realm in control”. It’s narrated by French-Norwegian artist Jezabella Kipp-Messmer, and her accent will confuse, possibly annoy, and probably mesmerize you. What’s truly mesmerizing is the funky sounds backing up the story.

Verbal Penetration is a welcome surprise from a familiar old friend. It sizes up well against Prince’s post-2000 output, and even far exceeds it at points. Jesse’s hiatus hasn’t diminished his talent and potency in any way whatsoever. If you have a little purple in you, do yourself a favor and pick it up.

Buy: Verbal Penetration

Visit: JesseJohnson.com

Ick’s Pick: En’ A-Free-Ka

Unpredictable.
Otherworldy.
Fuunnky.
Indescribable.

The new album from Shafiq Husayn is blowing my mind. En’ A-Free-Ka is an hour long journey through strange sounds, funky Parliament-arian grooves, futuristic hip-hop soundscapes.
Seriously, when I listen to this album, it feels like I’m listening to sounds I shouldn’t be hearing for another 20 years. It feels ahead of its time.

Thanks to SiriusXM’s Subsoniq radio show on Backspin for the Shafiq interview and spins.

I had to include these two – favorites right out of the gate…

  • The U.N. Plan (mp3)
  • Major Heavy feat. Sonny Coates and Count Bass D (mp3)

BUY: En’a-Free-Ka

Visit: Shafiq’s Enafreeka.com

A Quick Nod to Rick James

streetsongs

I’d just like to know… how in the holy hell is it possible that we live in a world without Rick James?? Yeah yeah, we all know Rick was certainly no angel. I mean, no upstanding citizen would hold someone hostage as a sex slave for six days and torture her with a crack pipe. But it’s crazy nonetheless to think that he’s been gone for more than five years.

I’m still working on getting my Rick James digital collection filled out – several of his vinyl albums sit tucked away in a shelf next to where I sit now – but I have managed to get his 1981 classic, Street Songs (featuring his biggest hit, “Superfreak”), which is my favorite album, along with Cold Blooded.

A tip o’ the hat to you, Rick, wherever you may be. Any fan of the funk worth his salt owes a debt of gratitude to you… I hope the J is being passed your way.

Check Out: Street Songs (20th Anniversary Deluxe Edition)

The Time live in KC

In the year nineteen eighty-three, Prince’s Triple Threat Tour did hit the road. Vanity 6 opened the evening, with The Time as their backing band behind a curtain. Next up, before Prince took the stage, Morris Day and the boys got their 45 minutes in the spotlight, and they took every advantage, trying their hardest to upstage their boss.

I was a wee 12 year old during this tour, so I didn’t get to witness the competition firsthand. But from all accounts, it made for an amazing tour – Prince touring behind 1999, and the Time, with two solid (Prince-produced) records under their belt, there to try and show him up night after night.

Here’s The Time’s set from a recently unearthed soundboard recording from March 19th, 1983, at the Municipal Auditorium in Kansas City.

The Time
Kansas City, MO
March 19, 1983

1. Intro
2. Get It Up
3. 777-9311
4. Girl
5. Wild & Loose
6. Gigolos Get Lonely Too
7. Cool
8. The Walk
9. Outro

It’s Live, It’s Purple: Musicology in Phoenix

A couple times a year, I slip into my Prince-only phase – three, four, five weeks of obsessive listening. To spur it on this time around, it was the Spin issue commemorating the 25th Anniversary of Purple Rain. The movie and album pulled me into Prince’s purple universe in the latter half of 1984, and I haven’t left since.

What I could use right now is some live Prince – something I haven’t experienced since April 2002, when he was touring behind The Rainbow Children album with his ‘One Night Alone’ shows…

Unfortunately, I missed the Musicology tour. I was moving from Denver back to Phoenix that Spring of ’04.  He stopped in Denver a few weeks after I left, and he played Phoenix a week or two before I got there. Great luck.

I’m still assuming that Prince would want to tour behind his latest albums, Lotusflow3r and MPLSound, but we’re still waiting. Over the last few weeks, he’s played the Montreux Jazz Festival and a fancy-pants show in Monaco. But let’s hope he gets back stateside for some normal gigs for everyman and everywoman. You know, the fans who’ve supported him for decades?

I missed a good show in Phoenix that Spring of ’04. Hear for yourself…

Musicology Tour
Glendale Arena | Phoenix, AZ
March 31st, 2004

Part 1

1. Intro
2. Musicology
3. Let’s Go Crazy
4. I Would Die 4 U
5. When Doves Cry
6. 1999 – Intro Baby I’m A Star
7. Shhh
8. D.M.S.R Incl. The Way You Move
9. A Love Bizarre – The Glamorous Life – I Feel 4 U
10. Controversy
11. Interlude
12. God
13. The Beautiful Ones
14. Nothing Compares 2 U
15. Insatiable

Part 2

1. Sign ‘O’ The Times
2. The Question Of U – The One – Fallin
3. Let’s Work
4. U Got The Look
5. Hot Pants
6. Soulman
7. Kiss
8. Take Me With U
9. Outro
10. Purple Rain

Bonus Tracks:

San Antonio, TX | SBC Center | June 9th, 2004

11. D.M.S.R.
12. A Love Bizarre
13. I Feel For You
14. Controversy

Amazon Links:

Prince & Lenny – American Woman

If you do a little digging, it is possible to track down some quality Prince video action online. This comes from the Pay-Per-View concert (Rave Un2 the Year 2000) that Prince broadcast on New Year’s Eve 1999. It was a few months after Prince had released the disappointing Rave Un2 the Joy Fantastic. The album was released on Arista, and was conceived by Clive Davis as a comeback/collaboration album, similar to what Supernatural had done for Carlos Santana a couple years earlier. It featured artists like Chuck D., Gwen Stefani, and Sheryl Crow, and well, it didn’t turn out to be the smash hit they were looking for.

As for Lenny, he had just contributed his version of the Guess Who classic “American Woman” to the Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me soundtrack.

And here, the two sashay to the stage in dramatic fashion, and do proceed to rock the house.

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