The Wicked Sound favorite Funk albums of 2021 (so far):
01. The Bamboos Hard Up [Pacific Theatre Records]
On The Bamboos tenth studio album, Hard Up, the nine piece powerhouse, founded and lead by guitarist, producer and songwriter Lance Ferguson have refined their craft of finding the sweetest spot between Soul and Funk to the finest point yet. The album was recorded at a sprawling country house just outside Melbourne, with the communal studio sessions solidifying their already seemingly telepathic musical interplay. Alongside long-time stellar vocalist Kylie Auldist are guests Durand Jones (of Durand Jones & The Indications), Joey Dosik (Vulfpeck) and Ev Jones (Jones Jnr.). Even after 21 years since they formed The Bamboos once again manage to reinvigorate a classic sound, seamlessly incorporating contemporary influences to create something altogether brand new.
02. Menahan Street Band The Exciting Sounds of Menahan Street Band [Dunham Records]
Menahan Street Band, a veritable supergroup of some of today's most prolific songwriters, arrangers, and producers return with this beat-forward, cinematic masterpiece. Their unique brand of instrumental soul has not only been the foundation for some of modern hip-hop's most successful beats, it has also become the perennial soundtrack and veritable vibe-generator for countless parties, art shows, and restaurants throughout NYC and abroad. While The Exciting Sounds of Menahan Street Band carries the aesthetic torch that MSB has skillfully woven into the tapestry of their DNA, it also delves deeper into the experimental, exotic sounds that fill many of the coveted Sound Library and Soundtrack LPs of the late sixties and early seventies - an amalgamation of moog synths, electric pianos, drum machines, and a bevy of analog instrumentation, that ebb and flow in lush swells of Morriconian grandeur.
03. The Fantastics! Take A Shot [BBE Music]
Respected UK funk/soul/jazz combo The Fantastics! released long-awaited third studio album, nine years in the making Take A Shot featuring Sulene Fleming. The band have been honing this album at gigs and in the studio for nine long years, during which time singer Sulene Fleming has been busy collaborating with Incognito and Leroy Hutson, as well as enjoying a stint as lead vocalist for The Brand New Heavies. The approach of constantly testing material in a live setting has endowed this record with an indefinable yet distinctive, authentic feel; put simply, it successfully transmits the energy and immediacy of a great concert. Only Greg Boraman (Freestyle Records boss) and bassist Raydn Hunter remain from the band’s original line-up, which now features Mark Norton (saxophone / flute) and James Smith (drums). New member James Byron (guitar) brings yet another fresh perspective on the band’s genre-agnostic approach, which takes Afrobeat, Latin, Rock and Rhythm & Blues influences in easy stride.
Bacao Rhythm & Steel Band, the mysterious steel pan outfit hailing from Hamburg, Germany have amassed a cult following around the globe. With a slew of classic 7”s and two critically acclaimed full length albums, they set a high bar for themselves, one they clearly intend on pushing even higher with this new offering. On their third album, aptly titled Expansions, BRSB are back with more of the same, but more of the same with them is inherently different. Covering songs that span genres and range from mega hits to album cuts, they make them their own with their unique approach to the traditional steel pans of Trinidad and Tobago. Part of the allure of a new record from Bacao is finding out what covers they chose. Within the next three songs they go from Jazz (Galt MacDermot), to Hip Hop (Slum Village / J Dilla), to a dance floor classic (Grace Jones) taking them all on with their signature style, expanding on the originals.
05. Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio I Told You So [Colemine Records]
Delvon Lamarr Organ Trio—or as it is sometimes referred to, DLO3—specialize in the lost art of “feel good music.” The ingredients of this intoxicating cocktail include a big helping of the 1960s organ jazz stylings of Jimmy Smith and Baby Face Willette; a pinch of the snappy soul strut of Booker T. The M.G.’s and The Meters; and sprinkles Motown, Stax Records, blues, and cosmic Jimi Hendrix-style guitar. It’s a soul-jazz concoction that goes straight to your heart and head makes your body break out in a sweat. The band features organist Delvon Lamarr, a self-taught virtuosic musician, with perfect pitch who taught himself jazz and has effortlessly been able to play a multitude of instruments. On guitar is the dynamo Jimmy James who eases through Steve Cropper-style chanking guitar, volcanic acid-rock freak-out lead playing, and slinky Grant Green style jazz.
