Back in February French-born, Los Angeles-based soul and jazz guitar man U-NAM (Emmanuel Abiteboul) unleashed THE CALIFORNIA FUNK MACHINE, a soul collective that includes players like bassist Freddie Washington, drummer Michael White, keyboardist Wayne Linsey (both ex-Maze) and vocalists Marva King (ex-Stevie Wonder band), Frank Burke (ex-Heatwave) , Tony Tatum and Tom Owens. Those stellar players/artist were augmented by a full brass and string sections. The big, big band delivered a collection of classic 70s and 80s funk, disco and soul classics like ‘Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now’, ‘Boogie Down’ and ‘September’. With fresh new arrangements that managed to retain the class of the originals and new flourishes and licks (notably U-Nam’s jazzy guitar), the faithful old songs had new vigour, energy and impact.
The album was so successful that it was a no-brainer to record a second volume and ‘California Funk Machine Volume 2’ has just been launched. The recipe and repertoire is much the same as volume 1 save that all the selected tunes this time come from the 80s. U-Nam is once again the ring master. As well as arranging both horns and strings, he also produced and arranged the entire album. As well as that he plays lead and rhythm guitars, talk box, vocoder, bass, Moog bass, Rhodes, clavinet, synth guitar, keyboards, drums, and horn programming! Many of the core musicians from Volume I grace the new project with the addition of people like of sometime Crusader keyboardist Bill Steinway, pianist Bob Baldwin and drummer Jorel Flynn.
The new collection’s first single was a cover of Herbie Hancock’s ‘Rockit’. For the new version U-Nam called on LA based DJ, composer, music producer, remixer, and sound designer DJ Puzzle to craft the same sort of vibe that Hancock created with DJ Grand Mixer DXT. And that should give you the flavour of what the album’s all about – updating (respectfully) the classics!
Amongst the other selected songs are Kool and the Gang’s ‘Be My Lady’, Dayton’s ‘Sound Of Music’, George Duke’s ‘Reach Out’ and a largely instrumental version of Maze’s ‘Can’t Get Over You’ on which U-Nam proves his mastery of the soul/jazz guitar while the song section and treatment show once again that the California Funksters don’t “do” the obvious and predictable! What they do do though is deliver soul and funk in spades!