What is it that you expect from a live album? Because I’ve always thought that it was a waste to wish for a live show to sound identical to a studio album. To me, they need to have some sort of advantage, re: a reason for existing. Anything else feels almost as redundant as a second or third greatest hits compilation hitting the shelves just before Christmas. This goes for live recordings both in front of a crowd as well as inside the studio. You know what I mean; those one-take sessions where the sound is “practically live” with no overdubs. Being an electronic act from Berlin with a knack for the art of the remix, soul-funk collective Jazzanova has always had one eye on the art of the live performance, going so far as to assemble a full band for the purposes of playing the tracks for which producers Stefan Leisering and Axel Reinemer have become known. These shows went over so well that Leisering and Reinemer brought the live band into the studio to replicate their live set with the addition of one new song. Funkhaus Studio Sessions is the result, a satisfying hip-shaker of a “show” that aligns the human touch with musical precision.
Jazzanova revisits past songs without being enslaved by the previous recordings. The fact that Detroit artist Paul Randolph performs on all of the vocal numbers does explain for some of the differences, naturally, but the band also delivers each beat with more snap on “Let Me Show Ya”, “Look What You’re Doin’ to Me” and “Lucky Girl” than their previous incarnations. It’s one thing to have an eight piece band, it’s another thing entire to get them to play this tight and fancy free. Three people alone are credited for drums, percussion and synths; Leisering, Reinemer and Carl Michael Grabinger. Sebastian Borkowski divides his time between sax and flute while Stefan Ulrich fattens the sound with his trombone. “Theme from Belle et Fou”, Funkhaus Studio Sessions’ first instrumental track, is almost too slick to grab your attention. “Fedime’s Flight”, often referred to as Jazzanova’s “breakthrough” hit, is probably the least interesting thing here, attempting to translate a club staple complete with samples into a live setting and blandly succeeding.
The best thing on Funkhaus Studio Sessions is the new single “I Human”. This thing is catchy with a capital ‘C’. It installs funk, soul and rhythm & blues into our current culture in both sound and lyrics. Paul Randolph, who by the way has a velvety voice designed to melt steel, has grown sick of social media. Twitter this, Facebook that, let’s all put our devices down and have conversations again. The final lines of the verses has Randolph admitting “I miss the personal touch, without abbreviations / I dedicate the song to all the human nation.” And when the chorus kicks in? Oh, forget about it, Jack. Randolph can be singing anything by this point.
Had “I Human” been released by Earth, Wind & Fire during their heyday, it would have been a smash. Alas, it’s far more relevant for our lifestyle as every one of us struggles to look away from their damn cell phones. And it’s odd that a song that bemoans technology so much would be the main selling point for a Jazzanova release. But this is a live album, so we say damn the machine! But not really.
- Multiple songs Soundcloud