- Rock Candy Funk Party
- We Want Groove
So chances are you’re going to look at the cover of We Want Groove and say, “Wait – haven’t I seen this somewhere before …?” And you have, of course: trade the lady in her underoos squatting over a wicked cool old Fender amp (I like amps, myself) for a Black cat with his head down, digging deep into his horn; change the lettering to read We Want Miles and ::: whizzo bango ::: it’s 1982 and that’s ol’ Miles Davis you got there, all cool and funky.
Which is exactly what Rock Candy Funk Party wants, you see: to take you back to those times – and even earlier – with an album of jazz/funk instrumentals that blur the lines between then and now in the coolest of ways. Dig the lineup on We Want Groove : Renato Neto on keys; Mike Merritt on bass; Joe Bonamassa and Ron DeJesus on guitars; and Tal Bergman on drums (and production).
Bonamassa may be the big name here, but make no mistake about it: Bergman is the ringmaster, driving these players live within the four walls of his own LA studio. Merritt is the ideal rhythm foil for Bergman, laying down big ol’ syrupy sweet bass lines that swing as fierce or as chill as needed.
As far as that goes, RCFP is actually more a funk democracy than anything else. The jams are passed around with everyone partaking … you’ll find no bogarting of the grooves nor grandstanding here. Solos come in hot and smooth, but the handoffs between the players are equally as cool. Just put an ear to this and remember: these cats were laying this stuff down live, burrowing into the music as it happened and letting it fly. A raised eyebrow; a nod; a smile – course corrections were made on the fly with the jams driven by energy rather than ego.
Of the various vintage keyboard goodness that Neto applies all over the tunes on We Want Groove, his clavinet work may be the funkiest of all: catch his break on “Spaztastic” – that is some bad-assed quacking, boys and girls. And his key work on Jimmy Smith’s “Root Down” would make the great man proud.
Neto is also responsible for the swirling vapors that set the mood on “The Best Ten Minutes Of Your Life” while Bergman adds a bit of subtle tension and Merritt’s bass does a slow crawl. Subtle tension is not what Bergman brings to “Animal/Work”, however: for the first minute and a half, he does some scary powerful free-ranging on the drum kit, managing to sound both brutal and precise at the same time. (That would be the “Animal” portion.) A walloping roll neatly segues into the opening all-hands-on-deck warning cry of “Work” which quickly settles into a dance floor-ready beat. DeJesus and Bonamassa both kill their solos here, but don’t touch that dial until Merritt offers up a steaming hot bowl of bass bliss at the 5:40 mark, punctuated with a few bottomless bombs.
And yes – as far as Ron DeJesus and Joe Bonamassa go, there is no clear dividing line between lead and rhythm in Rock Candy Funk Party: this here is an absolute guitar consortium, folks. I suppose the complete Bonaheads keeping score might see their boy having a slight lead in number of solos overall, but that is so far away from what this band is all about. DeJesus is an amazing riffmaster, with funk and jazz and jazzy funk and funky jazz dripping off everything he does here. In the meantime, Bonamassa has some fun with his guitar’s tone throughout We Want Groove, offering up everything from what a Gibson in a witness protection program would sound like through a voice scrambler to pure hot tubeliness. Best gee-tar-to-gee-tar moment on the album is the back-and-forth between the two on “Dope On A Rope”.
SPOILER ALERT! Wait out (or fast-forward your way through) that four minutes of silence at the end of the dreamy laziness of “New York Song”, the last listed track on the album. There’s a 5-minute-and-40-second-long jam tucked on the end … way too cool to be hidden, in my opinion.
We Want Groove ? Yeah? Well, mission accomplished, men.
Brian Robbins would’ve been 24 in 1982; he hangs out these days at www.brian-robbins.com.