Funk Explosion: Dumpstaphunk at the Rhythm Room

It was about 30 seconds into Dumpstaphunk’s set last night that I realized how starved I was for the Funk. No joke. I literally felt it wash over me like an ocean wave, seep into me, cleanse me, f-u-n-k me. That opening instrumental tune – the rapid fire bass lines of Tony Hall, while he stood over Ivan Neville on the Hammond B3, staring eye to eye – completely locked in from square one. While the chicken scratch guitar of Ivan’s son Ian, and the sounds of the funky drummer, Raymond Weber, piled on in the background. A symphony of funk right from the get-go.

I’m trying to think of the last time I was so funked up. It may have been in the late 90’s in Las Vegas, when Prince took over Club Utopia for one of his aftershows – a funk n’ soul laden jam session that lasted well into the morning hours.

It was a similar feeling last night – watching (and feeling) a talented group of musicians jam and have fun – taking the crowd along with them on a funk-tastic voyage. It was refreshing to pack into the Rhythm Room – a small box shaped club in Phoenix (and my favorite venue in town) – with a diverse group of like minded people. Young, old, black, white – you name it. All there to feel the funk.

From originals like “Meanwhile”, “Put It In The Dumpsta”, and their ode to flatulence on the road, “Gas Man” – to a tight n’ killer viersion of James Brown’s “Super Bad” and the show finale, Sly’s “Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf” – the boys of Dumpstaphunk did not let up. They packed it all into a 90 minute plus set. The old saying goes, “Leave ’em wanting more”, and they certainly did that. I wasn’t ready to go.

As I lingered around afterwards, still in a daze from the experience, chatting it up with my Twitter buds @kfoxaz and @johnnyuno, there was Ivan Neville standing right next to us. It was cool to tell Ivan how I was a fan of his and his old man (Aaron $!@ Neville!!). I tell you, I never walk out of that Rhythm Room disappointed. Last night – for the first time in too long – the funk – the Dumpstaphunk – came to the hot Arizona desert. In August. And man, did they quench my thirst.

Dumpstaphunk’s Official Site | MySpace

Be sure to check their tour dates. If you’re on the West Coast, they’ll be coming your way in the next week or two.

Here’s a recent show from Archive.org – Dumpstaphunk at the All Good Music Festival in West Virginia last month. It includes that hella-funky opening jam.

Hey, by the way, ever seen such a cool, tricked out Bug? Saw this in the parking lot last night.

Review: Alan Wilkis, “Pink and Purple”

http://ickmusic.com/pics/AlanWilkisPP01.jpg

Brooklyn-based electrofunk wizard Alan Wilkis recently gave me an early peek at his latest release Pink and Purple. For those of you not familiar with Alan, let me bring you up to speed the self-described “musician, multi-instrumentalist, producer, and general musical mover-and-shaker” first came to my attention last year with his self-released debut Babies Dream Big (Review). Earlier this year he dropped a brilliant remix of Pheonix‘s hit “1901” which only served to build the anticipation for his new material which has been in constant rotation since it landed in my inbox.

http://ickmusic.com/pics/AlanWilkisPP02.jpg

The six tunes that make up the Pink and Purple are clearly derived from the synth-laden funk rock of the early 80’s but it’s never derivative. There is something immediate and familiar about the tunes and where where his previous release Babies Dream Big may have lacked focus, Pink and Purple is concentrated and intense. The auto-tuned double entendre’s flow with the lead track “Snuggle Up to Nail Down” and erupt with 4 bars of pure shred bliss. The juxtaposition of the electronic and analog meshes perfectly. “N.I.C.E.” could bring a tear to George Clinton‘s eye it’s so funky and “Gotta Get You Back” makes me long for the days of my youth and is an rollerskating rink classic and is an early contender for the track that I will wear a spot on the hard drive with. The closer “Time Machine” builds to an completely unexpected epic guitar driven finale that absolutely begs for a continuation.

