Funk and soul music has always been a genre known for carrying a message, one which if not always overtly political can often be termed social commentary. Its roots in the race struggles of 60’s American led artists such as Marvin Gaye, Cutis Mayfield and Sly and The Family Stone to become narrators of those troubled times and that relationship between the politics and the music remains ingrained.
The Nils Landgren Funk Unit sideman’s fifth album has plenty to say about what we are doing to the planet and what we are doing to each other but does so in a way that exudes hope for the future, brims with optimism and never preaches. No soapboxes where harmed in the making of this record.
No soapboxes where harmed in the making of this record.
It is also an album of amazing range
Unlike some of his previous, sonically more heavily textured albums, Brain Boogie is a cleaner limbed outing, his assembled funk power trio recording the core of the songs in one take giving the album a wonderful live feel, for, by and large, that is what they are. It is also an album of amazing range, paying tribute to funk but having room to push those boundaries into both timeless soul and contemporary R&B.
Earth Bound is a smooth soul ballad heralding an end to inequality; Space Xpress is a funky groover which muses with the idea of leaving earth and making a fresh start out in the stars. But such weighty concepts are balanced by the title track which acts as a user manual for the album itself – never stop thinking about such important issues but never stop having a good time either – a pretty good adage for anyone to live their lives by.
Brain Boogie is the perfect blend of an album, it funks but is never quite as highly charged and in your face as some of those classic artists who first defined the genre, preferring to gentle plant the seeds and let the listener mull things over and join the dots. Musically is also follows smoother lines, it pops, rocks boogies and grooves, that’s for sure, but does so in a fairly understated way. Sometimes the message is better received when you don’t realise that you are being educated in the first place.
Come for the boogie, stay for the lesson!