Do what the monkey sees
The Budos Band is an 11-piece funk soul instrumental combo from Staten Island that features drums, bass, guitar, electric organ, two trumpets, baritone saxophone, and a percussion section that employs bongos, congas, tambourine, guiro, clave, shekere, and cowbell. The band’s sound oozes from a deep place where melodies constantly snake forward, honkers bleat over the top, and the beats move at itchy tempos to keep one energized. The instrumentation keeps driving onward and upward until it climaxes. Yes like all good funk music this disc can operate as the soundtrack for sex, but it’s also much more. On the stereo by the bedside, the music serves one function. Listened to in a public space, the songs would compel one to dance. Heard over the headphones, the material changes the way in which one perceives the world.
It’s the inverse of what funkmaster George Clinton used to say, “Free your mind and your ass will follow.” Here it’s “Shake your ass and your mind will follow”, although The Budos Band doesn’t put it into words. All of the songs here are instrumentals, although there are the sounds of people having a good time thrown into the mix. Some songs, like the carnivalesque “King Charles”, contain snippets of people laughing and engaged in friendly mumbled conversations. The purpose of these samples is to create a fun atmosphere rather than convey a message. The listener’s change of consciousness results from having a good time.
The catalyst for much of the pleasure occurs from the repetition of musical motifs that move to upbeat rhythms. Consider the six-minute “Monkey See, Monkey Do”. It starts off with the bass, drums, and percussion swaying in a groove that starts in the forefront and percolates underneath with only slight variations. Then the two trumpets blare in and play their short staccato melodies over and over. Other instruments weave in and out, until about two thirds of the way through the tune a loud baritone sax steps forward. The sax solo is then mimicked by the trumpets, which then fade out and let the bass, drums and percussion take one to the finish.
The song’s ending mirrors its beginning. Something has happened, but nothing has changed except in the mind of the listener. It’s like having sex with one’s longtime partner. The first caresses and kisses of the night begin the same way they have in the past. One repeats actions and behaviors one’s partner has enjoyed in the past, maybe doing things a little differently to stimulate the other person, but not taking any radical new steps. The partner returns the favors in the same manner. The passion builds, breaks, and ebbs. Then one is back where one started, a little happier but not all that different from where one began.
The Budos Band’s theme song, aptly titled “Budo’s Theme”, moves to the fastest rhythms and is the jazziest tune on the group’s debut disc. The cut starts out at a rapid tempo. The percussion bounces and horns blare. The tempo never lags. One presumes from the track’s showy pace and referential title that the combo uses this song to open when it performs live. The track resembles the classic intro pieces at traditional soul revues, but this cut doesn’t come first on the disc. That honor belongs to the funky “Up From the South”, the track with the catchiest melody. The strategy of sequencing “Up From the South” at the beginning must be to hook the listener into staying for more, the way one does with traditional pop albums.
Placing the second most conventional track next, “T.I.B.W.F.” reinforces this idea. “T.I.B.W.F.” relies on a solid bass beat and a sultry organ line to capture one’s attention before the horns come in hot and heavy. The first two cuts are good, but seem derivative of other songs one’s heard before (think Booker T and the MGs). The tracks that follow “Budo’s Theme” seem more distinctive and original. Planning the arrangement of the material in this manner seems a reasonable tack to take. Seduce the listener with something catchy (“Up From the South”). Don’t alienate him/her with anything too weird, but give him/her something that resembles other songs he/she enjoys (“T.I.B.W.F.”). Show off your chops (“Budo’s Theme”) and then launch into what makes the band special. My guess is that the eight tracks that follow will win The Budos Band many fans among the aficionados of instrumental funk soul music.