Gilles Peterson has partnered with Jean-Paul “Bluey” Maunick to reinvigorate the loose, protean energy of the early-80s Brit-funk scene. Long-time friends and collaborators, STR4TA sees them mine new musical possibilities out of that shared formative era. It was through Maunick’s band, Incognito – one of the essential groups of an oft-overlooked, vital pocket of Black British musical history – that they first connected. On Aspects, he and Peterson revisit that important period and the spirit that guided it: self-taught, DIY vitality, and a raucous energy built on live performance. Bringing a fresh slant to a sound first developed by groups like Atmosfear, Hi-Tension, Light of the World and Freeez – with Maunick, it should be noted, also a member of the latter two bands – it’s the first material that Maunick and Peterson have released together in over a decade. First appearing in October 2020 with single ‘Aspects’, the pair didn’t make public that they were behind the project. Peterson and Maunick wanted to approach music-making from the starting point that led to those early records. This meant returning to the era where each of them first found their feet, a period which would shape their respective careers in the decades since.
07. Dumpstaphunk Where Do We Go From Here [The Funk Garage]
Where Do We Go From Here is Dumpstaphunk's first album in seven years. Over its past 17 years, Dumpstaphunk has earned its reputation as the most well-regarded next-generation New Orleans live powerhouse, the type of band whose live shows attract sit-ins from legends like Carlos Santana, Bob Weir and Trombone Shorty. Tony Hall, Nick Daniels, Alex Wasily, Ryan Nyther and drummer Devin Trusclair, cousins Ivan and Ian Neville have built upon their family’s iconic NOLA legacy as they’ve transformed Dumpstaphunk into the city’s pre-eminent 21st-century funk-fusion export. The band’s mix of classic and modern influences can be heard throughout the party-friendly mix of R&B, funk, rock, swamp-pop and blues of Where Do We Go From Here, from the slap-bass rave Make It After All to the band's contemporary renderings of NOLA R&B rarities (the 1975 Blackmail gem Let’s Get At It) and early Seventies classics (Sly and the Family Stone's In Time).
08. Redtenbacher's Funkestra Big Funk Band [RSB Records]
This is the 12th full-blown instrumental album by UK-based Redtenbacher's Funkestra, the brainchild of Austrian bassist and principal composer and bandleader Stefan Redtenbacher. Pioneers of original wall-to-wall Jazz Funk. With more than twenty releases under their belt and regular London gigs, they have been a mainstay UK Funk band for the past 15 years. Big Funk Band is a collection of eight original and expertly crafted Jazz Funk album with a stellar line up of Jazz and Funk heavies alongside the battle-hardened core of the Funkestra's inner core. Some of the guests are Cory Wong (gtr), Stanton Moore (drs), Keith Carlock (drs), Benny Greb (drs), Francesco Mendiola (drs), Tucker Antell (saxophone), Bruce Gertz (double bass) and Mike Outram (gtr).
09. Cory Wong Cory and The Wongnotes [Roundwound Media]
Cory Wong latest album was accompanying his online variety show, Cory And The Wongnotes. The project feature the band: Sonny Thompson (bass/guitar/vox), Kevin Gastonguay (keyboards), Negah Santos (percussion), Petar Janjic (drums), Eddie Barbash (alto sax/soprano sax), Kenni Holmen (tenor sax/flute), Sam Greenfield (bari sax/bass clarinet), Steve Strand (trumpet), Jon Lampley (trumpet) and Michael Nelson (trombone/horn arranger). The record kicks off with the enthralling theme song and also features new Wong compositions like “Merci,” “Heist” and the amazingly titled Tiki Hut Strut. The LP also sees contributions from frequent Vulfpeck collaborator Antwaun Stanley, frequent Wong collaborator Cody Fry and more. Also of interest, the album concludes with a Stevie Wonder Medley.
10. W.R.D. Robert Walter Eddie Roberts Adam Deitch The Hit [Color Red]
W.R.D., the dynamic, gritty organ trio borne from the brain of Denver-based guitarist-bandleader-producer and Color Red record label co-founder, Eddie Roberts, boasts the bullish energy of three seasoned bandleaders in one standout sonic boom. The group, which features the nimble guitarist Roberts, the staccato drummer Adam Deitch and the elegiac organist Robert Walter, brims with talent and prior successes between them. Perhaps that’s why the trio, as if charging at a target, was able to produce its forthcoming debut LP, The Hit, in just two single-day Mile High City studio sessions. It’s a common rule that any good organ trio must have its own musical language, a unique sense of ESP. Roberts, the longtime guitarist for the band, The New Mastersounds, who co-founded Color Red in early 2018, has always believed that the musical combination of Walter (The Greyboy Allstars), Deitch (Lettuce) and himself would yield impact. The result is a record that’s one-part Sunday stroll and one-part rocket ship toward Saturn. As a such, the amalgamation of their work together is blunt, determined and muscular. Together, their songs strike cleanly and without distraction.