Decca 1976 / Pharaway Sounds 2017
Funk à la mode: rare groove from France returns to the fore of fashion.
When Sylvain Krief embarked on this project – surrounded by crème de la crème of Parisian session players – he clearly wanted to distance it from expectations the listeners might have after "Israel Suite / Dominante En Bleu" – a rather serious undertaking the drummer recorded as part of RAPTURE a few years earlier. This time it was different, though – lighthearted and funky enough to blow one’s rocks off; that’s why “Airto Fogo” – as Krief rechristened himself for the time being – has become so sought-after in recent years to be eagerly embraced as a reissue.
The record doesn’t open up immediately. “Right On Bird” takes flight in an unhurried way, with spanky bass spicing up the carnival-like beats for brass to pierce ’em, kick the groove high – in festive, even triumphant fashion – and keep it tight, if loose in melody stakes. There’s a lot of improvisation involved here, albeit the creepily arresting “Satine Dog” hides it before electric piano is pushed to the surface, and “Tuesday In Jackson” sticks to blaxploitation kind of cinematic sleaze, whereas the boogie licks of “Shadowy” get scintillating treatment and triangle topping and welcome a tasty six-string solo in their midst.
Fender Rhodes and Mini-Moog paint a slightly spaced-out vista over other synthesizers’ slabs in “High Stakers” to create a cosmic disco experience, yet while the subtleties of “On Tip Toe” are reserved for the piece’s title only, as its thick riffs turn out muscular – to recede in the middle and let cymbals do the talking for a few seconds – “1973 Carmen Avenue” has details in spades, from reggae tinged to stinging, filigree guitar lace. “So Be It” may be a bit predatory in its pace, but percussion shifts and low-tone twang guarantee the fan’s focus will hardly slip. A welcome comeback of a real classic.