Unified Tribe - FUNKtional Family (2006)

Unified Tribe
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It becomes evident how much popular music has changed in the last two decades when you see what an anomaly Unified Tribe is in 2006.  The 70s and early 80s were filled with great self-contained soul and funk bands that were the size of my big Catholic family...or bigger.  But today a dozen-strong band like Unified Tribe is a definite throwback, and on FUNKtional Family the group embraces the previous generation of bands with an album that would make Midnight Star or the Commodores proud.

It becomes evident how much popular music has changed in the last two decades when you see what an anomaly Unified Tribe is in 2006.  The 70s and early 80s were filled with great self-contained soul and funk bands that were the size of my big Catholic family...or bigger.  But today a dozen-strong band like Unified Tribe is a definite throwback, and on FUNKtional Family the group embraces the previous generation of bands with an album that would make Midnight Star or the Commodores proud.

The disc begins with the infectious first single, "Back and Forth" and follows with a solid mix of cuts ranging from hard funk ("That Beat," "Get the Funk") to pop/soul midtempos ("Don't Wanna Be," "Friendship Turned Failure") to smooth soul ballads ("I'll Do Anything," "Love's On My Mind"), any one of which would have fit nicely on an Atlantic Starr album, circa 1984.  The group probably owes its biggest debt to the great dance music of Heatwave, and FUNKtional Family sounds like what that pioneering international group would be releasing today if they were still recording.

There's nothing revolutionary on FUNKtional Family, but there doesn't need to be.  It happily stands outside the 21st Century mainstream as a fun disc that recalls and brings forward the funk/soul sounds of the 70s and 80s.  And it showcases a talented Texas group that should be a hit with both old school and new school fans of melodic, danceable music.  Recommended.

By Chris Rizik

 
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