Con Funk Shun are among my favorite funk bands of the 70’s. Originally hailing from Vallejo,California,this band is someone whom my friend and blogging inspiration Henrique Hopkins has a good deal of musical knowledge of. Based on what I heard beforehand, Con Funk Shun were a band with many similarities to Earth,Wind & Fire. They favored well recorded grooves with strong melodies. They also often enlisted the writing/instrumental assistance of Skip Scarborough. Band founder Felton Pilate went into fame on his own by producing MC Hammer on his debut album in 1988.
This band first came to my attention via my dad’s cassette copy of the Best Of Funk Essentials compilation around 1993. Later on while browsing the cutout CD’s at Borders Books & Music,I came across a reissue of the bands 1977 sophomore album Secrets. At the time,Borders had a CD player behind the counter. And opened CD’s for customers to listen to before purchase. If they didn’t want them after,they’d reseal them. This particular CD was not one I asked them to reseal. And a big part of this was due to the fact the first song really jumped out at me. Its called “DooWhatChaWannaDoo”.
A fast snare drum kick starts out the song. After that,the drum takes on a mild Brazilian flavor-accenting a faster three hit drum on the second beat. Scarborough builds both a high pitched melodic synthesizer and an elaborate Moog bass into the mix as well. The bands horn charts play the main melody of the song-accented by climactic strings. The refrains emphasize the bluesiest aspects of the keyboard parts-while intro represents the chorus. The bridge takes it all down to a chunky high/bass synth duet with accenting strings before the chorus repeats up to the fade out of the song.
“DooWhatChaWannaDoo” is one of those songs that represents the sophistifunk sound at some of its very finest. The keyboards and horns both have an equally thick,gurgling throb about them. And it all manages to accent the very singable (and also elaborate melody) as well. Its a great example of starting off an album with one of its strongest songs that could draw in the listener to its melody and groove. Con Funk Shun ably blend a harder edged Dayton style hard funk vocal and rhythm attitude with the slickness of their West Coast funk contemporaries. And it makes this song a shining example of their funk.
A major learning experience for me has come from writing this blog. And it’s that sometimes? Focusing on a single song can be very musically instructive. That’s especially true for an album listener. Of course? This all boils down to a matter of personal taste. An album might have a lot of a particular style of music that once doesn’t like,and very little of a style one does like. And that is a particularly important factor of the song I’m going to be talking about today. And it comes from famous West Coast funk veterans out of Vallejo.
One of the biggest surprises this year was that Con Funk Shun made a big album comeback. Michael Cooper and Felton Pilate reunited the band with the production team behind Charlie Wilson’s recent solo albums after a tour. And released the album More Than Love on the Shanachie label at the end of this past April. After previewing the album? I find the album far too contemporary soul ballad heavy for my personal liking. Still, among the few uptempo songs present on the album? One song stood out for me personally. And that was “Once I Get In”.
The song starts with a straight up amplified blues guitar riff before going into a thick,jazzy chorded funk groove. This is fed into a series of orchestral synthesizers,organ with thick slap bass accents. The choruses of the song are a call and response series of expansive multi tracked vocal harmonies singing along with the leads. These vocals and the stomping instrumental refrain lead each other through a couple of building choruses. Towards the end of the song? The horn and rhythm guitar accents back up an entire alternate vocal chorus before the song fads out.
On this song? Con Funk Shun function in a similar manner as they did in their musical heyday. The rhythm section including the bass,guitar and drums function to elevate the choruses,melody and more vocal oriented elements of the song. But do so in the funkiest possible way by keeping the groove phat and fluid. This song is a much slower and more direct funk stomp than the more uptempo,EWF like post disco style they are more famous for. While the vocals themselves and the rhythms aren’t quite as imaginative as they would’ve been in the late 70’/early 80’s? On this one song along? It’s a joy to hear Con Funk Shun spend 3 minutes back in the groove.
Filed under 2015, Charlie Wilson, Con Funk Shun, Felton Pilate, Funk, horns, Michael Cooper, organ, post disco, Shanachie, slap bass, synthesizer