With all the great (and not-so-great) music coming out of Brooklyn these days it’s hard to know what’s worth the precious listening time, but if you still own a Swatch, love Hyper-Color, Rubik’s Cube and Brat Pack movies look no further because it’s Mr. Wilkis’ world and he’s here to make you dance.

Alan Wilkis – “Gotta Get You Back” (from Pink and Purple)

Buy Pink and Purple: Official Site | iTunes

Links: Official Site | on Last.fm | on MySpace | on Twitter

New Nino Moschella: Boom Shadow

Slipping just under my radar last week was the new release from California funk-soulmeister Nino Moschella. His debut a couple years back, The Fix, was heavy on the retro 70’s soul/funk sound – think Parliament, Sly, Shuggie Otis and the like (yep even Prince) – and his new one continues down that road – but advances even further production-wise.

The album is Boom Shadow, and even with all the comparisons and retro feel, you’ve still never heard anything like it. Moschella’s arrangements and production work on this album is a huge progression from The Fix. The horns, the synths, the innovative rhythms and vibes…

Just take a listen to this pair of tunes – tracks 5 and 6 on the album – and tell me this isn’t completely off the charts. Much like I said with his first album, if you long for the days when Prince used to drop crazy, innovative work on us, then you will really dig Boom Shadow.

Hear: Looking At Your Face (mp3)

Hear: Continue to Call (mp3)

Buy Boom Shadow on Amazon, on the Ubiquity Records site, or on Nino Moschella - Boomshadow.

Side note: If you’re on iTunes, be sure to download iConcertCal. The latest version is killer. It integrates as a visualizer into your iTunes, takes a look at your iTunes library – then shows you who in your library has an upcoming show in your area, and when they have new albums scheduled. Take a look & download here. Highly recommended by yours truly.

The Truth About Funk

Behind the scenes, I have quite a cool little network of like-minded folks when it comes to the music of Prince. We have a soft spot for that golden era in Prince music – the 80’s – when he was as prolific as ever. We also have fond memories of his side projects and off-shoots from that era – the Time (of course), The Family, Madhouse… So how cool is it to see that some members of these groups – St. Paul Peterson, Jellybean Johnson, Jerry Hubbard, and the great Eric Leeds – have come together to form The Truth.

Their mission? Keep the Minneapolis Sound alive! And throw in some old school funk from the likes of Funkadelic, Cameo, and the Ohio Players while they’re at it. The guys are tight and funky as hell live, very true to the originals, and boy can they play the sheeet out of some Prince jams… “Erotic City”, “DMSR”, and even “America”.

The kicker? A new live album recorded at Minneapolis’s Fine Line that showcases their conglomerate of Prince-inspired talent. Who knows how they feel personally about their old boss, but make no mistake that they’re paying tribute to him, and to an era very important to a lot of us – an era that will never be matched.

This live album comes highly recommended… here’s a taste:

The Truth High Fashion (mp3)

Buy It on iTunes or CD Baby.

Visit the band on MySpace.

The Truth is:

  • St. Paul Peterson (The Time, The Family) on bass, vocals, guitar and keyboards
  • Jellybean Johnson (The Time, The Family) on guitar
  • Odell (Mint Condition) on guitar and vocals
  • Jerry Hubbard (The Time, Jesse Johnson) on bass, keyboards, guitar and vocals
  • Chance Howard (Prince, The Time) on bass guitar, bass synth and vocals
  • Kip Blackshire (Prince) on vocals, keyboards and guitar
  • Kirk Johnson (Prince) on drums and vocals
  • Eric Leeds (Prince) on saxophones, keyboards and vocals
  • Donnie Lamarca (Johny Lang, Mick Sterling) on keyboards.

Between the Cracks: Sly and the Family Stone’s “A Whole New Thing”

Hello, Ickies!

I know that my posts here have been minimal for some time. I’m busy looking for a job, wrapping up the dissertation, and playing Rock Band 2. But I promised Pete that my New Year’s resolution would be to post here with more frequency. This is a way to (potentially) force more regular posts out of me. I’ll just say that these will be “regular” or “occasional,” though I’d like to shoot for “monthly.” I make no promises.
I present the first of a new “column” so to speak, Between the Cracks. The series will focus on forgotten, underrated and misunderstood albums that are worthy of reexamination.

