Monday, January 15, 2007

Review; Various Artists; New Testament of Funk Volume 5 (Unique Records)

This is the fifth volume in a series started in 1999 by the Dusseldorf-based Unique club label. The twelve tracks on here run for almost an hour, with the majority of the songs on here being released for the first time ever and three others having only been available in limited vinyl pressings until now.
Few new funk acts can pull off that classic American soul sound, especially now that quality vocals are all but an afterthought on most new recordings. The music on here sounds pretty slick, and as funky as it sometimes gets (the "Apache"-inspired Soul Snatchers' "Sniffin' and Scratchin'" comes to mind), it seems soul singing is almost a thing of the past.
The tracks on The New Testament of Funk Volume 5 all sound pretty smooth and tight, and some are particularly derivative, hook-by-hook. The first song starts off as a run through of "Thank You For Letting Me Be Myself" with a chant of "Burning Down The House" in the background. Curtis Mayfield's "Move On Up" provides much of the inspiration for another song, "You'll Never Know What You Can Do". The use, or re-use of such well known samples and riffs works better on the Malente song "For The Revolution", whose hook comes from a Doors song.
The songs all work well enough as background music for any party filled with groovy people, but it's hard to imagine someone packing a dance floor with anything from this collection. Bandura's "Lost Luggage" and Tim Wood's "Birdy Nam Nam" are examples of music on here that sounds like it was recorded specifically not to be turned up too loud.
The strongest cuts besides the Soul Snatchers instrumental are Boca 45's soul-shouter "Makes No Sense" the Sweet Vandals' "Do It Right". Naturally, they are also the best vocal performances on the collection. The Go-Go Hammond organ on the latter track suggest the Sweet Vandals are one of the most promising acts on the Unique label. This compilation seems like it was geared to be played in restaurants at least as much as in any dance club or party; if that's your thing, it is sure to please. Folks who like their funk harder and deeper will probably not be overwhelmed by this one.

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