When you hear good funk, it’s as easy to lose yourself as it is to spend eight dollars on movie theater popcorn. Good funk has to have that rhythm, and a groove you can slide into with the same force with which it pulls you in, so that you’re hurtling toward the white hot center of the funk on a crash course with time and the space between your ears. Good funk is simultaneously like nothing you’ve ever heard and the first song man deigned to beat out against a rock for the sheer pleasure of losing himself in the momentum and flow of the groove. Charlie Funk is good funk.
Charlie Funk, A.K.A. Charles Maynard, is known around Brooklyn as the Lyrical Ninja for True Groove Records, the ‘global soul’ label founded by the illustrious Tomás Doncker, and his solo debut, an EP titled Give Me A Groove, comes out on February 26.
The first track, “Lunch In Babylon,” blasts off with futuristic guitar, with lyrics of a dark and dire nature. The song speaks to the continuous struggle for a better life in the face of systematized corruption and injustice. “There’s something burning in the oven / That the world can’t take / Try to cook up the illusion / That everything’s okay.” The voice of Marla Mase can be heard bureaucratically delivering lines as the waitress on the scene. Michael “Kidd Funkadelic” Hampton from P-Funk All Stars fame feeds the listener’s hungry ears with more of that tasty guitar.
I recommend you have an extra set of underwear handy for Charlie Funk’s rendition of “It’s Not Unusual”. The gentle funk swells like a bubbling confection. As Charlie Funk sings the lyrics, the listener can hear him savoring each word in his mouth, caressing it with his tongue before letting it escape his lips and delivering it to the microphone. I would love to know what he’s thinking when he sings this song. “It’s Not A Joke” moves forward with a playfully stern bass line delivered and elaborated upon by Josh David. The horns, arranged by Mac Gollehon, the God of Brass and Wind, play Texas hold ‘em with the drums and guitars, while Charlie Funk assures the listener of his sincerity. I have no trouble believing him, as I’m already nodding my head.
“Give Me A Groove” reminds me of DJ Darky’s search for the “perfect beat” in Paul Beatty’s Slumberland. However, “Give Me A Groove” delivers exactly what it’s asking for from the first beat. Charlie Funk sings with determination, asking, nay, demanding, a groove worthy of his energy and attention. That means “a groove that’s true.” Hard to explain, but you know it when you hear it. And here it is. The horns punctuate the vocals, and the guitar elevates the party to the next level. Next, Charlie Funk delivers the lyrics to “Sexy Cutie” with his heart on his sleeve and the excitement of a man who may or may not be staining his shirt with errant saliva. The Touchy Feely Remix of “Sexy Cutie” must have been a lot of fun to mix. The layers and effects dress the song up to accommodate either a night out at a dimly-lit club with lots of couches and at least one guy curiously wearing sunglasses, or for a luxurious evening at Charlie Funk’s place getting right to the funk.
Charlie Funk is a genius, and a go-getter with the experience and cojones to create the thing he wants. With a little help from some very talented friends, Charlie Funk has created this collection of songs, a groove that will sustain me until his next release blows my mind and rearranges my synapses.