Title: Funk Ain’t Ova
Artist: Brooklyn Funk Essentials
Release Date: November 13, 2015
Format: CD, LP, MP3
The funk music collective Brooklyn Funk Essentials has become somewhat of a cult phenomenon over the past two decades. The group’s new album, Funk Ain’t Ova, falls on the 20th anniversary of its first release, Cool & Steady & Easy. With a roster that has rotated over the course of the band’s five albums and countless tours, BFE’s producer Arthur Baker and musical director Lati Kronland have managed to achieve stylistic continuity while allowing current personnel to shape BFE’s eclectic style.
In contrast to some of the group’s previous releases which experimented with musical styles from other parts of the world, Funk Ain’t Ova is firmly rooted in the 70s funk sound. The album’s lead single–“Blast It!”–is a dance cut that would be out of place in a 1970s discotheque, complete with muted guitars, congas, and a chant-along chorus that sounds straight off of a Chic album: “You got to go through it/if you wanna get past it/only way to do it/movin’ and blast it”–this singable, danceable track is supplemented by an ultra cool, jazz-inflected, spaced-out keyboard solo.
Another highlight is “I’m Gonna Find Me a Woman,” penned with–and with a down-tempo intro sung by–the late great Isaac Hayes. The song then turns into a gospel-tinged Hayes-style burner, complete with wah-wah guitar, a straight quarter-note snare and lush horns, that underpin the cut’s redemption story.
There are numerous other dance tracks that propel this album along, such as the bass-driven “Hold it Down” and polyrhythmic hip hop textures of “Set it Off.” Numbers like this make Funk Ain’t Ova a great party album. Slower fare often gets overlooked on funk albums and BFE has crafted some great down-tempo tunes that should not be missed. “Prepare” comes right out of the Curtis Mayfield medium-tempo playbook, with lush instrumental textures. Similarly, “Brooklyn Love” combines the best of MAZE and Earth Wind and Fire’s love ballads to create something that’s simultaneously sentimental and–dare I say it–truly groovy.
It has been quite stretch for BFE fans since 2008’s Watcha Playin’, but the carefully-crafted grooves on this album have proven that it was worth the wait. Funk Ain’t Ova stays true to its name, channeling the genre’s classic period while still providing fresh sounds and songs for those interested in settling deep into the pocket.
Reviewed by Matthew Alley