Cosmic Funk Band (C.F.B.) – “Take It To The Limit One Last Time”

“Unauthorized reproduction and use of this record as a frisbee is strictly prohibited but inevitable.”

So sayeth the disclaimer on the reverse of C.F.B.’s 2014 EP Take It To The Limit One Last Time.  At least they don’t take themselves too seriously.

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Cosmic Funk Band are from Ireland, and are somewhere between eight and eleven members strong depending on the source you look at (and probably the day of the week).  They’ve got all the instruments covered, including stuff you’ve never heard of, and even credit a “Groove Adviser” in the liner notes.  Their self-claimed influences are funk, soul, and disco, and that fits the sound of Take It To The Limit One Last Time to a T.  This six-song EP is everything that was great about AM radio in the 1970s (and yes, there was some greatness on the AM dial), that combo of folk / soul / funk / disco / contemporary.  You can hear some James Brown band in the horns, a touch of salsa, a little Jackson 5, a dose of Lionel Richie and Hall & Oates, all in a big band format.

I believe Take It To The Limit One Last Time is all original material, and if you asked me to describe it in just one word, that’s easy:  Fun.  This is a fun record.  It’s a record for a party, or a BBQ, or sitting outside on a beautiful day having a drink or three, or diving in your car with the windows rolled down and the stereo cranked up.  Most if the songs sound like their straight from 1975 with the possible exception of “Alone,” which could make it onto any “adult contemporary” type station out there today – it sounds current, like something that Taylor Swift might have recorded (and I mean that as a compliment).

They’ve got a handful of videos up on YouTube, including a cover of “Sexual Healing,” and I recommend you check them out if you’re into light funk / soul.  Good stuff.

Sly Dunbar – “Sly-go-ville”

Percussionist Sly Dunbar is probably one of the best known reggae musicians, having played with just about everyone in the reggae world at one time or another and also alongside mainstream pop and rock artists from Bob Dylan to Herbie Hancock to the Rolling Stones.  Paired with long-time collaborator and bassist Robbie Shakespeare, the two are arguably the most famous rhythm section in reggae, a genre driven by rhythm.  In short, he’s good.

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I’ve picked up a few other  Sly & Robbie records over the last few years and never come away disappointed, so when I came across a reasonably priced copy of 1982s Sly-go-ville I figured why not.  Turns out this is a sort of hybrid record.  Yes, reggae is at the core.  But there’s also plenty of funk and soul influence, and even a hint of dub.  The opening track, “Slippin’ Into Darkness,” opens with a straight up copy of the riff from “Get Up, Stand Up” before moving off into funky territory that sounded like it belonged in a 1970s blaxploitation movie.  Meanwhile on the flip side “If You Want It” is like some kind of weird techno funk with it’s heavily modulated vocal, almost a reggae version of Peter Frampton’s “Do You Feel Like We Do.”  The last track, “Unmetered Taxi,” is a pure dub number and a good intro to the genre for newbies.

Sly-go-ville is probably a good pick for the person who claims not to be a reggae fan – there are a lot of other more familiar popular music elements present, but still recognizable reggae rhythms and even dub.  Very approachable and enjoyable.