It’s no secret that we love a bit of funk here at TFSR; indeed, we consider ourselves recent converts to the P-Funk sound of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic. Now, thanks to our friend, and incredible funk musician Marlon McClain, we’ve discovered the funk of Stevie Ray Mays, a.k.a Ultra Van Krome, and his new album Cyber Funkist. As was reported by Willamette Week, Mays suffered several serious health issues prior to the album, but Mays has overcome them, regaining his health and has poured all of his efforts into this fantastic new funk album.
If there’s such a thing as “neo-P-Funk”, this is it. In fact, the album seems to pick up where former NBA player-turned-smooth-jazz artist Wayman Tisdale left off with his final album The Fonk Record, released after his sad death in 2009. The album rides the same neo-funk groove that Tisdale laid down. Like The Fonk Record, Mays’ new album appears to have gone under the radar somewhat, which is a shame considering how well-produced, and how funky this album is throughout. Mays is himself a brilliant bass player, as demonstrated by the incredibly funky bass licks throughout. Take the album’s first song ‘Pleased 2 Meet You’ – Mays’ bass playing shines through, and those James Brown aficionados will recognise the homage Mays pays to the Godfather of Soul, sampling his ‘Get Up, Get Into It, Get Involved’ lyric.
Impressively, Mays handles almost all of the instruments on Cyber Funkist, yet leaves the guitars for Marlon ‘the Magician’ McClain to do his thing, reminding us of his incredible talent as a guitarist. For Lucky Records, Mays and McClain is an inspired collaboration. Mays also invites several others onto his album, notably Tayshawnty Wade on ‘I Am’, a funk tribute to Uncle Sam and all things American, which features a clever sample of ‘Hail to the Chief’.
One of the highlights of the album is ‘She’s Krome To The Bone’, which maintains the overall P-Funk influence, but with McClain’s lead guitar giving the song an eighties groove edge, similar to what McClain produced back in the day with Pleasure, Shock and the Dazz Band. ‘She’s Krome’ is four-minutes of prime funk, one that has a catchy Parliament-esque lyric, nice use of synths, and some purely delightful bass popping.
Much has been made (admittedly, some of it by us) about the return of disco and soul as popular genres of music again, signified by the chart success of Daft Punk’s last album and Mark Ronson’s ‘Uptown Funk’ (which is funky, but more disco-soul orientated) among others. No one is really talking about the resurgence of funk, but with artists producing such high quality music as Stevie Ray Mays, the funk renaissance must surely be on the horizon. Cyber Funkist is a real treat of an album, and we thank both Stevie Ray Mays and Marlon McClain for sending this great album to us at TFSR.