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Jan Akkerman - 3 CD (album) cover

3

Jan Akkerman

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

1.99 | 11 ratings

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2 stars Funk me? Please!

If you're in the right frame of mind, this is a very enjoyable offering from Jan. However, if you're expecting a Jan Akkerman album, with the requisite guitar pyrotechnics, lute et al, then avoid this album at all costs.

The light jazz-funk that pervades this album is stongly reminiscent of muzak for elevators or shopping malls, and this is not helped by the soft-focus production that turns the whole thing into a kind of syrupy mush.

However, as I said above, if you're in an accepting frame of mind and listen to what is actually being played, then this is actually enjoyable from start to finish with only a few weak points, and not, in my opinion, completely terrible.

So wait for a warm evening with a golden sunset, pour a few fingers of your favourite tipple, and relax in your conservatory as you watch the sun go down to a little light music.

"Stingray" (Get Up With That) is an instrumental, initially driven by a Richard-Claydermann style piano with a bass that's completely funktastic, groovers. Little flute motifs and subtle guitar stabs evoke birds, until the horn section evokes Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. Like the latter, this is serious Test Card music - but it does get better. Each repetition of the main theme carries more layers in the arrangement that build the intensity to Shakatak levels - and there is a wonderful guitar-driven bridge with a solo full of funky spikes and modal scales that are more what we might expect from Jan. All in all, a good composition that is probably destroyed by the excessive strings and slickness of production.

"Wait and See" is again overpowered by the strings. The intro leads you to believe you're about to hear Barbra Streisand's dulcet tones any second. Another Claydermann-esque piano entry leads to a smooth sixth-laden lick - and it's hard to put your finger on what exactly is wrong with this piece, as the elements all point to a cool creation; The first piano interlude has a quite divine floaty feeling combined as it is with sumptuous layers of wind - but ultimately washes past, leaving you with a sense of wonderment... as in "I wonder what that was all about".

"She's So Divine" is closer to Earth Wind and Fire than anything else - although the bass is something straight out of Level 42 - possibly something that Mark King himself would have been proud of. If you listen closely to what is being played (past the irritating love song vocals), it's very fine and subtle work - Jan puts in another pristinely executed solo, and the details in the arrangement are pinpoint perfect. It's just that the song itself sucks very badly.

"Funk Me" puts the FUN bak into funk, but the only way the song title has any other impact on me is along the lines of "Funk me, WTF is this?".

Yeah, I really dig that bass line - the lightly flanged sound is growly and driving, and the funky hooks are delivered with effervescent enthusiasm - Bootsy Collins eat your heart out. But the female vocals sound embarrased to be singing "Ooooh, Funk me.... C'mon and funk me..." I think you can see where this is going. The lyrics are cheap, throwaway junk - Junk Me? This is a great pity, as it is a very funky piece indeed, with a driving slow groove that I find very infectious. But I wish the vocal line would either stick to "oohs and ahhhs", as the girls have very nice if somewhat beige tones, as the lyrics... well, I've been there already. A solo is dispensed - and that clinical word is really the best way of describing it.

"This is the One" has more of that bass - which is currently the only reason I'm sticking with the album. The squelch is turned up a bit on the flanger, and the groove is as deep as tractor tyres... but hang on - this is about more than the bass isn't it? Everything else is professionally combined, and some pleasing textures are produced - this is altogether too spiky for the average shopping mall, so the muzak feel has almost gone. But there's still something very, very generic about the music here, with some details buried too deep in the production, and others brought too far forwards - although I love the bass sound, it does dominate everything else, and the bass line isn't truly explored - in fact a few slides seem to indicate boredom setting in. Akkerman brings in some jazz guitar licks that would have been cool for anyone else, and average for him, but these are too late and too little to save the piece.

"Nightprayer" is much better - a deep blue slow-moving dreamy piece that indicates what could have come out of this session. Some very cool slow jazz funk with perfect tone painting and breathtaking licks from Akkerman - although still slightly too heavy on the strings in the production. The performers seem to feed off each other and grow the ideas in a richly organic way that almost completely takes your mind off the form. This is the first stand-out track, hence I will provide no more spoilers - if you ever see this album in the bargain bins, buy it and add this track and the next to your late night Playlist.

The beautiful, nay cosmic textures that pervade the all-too-short "Time Out Of Mind" evoke Gong or Tangerine Dream at their most atmospheric and "floaty" and is not to be overlooked.

All in all, this is really only an album for closet Smooth FM listeners with a penchant for Jazz- funk - and not even recommended to most fans of Akkerman. However, there's nothing really wrong with it - indeed, it finishes on a most uplifting note - if I may put it that way - and is a very slick product that you may revisit more than once in a kind of guilty pleasures sort of way.

Alternatively, you may find it more useful as something to stop that table wobbling.

Certif1ed | 2/5 |

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