Beat Funktion,
Mandy's Secret
(DO Music, 2014)

If you took the nucleus of James Brown's band, moved them to Sweden and kept them firmly locked in the 1970s, you'd have Beat Funktion, a band that bills itself as hip, ultra-funky and stylish. Their press release states that they pay homage to instrumental early '70s funk groove, soul, disco and afro-beat jazz, serving up a pulsating '70s vintage sound.

Which they do. And which, I suppose, a lot of dance club patronizers will appreciate. Not being in that demographic, I have a few questions.

1: Is a re-run of '70s funk necessary? Aren't the bins filled with discs by people who did this music in the '70s and are still at it? It seems to be me that guys like Maceo Parker have it covered.

2: What does Beat Funktion bring to the party that is original? They claim the jazz solos make it new and uniquely theirs, but again Parliament-Funkadelic was and is filled with jazz musicians, as is Earth Wind & Fire. And certainly Curtis Mayfield's band didn't exactly slouch in that department either and they are still working.

3: How long do we have to listen to that Shaft guitar? You know the sound. You've been hearing it every day for your entire life. Isn't it maybe a little dated?

This is not to say that Beat Funktion lacks talent. What they do, they do pretty well, but what they do has been done to death. What has never gone away does not need resurrecting And what has been done so often that it has become a cliche does not need to be done again.

If it is going to be done again, the artist has to bring a unique vision to it, has to in some way make it new again, and the James Brown Band did so well.

That uniqueness is what I missed in Beat Funktion's music. Instead of grooving to it, I found myself asking, "Why?"

music review by
Michael Scott Cain

8 November 2014

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