Most of us are very aware of the incredible talent of the one-man show in Keller Williams. But, when Keller joins his freaky-funkadelic style with the likes of these talented musicians from More Than A Little – you’d better get ready for one funky dance party. Put on those bellbottoms, slip into your platforms, and get ready to transport yourself back to the 70’s. Let’s groove people!!!!
It sure was hard to keep still to write this review. As soon as I’d put the music on, there was a need to get up and move. Dosed with R&B, soul, funk (of course), disco (what?!), and a little touch of gospel, there is certainly no sitting possible. So, get on up offa that thang and dance!
I must say, the production is very clean and crisp, and performance very tight from what I understand were some of the first shows they played together. According to Keller’s website, FUNK is a mix of live recordings from two different gigs in Virginia and one in North Carolina. A blend of new-day funky originals and and more than a handful of righteous covers from the likes of Talking Heads, Donna Summer, and the Grateful Dead – yes, they too got a little funky. With this live recording, you can really feel the energy of the venue, the stage, the band and audience coming through each beat. More Than a Little’s funkadelic family four is one EJ Shaw on bass with Toby Fairchild on drums keeping it right in the pocket, Gerard Johnson playing those keys with free rein, and two powerhouse female vocals with Tonya Lazenby Jackson and Sugah Davis – giving you, showing you, making you feel what the FUNK is all about.
The opening song, “I Told You I was Freaky” reminded me of a Sly and the Family Stone or maybe a little George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, with a touch of Zappa tossed in between the rhythm, blues, and jazzy grooves. With the odd lyrics and quick and sassy backing vocals behind Keller’s main verses, you can’t help but hear a nod to that era. And, well, leave it to Keller to find the obscure. This is a redo of song by a New Zealand musical comedy duo, Flight of the Conchords, and with lyrics like, “Let’s take a photo of a goat in a boat, and then we can float in a moat and be freaky (Freak-ay!). Let’s take my body and we’ll cover it with honey, stick some money to the honey, now I’m covered in money, honey…..”, it feels like a perfect fit for this funky combo.
“More Than a Little” is not just the name coined for the five-man funk band supporting Keller, but a song he has been playing with over the years, changing it up here and there. It appears on three discs, each time changing up the feel, the groove, the beat and the lyrics. This version contains that pure reggae beat, slow and sticky, a little gooey on the feet and hips. No matter which way he decides to play this one, you definitely feel the funk in his trunk.
“Right Here” is another of the four originals on this disc. This one has a smooth groove, strong harmonies, and a strong funk to the beat. Just about dancing; his evil plan to keep it going all night long, because “when we’re all together, we don’t need a thing. Except for food and water and wine and weed, coffee, grey goose and nicotine….” and we can dance, right here, all night. A nice break in the middle allows the man on the keys to shine with a little of his own dancing on the ivories! This one, and “Let’s Jam” both have that groovy P.Funkness oozing out all over ya.
From a jazzy redux of the Talking Heads’ “One in a Lifetime”, a completely different take on the song, to a strong version of Rick James’ “Mary Jane” that didn’t stray to far from the original, and then a total discoed-up, dancehall Disco Queen Donna Summer “I Feel Love” this disc is one that just might be on “replay” for some time. Being a live recording, there is an opportunity to take some liberties, stretch the song in ways you just don’t do with a studio recording, like the center break getting really groovy, more than a little funky, I’d say extremely funky! Or, when Keller calls out, “Go Tanya!” egging her on further down the groovy aisle as she says, “you are being baptized in the disco funk!” – and, if you close your eyes, you could almost see the reflection of the disco ball on your living room wall! Heaven knows, it’s so good…..
There were two, very different takes on two very different songs from the Grateful Dead, one of the originals and, as we know, one of Keller’s favorite jam bands. “West LA Fadeaway” sounds much different with female backing vocals, adding a little sweet, soulfulness to it, yet again, deep, with a touch of boldness. The other GD cover was labeled, “Samson’s Wine”, which is more of a mixture, a hybrid song of a sort… Starting out with a funky beat from banjo man Danny Barnes, called, “Wine”, sounds like it’s about a girl who catches his eye, or maybe it’s about leading a life of crime, with a little partying on the side, having some, “wine, wine, friend of mine, gather round children gonna have a good time!” There is a familiarity to the funky beat, and you know where it is going to head when, about 2/3 way in, the song slows down, Tonya and Sugah sounding a little more gospel, singing “Ooohhh, oooohhhh, ooooh-ooh…” softly behind Keller as he starts into the Dead’s “Samson and Delilah.” Definitely played with more funk than rock ‘n roll, it fits perfectly into rhythm and feel of Barnes’ song, and easily, seamlessly loops back to “Wine, wine, friend of mine….” and then back, yet again into “If I had my way. If I had my way. If I had my way, I would tear this whole building down!” without skipping a beat.
This live disc gives you a balance of good music and good fun, with a little humor in the lyrics and a whole lotta looseness to the performances. Whether he’s playing an original of his own, twisting it around on the edge of comical, or changing up and reinterpreting a song from someone he’s admired, FUNK leads you back into the rollicking fun of the 70’s R&B, soul and, well, funk. It sure gives you more than a little to be happy about (haha). Pretty typical of Keller Williams I’d say.
Keller Williams with More Than a Little – Funk
1. I Told You I was Freaky; 2. More Than A Little; 3. Right Here; 4. Once in a Lifetime; 5. Let’s Jam; 6. Mary Jane; 7. West LA Fadeaway; 8. I Feel Love; 9. B.I.T.C.H.; 10. Samson’s Wine
Here is a link to the details on Keller’s project “More Than A Little” and the “What the Funk” 2104 Tour. As the site says, he will funk you up.