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Published: 2004/06/30
by Glenn Alexander

I’m on the Right Track – Zigaboo Modeliste


Funk music is best when its pretentious and daring. The Meters, James Brown, and Funkadelic all made their mark on American music by breaking rules and being outrageously gifted. While funk music can range from the complex rhythms of The Meters to the more the more eccentric and pulsing work of Sly and Family Stone, one cardinal rule remains firm: don't interrupt the groove, man. After his 20 years as the principle drummer for the Meters, it is surprising that Zigaboo Modeliste would have ignored it. I’m On The Right Track strays from the funk formula, opting out for more soul and rock-oriented grooves. Depending on your perspective, this can be disappointing, or possibly amusing. Modeliste has certainly selected some gifted players for the album, but the songs just don’t make you wanna get up and get funky with yo’ bad self. You’ll sway a little and possibly dance your way to the kitchen, but you’ll mostly amuse yourself with the precision and simplicity of it, which can amuse for only so long. Backup singers, horns, crunchy guitar, funky keys and incredibly firm drumming provide a good base to create some sonically joyous music, and most of the time it does. "Welcome To New Orleans" is a simple beat with a rather basic melody carrying it along, with some New Orleans keys tickling their way around the melodies, while "Sugar Pants" (easily the most amusing song title I've heard in a long while) starts out with an '80s guitar riff and jumps awkwardly into the meat and bones of the song, where it stays, allowing Modeliste and the other singers to repeat "sugarpants! sugarpants!" over and over. I don't know if the song was initially intended to make you laugh endlessly, but it manages just that. On a more serious note, "Guns" emerges as a commentary on the power guns have in a power-hungry society. Like everywhere else, a simple groove dominates, with Modeliste singing over the tightly woven parts in earnest. Two rappers emerge towards the end of the song, and while they make a compelling argument against violence, the hip-hop just doesn't go down well with the groove. "Love Trying To Get A Hold On Me" is a finely-crafted Orleans-tinged soul tune with a fantastically joyous chorus and a rather fun piano solo to boot, but has too much melodic and rhythmic similarity to "Guns" to stand out from the others. While I’m On The Right Track is perhaps fun, the interplay between all the musicians is far from groundbreaking and not very compelling, either. The production is as flat as can be and the beats aren’t driving enough to create a really funky, moving groove. There’s very little in this album to propel the music forward, even the group interplay and spontaneity. While Chris Rossbach’s guitar playing is fast and emblazoned with an earnest crunch, and the guest appearance from Bernie Worrell is nice, there’s just not a lot here to get excited about. Funk is about losing yourself in the sheer joyousness of the music. Here, Modeliste has tried to write concise and well-rounded songs, and in the process, he forgot how to groove. Oh well, we’ve always got "Sugar Pants."

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