Bar-Kays - House Party

Bar-Kays
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With the surprising release, House Party, the Bar-Kays reveal all the nuance of the musical forms they mastered long before it was marketed as "dirty south" and "crunk."  House Party provides a new generation the distinct pleasure of hearing true funk as its early innovators intended.

With the surprising release, House Party, the Bar-Kays reveal all the nuance of the musical forms they mastered long before it was marketed as "dirty south" and "crunk."  House Party provides a new generation the distinct pleasure of hearing true funk as its early innovators intended.

"Sho-Nuff" starts the party strong. It is thumping and active with an "Ironsides/Flying Monkey" hook that works naturally with funky tambourine shivers and guitar picks. Jazze Pha' hip-hop vocals meld well amidst the jamming. The reverberating claim of "What Goes on in Da Club Stays in Da Club" may repel old school enthusiasts put off by the rapping infiltration of E. Dubb, but be patient.  Faith is necessary if you desire a more melodious interpretation of your funk. It pays off in the next cut "Superstar," perfect for intimate moments public or private. The groove is continued with "Glad You're My Lady," where we hear what made the Bar-Kays so beloved on summer nights. This foot-tapping, soul music symphony will make you want to learn new lyrics as you happily bob your head: Girl I'm so/Glad you're my Lady/Can't live without you/Never going to doubt you/Please don't you ever walk away /‘Cause everyday with you is like a holiday.

"Hey Y'all" is funky, fun and fresh fodder for the dance club. It is easy to imagine the crowd swaying to its parental bass line and difficult to stop your own chair dance during its rhythmic commands. Better get your hands up/ Then you better get up/'Cause we back again/DJ's rocking and everybody's popping.  Unable to keep the ballad within them, group members Dobson and Alexander explain their love strategy to ladies in "Let's Git Bizzy."  While not as graphic as today's offerings, "Git Bizzy's" romantic raunchiness does remind you that funk was often risqué, but there is soulfulness to these strains.  At first a bit lurid, it is persuasive by song's end. 

"Give Me My Heart Back" and "Holla If You Like That" seem de rigueur for a group that opened for George Clinton and his P-Funk back in the ‘70s.  Like any good party you have to get off the floor to recharge, but by no means are these tracks Ipod unworthy.  "My Everything" hearkens back to the precious Stax soul that first epitomized Bar-Kay success.  It is timeless, rather than tired; song mastery with simple strings and soft-spoken sentiment.  This is the kind of hold her close, turn off the lights, and close the door happiness that longtime Bar-Kays fans have gratefully hoarded for themselves.

The party pumps again with "The Stepper's Remix of Glad You're My Lady".  R. Kelly mixable, yet more finessed and delicate, the Bar-Kays add a fresco rather than a fresh coat of paint to the genre. Fine details of rhythm are varnished with harmonies and a faithful funk wash that bridges generations. Their magic dazzles your ears just long enough to make you want more.  Shirley Brown returns on "We Can't Stay Together" (which appeared on the 1994 release The Real Thing with several other HP cuts), and it is a deserved reissue. The duet is an emotional tonic. Ms. Brown's gospel vitality is a wonderful ying to the funky yang of lead Larry Dobson.

And just in case you forgot, the final track, "Bar-Kays," reminds you that the group is still on top of their game: Just because we're VIP's/Don't mean that you can't hang/People always show us love/Cause they like what we used to sing/When y'all get ready/Keepin' it steady/Cause, we on our way/We still get crunk with an old school funk/On that note we will always be/BAR-KAYS

Whether for dancing too fast or grinding too slow, "House Party" will make you sweat, and you will be grateful for the exercise. 

By Arnold W. Stovell

 
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