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A whole album of ABBA tunes reinterpreted by Nils Landgren's Funk Unit could be a reason to take notice. Previous albums by the group have shown an unrelenting sense of groove with some fine playing from all concerned. Sadly, Funky ABBA , rather than being a celebration by one of Sweden's funkiest groups of Sweden's largest export, the result is a monotonous series of grooves that do little to elevate the original material beyond its original pop-ness. In fact, if anything, Funky ABBA shows how bereft of ideas the original material was.
What apparently made ABBA popular was as much a matter of being in the right place at the right time; a wholesome image that allowed them to appeal to a broad cross-section of the music buying public; and catchy hooks that stayed in the mind, often despite all attempts to clear them.
What Landgren and company have done is update the rhythms and rework some of the chord structures. Yes, there are plenty of funky grooves, with shades of hip hop and soul; thankfully gone is the disco flavour. But after the first few tunes everything starts to sound suspiciously the same. The tempo on too many of the tunes hovers around the same place"Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" is nearly indistinguishable from "Summer Night City." And the addition of Magnum Coltrane Price's "microphone poetry," which is just another name for rapping, attempts to give a contemporary spin that simply doesn't work.
In fact, what is immediately evident by these reworkings is how weak the source material really is. ABBA may have been a phenomenon in its time, but if those Swedes were to emerge as new artists today they would disappear without a traceas will this album.
This is not to say that the Funk Unit is not serious about getting its groove on. Lars DK Danielsson and drummer Wolfgang Haffner lay down deep funk that, at the very least, elevates this album above some of the smooth jazz material out there; but other than groove there is little else; and a strong rhythmic section, while clearly essential, is not enough to carry the record.
With its complete adherence to song form, it is impossible to categorize this album as jazz in any way; clearly, that is not Landrgen's intent. What he has created is a modern soul-based spin on some popular tunes. With Funky ABBA the material's inherent weakness lays claim to ABBA being nothing more than a trip down nostalgia lane, music with no lasting value other than conjuring images of a particular point in time. For some that may be enough to justify giving this album a listen; but Landgren and his group have proven themselves capable of far better than this and, consequently, this album is a complete disappointment.
Track Listing: Money, Money, Money; Knowing Me, Knowing You; Voulez-Vous; Thank You For the Music; Super Trouper; Summer Night City; Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!; The Name of the Game; Dancing Queen; Take a Chance on Me; SOS; When All is Said and Done
Personnel: Nils Landgren (trombone, vocals), Magnum Coltrane Price (vocals, microphone poetry, additional synthesizers), Henrik Janson (guitar), Jesper Nordenstrom (keyboards), Roberto Di Gioia (keyboards), Lars DK Danielsson (fender bass), Wolfgang Haffner (drums, backing vocals on ?SOS?), Per Lindvall (drums on ?Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!? and ?SOS?), Karl-Martin Almvst (tenor saxophone) Special Guests: Till Bronner (trumpet and additional horn arrangement on ?Knowing Me, Knowing You?), Sharon Dyall (vocals on ?Voulez-Vous,? ?Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!?), Viktoria Tolstoy (vocals on ?Summer Night City,? ?When All Is Said And Done?), Alex Papaconstantinou (bouzouki on ?Voulez-Vous?), Nimo (co-flow on ?The Name of the Game?) Very Special Guest: Benny Andersson (piano on ?When All Is Said And Done?)
As a songwriter and vocalist, I love jazz for the experience of being in the center of intense creativity. It is the most potent form of music for keeping the artist and the audience in the 'now. Being in the moment is essential for humans, and we need help in learning how to do that. As a songwriter, I need the depth of musicality that jazz voicings can give my stories. My songs seem light and whimsical, but the message is not.
I met my main collaborator, Mark Fitzgibbon, at one of his gigs. I needed to do my first original album, and his playing was masterful, robust, and beautiful. At the time, I didn't realize how suited we were as a team. We're onto our 4rth album together.
My advice to new listeners is to listen to a really clear and simple version of a song so you can then hear what the musicians are doing and enjoy their creativity and musicality. Also, you have to see jazz live to appreciate it fully. You'll never feel it the same way listening to a CD or online. You need the vibration to go through your body to really get it!
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