Wednesday, July 10, 2013

All Good Funk Alliance - Jacks Of All Trades



“Give me a status update Commissioner Penfold.”
“Mr. Mayor, the situation is dire.  The city is under siege.  Criminality is running rampant in the streets.  We don’t know what has caused a significant percentage of our citizenry to violently turn on one another, but that is the situation we find ourselves in right now.”
“What can we do to remedy this situation Penfold?”
“Unfortunately Mr. Mayor, there is not much we can do.  All of the brave men and women under my command are out patrolling the city.  No one has been held in reserve.  I’ve wracked my brain but I can think of only one solution sir.”
“Penfold, surely you don’t mean…”
“Yes Mr. Mayor.  I’m afraid I do.”
“But if I act on your suggestion we risk losing the rest of our work week.  As you know, our economy is very fragile right now.”
“I understand that sir, but I’d rather see the city lose a week’s worth of production than allow the criminal element to retain control over our righteous citizenry for one more minute!”
“Blast it Penfold, you’re right!  I can’t sit idly by while evildoers run amok.  It’s time to call in the big guns.  It’s time to call in the AGFA!  Where’s my red phone?”
“It’s right there on your side table Mr. Mayor.”
“Ha!  Of course!”

The call was made.  The wheels were set in motion.  Within minutes there was a buzz, an unconscious anticipation felt throughout the city.  Everyone took notice of the world around them beginning to change.  It was the middle of the afternoon, but suddenly the sky began to darken.  Twilight and then full night fell over the city.  The stars twinkled brightly and the moon shone full.

Confused ne’er-do-wells detected distant rumblings.  Rapidly the rumblings resolved themselves into what sounded like pulse pounding bass lines with insistent drumming providing accompaniment.  The mirror-like facades of the city’s skyscrapers reflected the waves of pulsating sound turning the downtown area into a giant reverberation chamber.  Manhole covers succumbed to the pulsating rhythm and became dislodged.  Traffic lights swayed violently to the gale force cadence.  Streetlights flashed on and off in accordance with the downbeats.  Then things started to get weird.  The rhythmic assault temporarily muted itself.  In its place two strong male voices alternately addressed the populace.

“All right, all right!  Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, and especially all you criminals out there.  We know you can hear us.  We are the All Good Funk Alliance!”
“That’s right!  We are the All Good Funk Alliance, and we are here to clean up these streets.  Right now I want everybody who has performed an illegal act in the past three days to stop what they’re doing and walk, don’t run, to the corner of 1st Street and 8th Street.”
“Oh, and just in case you think we don’t know who’s been good and who’s been bad…”
The sound of someone snapping their fingers crackled across the sky and hundreds of individual beams of light burst forth from the moon.  Each beam fell on a criminal and followed them wherever they went.
“Yes indeed!  Those of you who think you can hide from justice, well…you can’t.  The funk will find you, and it won’t be pleasant when it does.  Now be good little villains and report to 1st and 8th.  Paddy wagons are standing by.”
“As for the rest of you good people; we’re here for another reason outside of dispensing justice.  Yes, yes ya’ll!  We’re here to have a good time!  So let’s get this party started!”
The volume of the music increased to its previous level.  Mass dancing in the street commenced.  The AGFA had saved the day once again!

Waveriders, who amongst you is looking for a direct injection of good times through music?  Who in your ranks would like to get down and get funky over the course of a 55 minute amusement park ride disguised as an album?  Who just wants to hear something guaranteed to get the party started whether it is a party for one or a party for the masses?  Well my friends, I’ve got just what you need!  Let me tell you about an album called Jacks Of All Trades by the All Good Funk Alliance.

Frank Cueto and Russell Belicek, the two men who make up AGFA, have been plying their funk-fueled wares since way back in 1999.  Calling Alexandria, VA home their sound is difficult to pin down using only a few words.  The reason for that is that they combine electronic dance music with disco, hip-hop, breakbeats, and a whole lot of funk (go-go funk in particular).  In fact, while researching this review I’ve seen them described on several pages as purveyors of Nu-funk music.  Whatever you want to label the music AGFA composes is fine by me.  I simply refer to it as fantastically entertaining!  The music is terribly intoxicating and whenever I listen to Jacks I find myself unconsciously bobbing my head and upper torso while at the same time forcibly keeping my lower body under strict control.  If I let the music completely take over, the results could be ruinous to my ‘cool’ reputation.

Now let’s get a little more detailed concerning this album shall we?  First of all, there is not a weak track on the whole thing.  All thirteen tracks stand strongly on their own two feet.  Second there are guest performances from different emcees and singers on eight of these songs, but these performances all feel organically part of the musical whole due to the group’s strong core identity.  What I’m trying to say is that all of the outside talent featured on the record never steals the spotlight away from the music itself.  Third, and perhaps most importantly, this album sounds good.  I mean it sounds really, really good!  Regardless of whether you are listening through speakers or headphones the listener is in for an aural treat as the music massages your eardrums.

This being a funk album, as you might imagine there is not a whole lot of radical tempo swings from song to song.  That’s not to say there is no variety on offer however.  Faster songs such as “Mr. Hipnoid”, “Time To Get Loose”, and “Ain’t True” counterbalance the slower tracks such as “Rep Ur Noid” and “RTA (Respect To Arcadion)”.  The other songs fall squarely in the middle, a.k.a. the rhythmic sweet spot perfect for dancing and or grooving.  If I had to pick an overall favorite I would narrow it down to “Throw Down” or “Go-Go Bananas”, both of which provide enough energy to power an entire city block.  Also of note is the overall feeling of fun listening to this album produces in the listener.  Yes I said it; fun.  Remember fun?  It’s that feeling that puts a smile on your face and a bounce in your step.  If it’s been some time since you made fun’s acquaintance while listening to music then a prescription of Jacks Of All Trades will be sent to the pharmacy of your choice.

Alright waveriders.  Have I convinced you to check out the funky goodness AGFA offers up on Jacks?  If you like funk music and are intrigued by the thought of a group putting a more modern electronic spin on its vintage sound then look no further.  If you are a fan of go-go funk then there is absolutely no excuse for you not to check out AGFA!  Hip-hop heads and dance music fans take note as well.  This is an album you don’t want to miss!

P.S.:  I almost forgot to mention something that I find particularly entertaining.  I love the 1980s-spaceship-landing sound that sets in motion album opener “Motivate”.  Due to my 80’s sci-fi teachings when I hear that noise my mind instantly makes the assumption that something awesome is about to happen!  I can’t tell you all how relieved I am that the album back’s up its auspicious introduction.

--Penfold



 

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