Rock Candy Funk Party is, in case you’re unaware, an American band formed in 2009 by drummer Tal Bergman and guitarist Ron DeJesus. After a successful debut on the live scene, in 2013 the duo recruited guitarist Joe Bonamassa (who obviously didn’t have enough to do!), bassist Mike Merritt and keyboard player Renato Neto, and released the debut We Want Groove that year. A live album followed and then, in 2015 a second studio offering called Groove is King. Their third effort is now on release and carries on the groove theme and combines the two factors to deliver The Groove Cubed…clever, eh?
They class themselves as jazz/rock: however, such a simple blend doesn’t encapsulate what is on offer here. When you listen closely a whole raft of styles are mixed in, so expect funk, rock, dance, electronica, jazz and R&B (that’s Rhythm and Blues by its true definition not the more modern dismembering of the appellation). According to Bergman, “It will take the listener on a journey that explores the use of different styles of music from different eras and hopefully break some rules!!”
Their previous albums are to me, a perfect paradox. It’s just that, in one sitting, I find them too much to take, and this comes from a massive Joe B fan. Equally, if the odd track came up on shuffle, then I would enjoy every second simply because all of the musicians on those albums borders on genius. This time they have, with limited success, injected a little more variation as two the tracks feature guest vocalists. Don’t Even Try It has the distinctive vocals of Vintage Trouble’s Ty Taylor. The cover of James Brown’s I Got the Feelin’ has Australian singer Mahalia Barnes putting her mark on a classic. This is the first time vocals have appeared on an RCFP album.
The opener, Gothic Orleans is a sub-two-minute gentle intro that segues into Drunk on Bourbon…, which has a simplistic yet genius riff introducing a typically funky background. Toe-tapper it certainly is and the lyrical guitar piece is a master class is a subtle string bending. An electric piano solo delights and irritates in equal measure. In The Groove is out and out funk. It is a clever composition and the guitar sounds a lot like Tommy Bolin has been reborn (think Marching Powder). It also benefits hugely from an expansive bridge section occasionally changing the funky pace; another electric piano solo jars a bit before a flowing guitar solo rescues the track. Don’t Even Try It sounds like a wrong turning into a 70s disco before Ty’s vocals cut in. Then it sounds as if it moved into the 80s, but still in a disco. Ergo, not to my taste at all. Two Guys… has a synthed intro with a film noir soundtrack feeling as if Philip Marlowe had just walked in. Then it devolves into the Jazz club hinted at in the title. As they might say in such a club, “not my scene, man”. It’s a pity because there is a great heavy, recurring riff, which teases but never delivers. Isle of the Wright Brothers/Mr Space has unintelligible spoken/sung vocals over the intro before a snare roll brings straight back to funk. More Bolin tinges infect another paradox this band seem to specialise in. This is a synchronised free for all! Brilliant playing as each instrument does its own thing until the ‘chorus’ when they come together for a short phrase. I Got The Feelin’ is the best track and demonstrates why Mahalia Barnes made such an impact with her album last year. Even when all she is singing is “baby, baby, baby” unaccompanied it has such quality. A big band soul sound perfectly executed, but with a tasty guitar solo thrown in. After Hours is a laid back, bass-driven and atmospheric slow almost bluesy piece and is best listened to with eyes closed to allow the subtle guitar washes be appreciated. This Tune… is the most lyrical instrumental, in that the guitars actually sing. Mr Funkadamus… is a surprise, basically a 3-minute drum solo with minimal instrumentation. Funk-o-Potamia, strange title aside, is guitar led with a progression that sounds like it came from one of Bonamassa’s solo album demo sessions: enjoyable, even if it doesn’t really lead anywhere. The Token Ballad is a pacy tune and so is not a ballad. With synth solo and a rock middle section, complete with a guitar solo, it is quite infectious with its phrasing. Ping Pong starts all discordant and quickly moves into what would be most people’s definition of jazz… all free form and, although a nice solo or two appear (including an acoustic one), it is not a blues lovers ideal, although if you like jazz, with every instrument having its time in the spotlight, prepare to enjoy.
Overall then, each track is technically brilliant; every musician is highly skilled; the production values are very high and yet, it will remain for me an album that is unlistenable in one sitting, but when the odd track pops up, I will funk out with the best of them.
SEVENdoodle paws out of TEN …
Rock Candy Funk Party – Groove Cubed – Mascot Label Group
- Gothic Orleans
- Drunk On Bourbon On Bourbon Street
- In The Groove
- Don’t Even Try It
- Two Guys And Stanley Kubrick Walk Into A Jazz Club
- Isle Of The Wright Brothers
- Mr Space
- I Got The Feelin’
- After Hours
- This Tune Should Run For President
- Mr Funkadamus Returns And He Is Mad
- The Token Ballad
- Ping Pong
Tal Bergman – Drums, Percussion, Programming, additional keys
Ron De Jesus – Guitars
Joe Bonamassa – Guitars
Mike Merritt – Electric Bass, Upright Bass
Renato Neto – Rhodes, Clavinet, Piano, Synthesizers
Ty Taylor – Vocals and Vocal arrangement on Don’t Even Try It
Mahalia Barnes – Vocals and Vocal arrangement on I Got the Feelin’