Today I hope to turn you on to a kind of supergroup. The Menahan Street Band is an 11-piece instrumental ensemble featuring an absolutely sick lineup with members of Antibalas, El Michels Affair, Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings, and the Budos Band. Yeah, go back and read that list again. It’s crazy. In 2007, Thomas Brenneck of the Dap Kings pulled the guys together for this project, which released their debut album, “Make the Road by Walking,” in 2008.
If you are familiar with the bands these guys come from, you can imagine the sound they achieve. They pretty much meet at the dead center of the Dap Kings’ new soul, Budos Band’s funk, and Antibalas’ afrobeat sound. They sometimes lean one way or the other and even stray into jazz occasionally, but by and large it is an interesting exploration of the intersection of those three sounds. Fellow Brooklynite Jay-Z sampled the title track for his hit “Roc Boys (and the Winner is…).” Oddly, Rolling Stone Magazine declared the Jay-Z song the #1 single of 2007, but “Make the Road by Walking” was released in October of 2008 so I’m not sure how that happened. Apparently, the single was released before the rest of the album or something.
Anyway, the music is unpolished but accomplished, funky, and beautiful. Check out my 4 favorites.
- Make the Road by Walking – Flanged guitar and glockenspiel create an oozy groove for the horns to play around in. After a mellow intro, it jumps up into an energetic passage that you would expect from Antibalas.
- Home Again! – This features a pleasing horns melody and percussion that reminds me of ‘Groovin’’ by The Young Rascals.
- Karina – The Band gets a little more jazz-oriented on this track and the result is wonderful. Clearly, these guys are all monsters on their instruments, but they all lay back in service of the song, trying not to be too flashy.
- Birds – Delicate keyboards back up fat (or maybe even phat) and ambitious horns. You can occasionally hear the trumpet miss a note, but they’ve left it in to keep the spontaneous, first-take feel of the sessions.
All of these guys have their own other things going on. I hope they had enough fun and success with this project to do another one.
I woke up in a bit of a funk today. It’s complicated. And yet, as it usually does, music transformed my mood. I find a good cure for being in a funk is listening to funk. The energy is infectious. Here is a mix of some funk to help take your mind off your troubles.
- Righteous (City Pain) – Dag
My brother is a musician and he likes him some funk. He sent me this disc, “Righteous,” years ago and there is indeed some great music on it.
- Lovely Jane – Dag
In fact, there is so much great music on “Righteous” I’m going to give you a double shot of Dag to kick off this funk mix. These guys are fantastic. It’s funny to see the vocalist in the video. His is not the face I pictured all these years.
- Use the Force – Jamiroquai
You might remember his great song (and video) for ‘Virtual Insanity.’ He’s a great funk artist, carrying the sound forward. I remember seeing him on Jamie Oliver’s cooking show a few years back, which nearly created a coolness singularity.
- Who is He (And What Is He to You)? – Bill Withers
Me’Shell Ndegeocello does a brilliant cover of this song, but I went with the original. The bass line alone is enough for any funk mix.
- Cramp Your Style – Breakestra
Horns! Love ‘em. There ought to be a law requiring them, as far as I’m concerned.
- Tell Mama – Etta James
OK, so this is Motown/funk. Etta James is the bomb. Heart wrenching at will, funky as hell whenever she likes.
- When Love Comes Home – Ivey, Chet & His Fabulous Avengers
I had some trouble finding a link to a sample. It’s busy and brilliant, so I hope you can find the track, if you like it. You can buy it here for only £0.84, however much that is.
- Night Train – James Brown
The Godfather of Soul. The hardest working man in show business. He had it going on, that’s for sure. This is from 1963 and it’s wonderful. I saw him at Bonnaroo in 2003 a few years before his death at age 74. Honestly, it was a little sad. You could see what a brilliant performer he had been in his prime but at 70 he simply couldn’t do it anymore.
- Promised Land – Naomi Davis & Sugarman Three
Busy percussion, speedy horns, and jangling guitar back Naomi Davis, who has a somewhat manly voice, I have to say, at least in this track. It’s a cool song.
- Pick It Up, Lay It in the Cut – Sharon Jones & the Dap Kings
If you haven’t yet bought Sharon Jones’ entire catalog, give this one a listen. She is the new queen of funk.
- Gamera – Action Figure Party
This is the intersection of jazz and funk. If you’re a regular reader, you know I like the intersection of jazz and anything. ‘Gamera’ is no exception.
- World Keeps Spinning – Brand New Heavies
These guys are frequently listed among the top 50 funk bands. I found this one on the Truth About Cats and Dogs soundtrack, which is why I like to buy soundtracks.
- Musicology – Prince
Prince has always drawn a lot of inspiration from funk music. Every now and then he doesn’t innovate with it, he just plays it straight up. Here is a busy mix of a nearly instrumental funk song.
- Serpentine Fire – Earth Wind & Fire
These guys are frequently listed among the top 3 funk bands of all time. If you don’t remember them, or if you don’t remember songs by them you like, check this one out. The bass is crazy.
- So What the Fuss – Stevie Wonder
No one plays funk like Stevie did and still does, as it turns out. This is from Stevie’s new album and it is fantastic. I saw him perform this at Bonnaroo this year and I wondered, “Why haven’t I heard this before?” Because it is new.
- Green Onions – Booker T. and the MGs
A great instrumental. It’s probably not the funkiest tune they ever did, but it is my favorite and it IS funky.
I was looking for a funky drink and googled it. I’m not sure I got the definition of funky I intended. I couldn’t decide between the Stinky Weasel or the Stinky Pinky. Enjoy the mix with whichever strikes your fancy. Have a great weekend.