This edition takes a look/listen to the 1967 debut from Sly and the Family Stone, A Whole New Thing.

Truth be told, this post has been stewing in my mind for over a year. Last Christmas (2007), my girlfriend gave me the Sly and the Family Stone boxed set – all seven albums, remastered with bonus tracks. I’d coveted this set since it’s release, and was eager to devour it thoroughly. I’m pretty familiar with Sly’s catalog already, but put A Whole New Thing on my stereo with some hesitancy. The common problem with these comprehensive collections is that the artist’s best work is often sandwiched between generally uninteresting developmental early material, and bland, mediocre final albums.

Within 30 seconds of hearing the album’s opener, “Underdog” however, I felt like Sly had slapped me across the face with a fistful of funk for having doubted him. Playing the song a few days later for a fellow music geek and drinking buddy, he was similarly floored. And that’s kind of the way A Whole New Thing works as a whole – it’s a solid, sophisticated dose of soul and funk that shows surprisingly no weaknesses for a debut album.

But then the question remains – why is this disc largely forgotten?

My ponderings on this point were reignited recently while reading Nelson George’s Death of the Rhythm & Blues, where George briefly mentions Sly’s “debut” album, Dance to the Music. I was a bit flabergasted as to how or why a well-versed music journalist (and arguably, a music historian) would brush right over A Whole New Thing.

Perhaps it’s because the album did nothing commercially. Upon release, A Whole New Thing failed to chart at all. Indeed, it wasn’t until the aforementioned followup, Dance to the Music, that Sly and the Family Stone gained any substantial notoriety.

Nevertheless – hindsight is always 20/20, and it is this blogger/geek’s opinion that A Whole New Thing can stand strong with the rest of Sly’s classic catalog.

The album is admittedly more focused on the soul side of things, likely indicative of the time. In 1967, Motown and Stax were still going strong, maintaining their hold on the youth record buying public. Yet A Whole New Thing isn’t merely a Motown ripoff. In fact, it’s one of the more interesting soul records that I’ve ever heard.

“The Underdog” is undoubtedly the album’s strongest track, and its opener. Beginning with a minor key version of “Frere Jacques,” the song quickly jumps into a punchy, uptempo romp with strategically placed one-measure breaks where we can all catch a breather. I admit it’s become one of my ass-kicking anthems.

Sly & the Family StoneThe Underdog (mp3)

The rest of the album generally stays within the soul genre, but does so in a refreshing way. Yet even within the soul genre, A Whole New Thing is all over the place – cut time barn burners (“Turn Me Loose”), soulful downtempo ballads (“Let Me Hear it From You,” “This Kind of Person”), driving bass grooves cut with syncopated horn lines (“Bad Risk,” “If This Room Could Talk”), and tracks that would be sampled in classic hip hop cuts decades later (Public Enemy sampled “Turn Me Loose” for “Power to the People,” while “Trip to Your Heart” provides the groove for LL Cool J’s 1990 hit “Mama Said Knock You Out”).

One of the real treats of this release is the bonus track “What Would I Do.” I’m just going to let this one speak for itself, and leave you to ponder how in the world it was passed on as a single or album track.

Sly & the Family StoneWhat Would I Do (mp3)

It’s all here. A Whole New Thing has all the makings of a classic soul album, yet the world slept on it upon its release, and it remained forgotten even as Sly and the Family Stone rocketed to legendary status with their blend of soul, funk and pop music that laid the groundwork for so much of the music that followed (Funkadelic and Prince, to name but two). I highly recommend it. I’ll say that the Sly boxed set is one of the better multi-disc investments I’ve made (or received), although all of the albums are also available separately.

Until next time, I go back into the cracks.

-Gonzo

Buy A Whole New Thing

Buy Sly and the Family Stone: The Collection

Looking Back: Cameo

I know I speak for all middle class suburban white males in their late thirties when I ask: “Where the hell is Larry Blackmon??

