Tuesday, 17 February 2009

The Bar-Kays - The Real Thing - 2003 - JEA Music

This 2003 album is so funky it is FONKY! Described as "old school Funk mixed with Hip-Hop" this CD really does the business for the dancefloor and is far more funky than anything else. In my mind this is almost on par with the superb Zapp And The Gang. For my particular taste this is a CD with no fillers and I can heartily recommend it to all CD from 2003, and far excels recent funk revivals from the likes of, say, the Fatback Band or KoolSoulchoonz visitors. It is so easy to hear why 90s groups like Lo-Key? were so intent on copying the Bar-Kays sense and style - the groove is tight, fun and soulful and "Glad You're In My Life" could easily slip on next to any track on Lo-Key?'s "Back To Da Howse" set from 1994. EZ-Roc is on fine form with the vocoder / talkbox on the unashamed party groove "Hey Y'all" and against Larry Dodson's freaky, throaty vocals is well matched. This is good-time freaky funk that we would expect from their 1970s Mercury period. The Zapp vibe flows on with "Holla If You Like That" with its slightly risqué lyrics and 80s feel. "Let's Get Bizzy" is a really tasty ballad, even though the lyrics are slightly naughty and firmly rooted under the covers. Musically, this is so much similar to Kevon Edmonds' 1999 quiet storm number, "24/7" and modestly borrows some of LSG's "My Body" in the lyrics. This is very nice indeed.

Another ballad is "My Everything" which works very well, as does the far superior "We Can't Stay Together" which features shared vocals with the great Shirley Brown. This is a brilliant track and Shirley really belts out this number in a way that Aretha herself would be very proud of. A pleading, soulful song on an unfaithful partner in a struggling relationship but muses that "we cannot stay together but cannot stay apart". This is a classic, gritty down to the business soul duet which has to be, for me, the best track on here. Simply essential. For Southern soul aficionados, "You're My Joy" will please with the horns, organ and style of Al Green firmly present. Lovers of Al's recent set for Blue Note, "Lay It Down" will appreciate this. Talking of things Southern, J. Blackfoot shares vocals along with the group as well as Larry Springfield and Angela Earl. This brassy, breezy number nicely contrasts with the more club orientated funk tracks. These songs, of course pays homage to the band's Memphis background and is the CD is a nod to the Stax label and museum. The mood stays down with "Just 2" but is more contemporary with some great guitar work. I heartily recommend this CD and firmly believe that there is something on here for everybody. Do not overlook.

Barry Towler
The Vibe Scribe

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