Which Way 2 Utopia? This was the question asked by the local funksters known as Aladocious as they brought forth their debut CD this month at Burque’s own Blue Jeans Lounge. On the way to the answer, the band fuses three decades of funk tradition into a brand-new bag. This stuff comes off as yo’ mama’s funk, from the streetcorner of Clinton and Sly, with soulful ryhthms, sweet harmonies, deluxe horns, and arrangements that would beat many bands. And this band fears no wah-wah. But just when you think you can settle in for a trip on the Retro Train, the sound will take a turn into solid 21st-century territory--without ever skipping a beat or losing touch with its roots.
The navigators of this journey are Kevin "Kookie" Jones and Jerome “Scooby” Oubichon, who co-pilot on songwriting and production. Jones is the principal author of most of the tunes, which are skillfully engineered and masterfully mixed by Oubichon at Creole Cockpit Studios. The duo mapped out the estimable arrangements over several months of Sundays. The hand-crafting has paid off in a sound that is clean, tight, and complex; artful while not straying into artifice or cluttering the aural landscape.
Utopia is a slick construction of evocative lyrics, memorable hooks, inventive melodies, righteous riffs, well-woven voices, and polyrhythmic pulses that activate all the chakras, from foot to head, in that order. The songs establish themselves seemingly effortlessly, coming on like almost-familiar faces that end up becoming new friends. They keep the conversation fresh, establishing their own voices without needless repetition.
Frontman Jones does his duty on keyboards, bass, vocals, and guitars, while Oubichon keeps track of the time zone on drums and percussion, as well as taking his turns on vocals. Burque denizen Chuck Hawley trades off on guitar and t-bone. Revea holds forth as the anchoring presence on background vocals, with help from Evangela, while each takes an occasional lead. Christine lends her voice to the mix to round out the sound. Need more horns? Saxophones by Blake and Daryl will fill the bill. Cameos by Wenty Morris (lead guitar), and by Dave Pankuch and DJ Casarez (bass) complete the lineup.
You won’t find cliché in these tunes, either verbal or musical. What starts like ear candy develops quickly into more satisfying fare. Songs that are catchy at first unfold into deeper territory on successive listening. And you’ll want to listen again. And again.
Echoes of many masters are in evidence here, and these students of the Funky Alphabet know their Ps and Qs . . . including the Purple One, Quincy, and P-Funk, among others. But this way to Utopia passes through hallowed ground without loitering anywhere too long, paying due homage without sounding derivative.
The CD booklet, designed by Alicia Lueras Maldonado, features Marco Carrasco cover graphics that would be at home in 70’s underground comix. Inside, Lueras’ photographs reflect that Aladocious has evolved into a somewhat different creature than the crew who started recording Utopia earlier this century. Jones, Oubichon, Hawley, and Revea provide continuity, while Christine has expanded her vocal role. Most notably, Jones has handed over the bass to Nicole “Soul” Cajori, who has brought her own sensibilities while holding true to the band’s essence. Doug Bellen has recently joined in on keys, trading off with Jones. The current crew has logged innumerable hours shaping the present sound on and off stage. Utopia, as a studio project, is a hip and sophisticated complement to the band’s live shows, which trade some of the CD's refined vibe for a measure of raw energy.
Which Way 2 Utopia? If Utopia exists, sages might advise that it’s in the journey, not the destination. Whether or not you subscribe to that philosophy, this collection of fresh classics will keep your heart beating and your feet moving on the road trip.