ConFunkShun - More Than Love (2015)

ConFunkShun
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The band ConFunkShun reached the public’s ear starting in the late 1970s with the bass thumping and brassy party anthems “Ffun,” “Shake and Dance With Me” and “Chase Me.” By the time their decade long run at Mercury records was ending in the mid 1980s, ConFunkShun was equally known for their ballads that included the ‘fella, if you can’t get a lady on the dance floor when this is playing, I can’t do nothing for you,’ classic “Straight From the Heart.”

After an acrimonious break up that included accusations of financial impropriety and tragedy - all chronicled on “Unsung” - front men Michael Cooper and Felton Pilate embarked on careers that yielded hits for themselves and others. Fortunately, time heals most wounds and entrenched positions became a little less so.  And a few years ago, Cooper and Pilate came to appreciate the virtue of bringing ConFunkShun out of retirement. 

The band ConFunkShun reached the public’s ear starting in the late 1970s with the bass thumping and brassy party anthems “Ffun,” “Shake and Dance With Me” and “Chase Me.” By the time their decade long run at Mercury records was ending in the mid 1980s, ConFunkShun was equally known for their ballads that included the ‘fella, if you can’t get a lady on the dance floor when this is playing, I can’t do nothing for you,’ classic “Straight From the Heart.”

After an acrimonious break up that included accusations of financial impropriety and tragedy - all chronicled on “Unsung” - front men Michael Cooper and Felton Pilate embarked on careers that yielded hits for themselves and others. Fortunately, time heals most wounds and entrenched positions became a little less so.  And a few years ago, Cooper and Pilate came to appreciate the virtue of bringing ConFunkShun out of retirement. 

Always known for a great live show - due in part to their jazz chops and those years following up Mar-Keys, Booker T. & the MG’s and the Bar Kays as a house band at Stax - Cooper and Pilate could have been content to turn the reconstituted funk ensemble into a legacy band and draw pretty good crowds performing tunes from a music library that includes 13 studio albums. Fortunately, for long time fans and the uninitiated alike, they decided not to go that route and instead have released the More Than Love, an album that showcases the band’s ability to bring forth some romance in a variety of different tempos.

More Than Love is a record that these industry veterans proudly proclaim as “grown folks music.” That comes through on tracks such as the “Dance N With A Grown Man,” a track that is both a joyful embrace of middle age and the freedom that comes with it. It’s a fun and funky reminder that although 50 is not the new 25, those of us who reach our fifth and sixth decades still want to believe that we have enough spunk to fight Father Time to a draw: “I was fine when I was 50 and my feet/They movin’ nifty, and I’ll be the same at 60/You dancin’ with a grown man.”

“It’s Time” is a classic smooth and jazzy ConFunkShun ballad that demonstrates that these guys can show the youngsters a thing or two about sensuality and romance. The main virtue in this track is what vocalists leave unsaid. The narrative takes a couple on a whirlwind evening that goes from a night on the town to intimate one on one time and serves as a reminder that true lovemaking is a total experience that involves more than sex.

“I Miss You” is a worthy candidate for Urban AC radio and perhaps a track that can even break into some younger formats if given a chance. Cooper’s classic R&B lead vocals contrast nicely with the contemporary R&B influenced backing vocals. The tune tells the story of a brother who learns too late that the grass was not greener on the other side and that giving his lady space was not such a good idea. If radio passes up “I Miss You,” the island tinged “Say Yo” could also make a strong pitch for radio. The track possesses a laid back groove augmented by steel drums as Pilate and Cooper lend their voices to a melodic marriage proposal.

It would be a stretch to say that ConFunkShun picked up where they left off in the 1980s, because the path to radio airplay was less challenging back then. Still, the years away didn’t dull the musical chemistry that the group members share, and More To Love will be a welcome addition to the next chapter in the ConFunkShun story. And it is simply great to hear these veterans showing their chops on new music again. Strongly Recommended

By Howard Dukes 

 
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