Okay, well maybe not – but I do get nostalgic for the funky old days of Cameo from time to time. They were one of the first live acts I ever saw, back when I was 16 and 17 years old. Most know ’em only for “Word Up”, and maybe for songs like “Candy”, “Attack Me With Your Love”, or “Single Life”. All great tunes from great albums.

But fact is the boys had been around since the early to mid -70’s, when the Julliard-trained Blackmon formed the New York City Players. In ’76, they changed their name to Cameo and signed to Casablanca’s Chocolate City label.

Their debut, Cardiac Arrest, was released in ’77, and gave the world what they never lost: danceable, funky music with a heavy dose of quirkiness.

I’m all about the quirk.

Cameo – Rigor Mortis

Cardiac Arrest looks to be wayyy out of print, but you can find “Rigor Mortis” and other classics on the The Best of Cameo

Hot Video Action

Take a look at this great title track to ’82’s “Alligator Woman”…

Oh, and “Attack Me With Your Love” and “Candy”, live…

And of course their crossover smash from 1986…

VIVA EL CAMEO!!!

The DIY site is a week old and it’s waiting for YOU

At one week old, Ickmusic DIY is off to a great start. We have a Cristina post with some mp3’s, a Grace Jones video that will terrify your kids, links to brand new Pretenders tracks, and a look at Barack Obama’s iPod.

I encourage anyone with a passion for music to sign up and contribute! I’ve already learned a lot already,  just a few posts in. So go on over and check it out.

Go on and do it, do it, do it ’til you’re satisfied – whatever it is…

B.T. Express Do It Til You’re Satisfied (mp3)

[audio:doit-bt.mp3]

Buy The Best of B.T. Express

Extreme Returns

Don't Be Vague. Ask for Extreme.

So what’s thirteen years, multiple musical ventures, bad blood and feuding between brothers? For the members of Extreme it appears that it’s not much more than a very long summer vacation. Now before you go judging or recalling their pigeonholing hit “More Than Words” know that this is an older, wiser and slightly disenfranchised Extreme. Not willing to join the reunion circuit, the band has recorded a new record (their fifth) and is headed out on tour starting next Tuesday.

You can check out the first single “Comfortably Dumb” from Extreme’s new record Saudades de Rock at Ultimate-Guitar.

Tour dates after the jump.

A Good Week for Tunes in Telluride: Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, Junior Brown, and Jonny Lang

my week in telluride

Top Left: Steve Earle works his dobro hard for the Sheridan Opera House crowd.
Top Right: Jonny Lang brings the blues in Mountain Village.
Bottom Left: Junior Brown rocks his guitar / lap-steel hybrid in Mountain Village.
Bottom Right: I ponder life’s great questions with a Franziskaner in hand.

Yes, folks, life was sweet last week. My wife and I plopped the kids into the truck and drove the 9 hours from the Phoenix area to the beautiful San Juan Mountains of southwest Colorado. We met up with my parents, my two brothers and their families for some 4th of July fun in Telluride, Colorado.

As you can see, the music gods were smiling on me during my vacation. Among the hiking, dining, and fly fishing (3 times, 1 brown trout, and a ton of fun) were these three great events that kept the Ickmusic vibe alive….

Levi Goes *Pop*

I was recently implored to check out Pop Levi, whose music was described to me as “Bowie meets Prince.” Ummm…sign me up!

Only a year after his first full length, The Return to Form Black Magick Party, Liverpool’s own Levi Pop is set to release a follow up this summer, titled Never Never Love. Surprisingly, the Bowie meets Prince descriptor is somewhat accurate, although there’s a good helping of electro pop thrown in as well. It also reminded me a bit of what I’ve heard from Alan Wilkis.

I’ve listened to the album a few times now, and continue to enjoy it more with each listen, particularly the dance-oriented tracks. Here are two of my favorites:

Pop Levi – “Wannamama”

And the video for the title track, Never Never Love:

Never Never Love is slated for a July 15 release, but it appears that it will only be available as an import for now. But keep an eye out – I’m sure a US release (digital or physical) will follow.

Levi Pop (MySpace)