Rock Candy Funk Party is back and they’re bringing the heavy grooove!
You may have heard: it’s new record release day, and Rock Candy Funk Party is back with their latest album, Groove Is King! The band, composed of core members drummer and producer Tal Bergman, guitarists Joe Bonamassa and Ron DeJesus, and bassist Mike Merritt, is as fresh and full of groove as ever; even more-so if that’s possible. And they’ve brought some wonderful collaborative musicians – a few very familiar in the Joe Bonamassa world – along with them. The collaborators include trumpeter Randy Brecker, Saxophonists James Campagnola and Ada Rovatti, keyboardists Renato Neto and Fred Kron, percussionist Daniel Sadownick, and Zia on vocals.
With Rock Candy Funk Party, having fun is the name of the game and there is plenty on this album to go around. The album is an eclectic, energetic, roller-coaster of a mashup of funk, rock, jazz, electronica, dance and R&B music. Whereas the first Rock Candy Funk Party album was a new entry in the jazz-funk style invented by musicians such as Herbie Hancock and Miles Davis, this latest LP is all over the musical map. The one thread that holds it all together? Deep, heavy, infectious and endless groove!
After all, what is funk anyway? Perhaps the band members explain it themselves better than anybody in the incredible behind the scenes making-of video that is included as bonus material on the new album. Funk keeps your head-bopping. It hits you right in the gut. It’s in people’s response to the groove. It’s got to be nasty! And the groove itself? The groove is like sex! Music infused with fun and sex – who doesn’t like that kind of funk party?? The band stylizes the title, spelling the word “grooove” because there is so much of it packed into this thrilling hour of non-stop fun.
And don’t be fooled by the name of the band and the title – this is no re-hash of the first album. Besides the fact that it’s groove and funk heavy, Groove Is King is really a whole new direction for this smokin’ band. Whereas We Want Groove, the band’s debut studio set, was centered largely around lengthy solos and jamming, this album spaces out the jams and focused more on developing its driving, danceable, get the party started grooves. But like the band’s first studio set and their live album, Rock Candy Funk Party Takes New York – Live at The Iridium, this album is equally made for the subtle space of headphone listening or for cranking up at the hottest party in town!
The album is chock-full of the band’s diverse array of influences. Of course, there’s the hardcore jazz-funk vibe that you get from Miles Davis and Herbie Hancock, but there’s so much more goin on here. Some of the band’s cited influences on this record include The Brecker Brothers, Sade, Prince, Massive Attack, and Led Zeppelin, and some surprisingly contemporary artists like Daft Punk and Mark Ronson with Bruno Mars, who have scored massively this summer with their hit, “Uptown Funk.”
The album opens with an introduction from the master of ceremonies, Mr. Funkadamus, (played by a deep-voiced Billy Gibbons of ZZ Top) and then launches into the cool, midtempo opening title track, “Groove Is King.” And it certainly is on this one, with a steady beat and sudden bursts of guitar. The track, like much of this album, is good for dancing. The band follows up with the happy, cut-loose feel of “Low Tide” a more uptempo rocker with heavy bass action, sweet synth hits and playful horns accenting the beat. The vibe is 70s and 80s electronic based funk mashed up with a contemporary feel. “Uber Station” features heavy pounding on the drums, and groovy syncopated horn lines. It’s also the first track on which the guitar really cuts loose, with soloing on the lower registers giving way to some shredding up and down he neck.
I’ve written before on the thorough New York-ness of Rock Candy Funk Party’s sound, and it’s nice to see them give the ol’ tip of the cap to the Big Apple on several tracks, including the slower jam “East Village” and the acid soaked jazz of “The 6 Train to the Bronx.” But don’t be fooled – despite “East Village’s” slower tempo, it’s groove is still deep enough for some intense booty-shaking if the mood should strike. On these two New York centered tracks, you can truly feel the steam rising out of the sewer covers, smell the dirty water hot dogs of the 6th Avenue street vendors, and hear the honking horns of the taxis as they dart and weave and somehow miraculously manage to avoid accidents. These tunes make me feel like I’m back home!
Other highlights on the album? For me, “If Six Was Eight” was one of the most surprising and intriguing tunes on the album. With a mellow beat and a quiet tone, though with ebbs and flows for certain, the track is mostly percussion based though with subtle contributions from the other band members. The track really shows the band reaching successfully for cool new ideas and making sure that they grow rather than merely repeating themselves.
But to be totally honest, the track I was most excited to hear was the rousing, emotional Peter Gabriel cover “Digging in the Dirt,” a Gabriel classic and a song I’ve always loved. It’s wild to hear this kind of material covered by Rock Candy Funk Party, and the track does not disappoint! It retains the flavor of Peter Gabriel’s compelling original but with the flair and bravado that only Rock Candy Funk Party can bring.
This is an album that you’re going to love playing over and over. And dancing to. And listening to under a quiet tree on a hot summer day. And then dancing to again. Because Rock Candy Funk Party prove that groove is indeed the monarch. Long live the king!
– Brian R.
So what’s your favorite Rock Candy Funk Party song? Let me know in the comments below, or tweet me at @