One of the most consistent R&B/Funk bands of the 70s and 80s, ConFunkShun, is back with its first album after the 1986 release “Burnin’ Love” (there was an additional live album in 1996) which had been recorded without songwriter and singer Felton Pilate who, together with Michael Cooper and Louis McCall, was part of the core members of the group which was founded in 1969 (Felton came on board in 1971). A lot of tensions were the reason for the final breakup and now, original members Michael Cooper and Felton Pilate alongside Karl Fuller, are back with the 2015 edition.
Felton and Michael are sharing lead vocal duties on this solid R&B set which is divided into dance stompers and slick ballads. After the sugary and saccharine opener “Your Night”, the title track is the song which I think the group should put their focus on. Light, airy, breezy groover with catchy background vocals and a sassy hook. The funkiness is not lost on the adult-oriented “Dance N With A Grown Man” and Felton shows his soft side on “It’s Time” which also features the saxophone of band member Ron Morton.
Other horn players include Felton himself on trombone, Karl Fuller on trumpet, and Frank Bailey on trumpet and trombone. And it is a necessary part of the group’s sound because without the horns and some additional guitar here and there, the album would have sounded too programmed. Some of the songs here are clearly catered for an adult Urban Radio market (does this still exist?) like “Big Girl” or “I Miss You”. Not really original in its execution. Also, “Say Yo” is too narrowing in its approach and doesn’t come across as soulful or funky as some of their brilliant stuff from the 70s and 80s.
There is a fair enough cover of Curtis Mayfield‘s “Move On Up” which is on the edge of being too smooth and has some strange-sounding, programmed strings. Things are back on track with the firm, mid-tempo groover “Taboo” which again sounds to me as this is the style that suits them best. As is the following “It’s On Tonight”.
The last song on the album is an instrumental Jazz/Funk affair (we want more of that!) called “Nite-Liters”. That’s a nod to the group of the same name which recorded an album in 1970, produced by Harvey Fuqua. On that particular album, one song was called “Con-Funk-Shun”, after which the group was finally named (they first appeared as Project Soul).