March 1st, 2017
Title: Funk Box
Artist: The Maxx
Label: Cadabra Records
Formats: CD, MP3
Release date: May 6, 2016
The Maxx’s six song Funk Box is a short and sweet testament to a band who really has “they thang together.” Formed in Atlanta in 1980, the core members of the band— Rod Whittaker, Leroy “Roc” Lovelace and Steven Rollins—have spent decades playing together and learning from each other and it shows throughout this EP. Joined by Dwight Smith (drums), Andre Bernard (trombone/keyboards/vocals), Menes Ray (trumpet/vocals) and vocalist Rainy Middleton, the band packaged their all into this album with cuts that make clear why they are in high demand as a performing band.
Funk Box begins with the high energy track “Emergency” which features Middleton’s sultry vocals front and center as well as The Maxx’s strong horn section, with an excellent muted trumpet solo near the end by Ray (see the live performance of the song below). Next up is “I Can’t Deny” with its heavyweight bassline. The effects make it a bit hard to tell if this was a bass guitar or synth, but either way it was “sho nuff funkay.” These two tracks together really serve as a 1-2 punch to get the party started, with the horns really strutting their stuff on both.
The next two tracks, “I Know” and “Rock With You,” have the feel of a “modern jook joint.” That is, not the the type of jook joints one may have seen in The Color Purple, but more like the joints from the legions and union halls in the ’80s that were packed with folks dancing to the latter day hits of artists like Denise LaSalle and Clarence Carter. “Rock With You” has the added attraction of a male vocalist that takes the song up a notch near the end.
“Meant To Be” is a soulful track that would make Ann Peebles and the Hi Rhythm Section proud. “Love’s Gonna Get You,” which closes out the EP, must be great performed live with its interplay between the band, Middleton and male vocalist John Bigham (aka The Soul of John Black, who did most of the writing and production).
All in all, Funk Box is a great advertisement for The Maxx as a live band. Their brand of danceable funk is surely a crowd pleaser.
Reviewed by Levon Williams
Review Genre(s): African American Culture & History