Funkatized - Illegal Copy (2010)

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    Making instrumental funk music creates a challenge for the Berlin based duo Funkatized that they do not face when making dance music. This challenge becomes acute if the group hopes to reach the American market. With the exception of jazz, instrumental music has a difficult time getting heard on American airwaves. This, of course, was not always the case. Back when funk and fusion could be heard on the radio along with other kinds of music, bands often put out instrumental tracks. Some of these songs actually went on to become big hits - think "Summer Madness" by Kool and the Gang or "Mister Magic" by Grover Washington, Jr. These days, folks demand lyrics with their songs, even if the lyrics are inane. People may say that they that they don't care about the lyrics of a song, and that they only listen to the beat. Taste test that by taking the words out of a song and see what happens.

    So here is Funkatized, following up their 2008 self-titled record with the instrumental funk album Illegal Copy. The duo hedged their bets with Funkatized by mixing in dance and electronica tracks with the funk. That put them in another box because the pulsating rhythms of electronica music often sound repetitive to American ears. The band decided to go all in for the funk on Illegal Copy, and the result is a record that sounds much more pleasing to American ears. It can be said that Illegal Copy is a something of a throwback album to those days of instrumental funk.

    Funkatized gives listeners a steady helping of bass thumping and plucking, James Brown guitar licks, grooving keyboards and jam band influenced soloing. Okay, some listeners might start wishing for a few more lyrics after a while because Funkatized doesn't get too wordy. That was no problem for me. Where the band did employ lyrics, they kept it limited to hooks and those hooks were always very catchy.

    Besides, not having those singers muddy up everything with vocals allows the listener to focus on some pretty good funk music. The best of the bunch are "Viper," "Even In China" (with those James Brown guitars), the gritty streetwise funk of "Hoodlum" (which could sounds like it should be on the soundtrack of some 1970s Blaxploitation movie) and "Syndicate," with its mid-tempo groove that will get heads nodding. These songs all flow. What's even better about Illegal Copy is that Funkatized will make the listener remember that we did a lot of dancing to that funk music back in the day. Recommended.

    Howard Dukes

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