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Afrolicious | California Dreaming

album review by John Powell

Afrolicious | California Dreaming

Actually, funk music doesn’t have much to work with, contingent on certain quality of bass, guitar, and percussion. Lyrically, funk songs can talk about funk, music as a whole, love, and can only rarely stretch into broader topics. Northern California’s Afrolicious, however, is one of those bands that can take a genre forward by pulling it back.

Combining funk grooves with Afrobeat genes, California Dreaming, the sixteen piece’s debut album, is wonderful, start to finish. The albums scores major points for upbeat compositions that rip with tight horns, and offer loose, saucy lyrics that boarder cliché, without falling into such a death trap.

How? The opener and title track settles into punctuated bass, a simple drum pattern, and a horn and synth line that is rambunctious. Acting like an offspring of Parliament, the band can pull off, “People out in the street/ this is what they say/ times get tough/ times get tougher.” It’s nothing mind blowing, but then again, this isn’t really the point.

The band steers clear of hokey, focused on the groove. This is dance music that just so happens to be socio-politically astute. “Revolution” sizzles with enough funk-topia to make a booty shake, and then peppers in conscious vocals, (call and response with male and female vocal parts!): “Everywhere I look/ I see people with love,” and also, “You got to rise up/ some lives will be lost.”

Some songs have more Afrobeat in them than others. “Pleasuretime” has drumming to sound like a Fela Kuti remix. The group boasts about five singers, too, so the vocals can range from hip-hop to soul to Afro-centric pop. “Are you ready? Leave your worries behind.”

“Do What You Got To” is funkier, laced with synth and swing to the horns. “Foolin’” takes on dub, and the closer, “Horizons”, is straight jam. Regardless of the song’s particulars, however, Afrolicious makes something cohesive.

Again, funk does have boundaries, as does Afrobeat, and even this cool synthesis has to dance inside a certain set of velvet ropes. This means that the sound isn’t very “Afrolicious”- not unique. That’s not a problem for music like this. It’ll add life to a dance floor, bump to a stereo, and sunshine to your day. The band also has a whole career ahead to strengthen their identity.

Lovers of everyone from Antibalas to Parliament won’t mind being bitten by such a sweet vampire as Afrolicious.

Bottom line: 70s style funk and Afrobeat fused into dance-heavy compositions that are as fun as they are focused.

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