CD Review: RetroFunk S/T

Every so often, you come across an album of music that contains nothing but cover versions of popular songs. Since each of the songs included is a cover version, what sets one of these albums apart from others of the same style of music is the talent of everyone that was brought together to bring the music to life. The better the playing and singing, the more enjoyable the album is. Plus, if the album comes with great arrangements and solid production quality on the songs, then you know you really have something worth checking out.

Under the watchful eyes of Executive Producer Fausto Guerrero and Project Manager (as well as singer) Sandra Perez, RetroFunk is a Mexico-based studio project that brings together talented recording and performing artists that have come together to create an album of music that is very solid. Part of the reason for that solid feeling is that some of the musicians that are part of the project are also responsible for arranging the music on the release. The album truly brings out the talent of all of the musicians involved.

The self-titled release from RetroFunk begins with the track “Your Love”. A track by the band The Outfield that was known for being a “power ballad” back in the eighties, the version of the song that appears on the album has now been arranged in a way to contain a lot more passion. The horn section that is part of RetroFunk helps to add to that passionate feeling, plus the female vocals from singer Sandra Perez take the lyrics in a different direction than the listener would be used to with the song.

RetroFunk’s release continues with the Burt Bacharach-penned track “Close to You”. Known for the “soft rock” treatment it received from The Carpenters back in the seventies, “Close to You” was a very laidback song. The new version from RetroFunk keeps only a little bit of that “soft rock” edge as the arrangement from the horn arranger Alejandro Gamboa gives plenty of life to the track. In fact, this version kicks up the energy level several notches when comparing it to the Carpenters’ version. When compared to each of the other songs on this release, “Close to You” is easily the best arrangement and, in my opinion, the best overall song on the album.

Another track on the CD that breathes life into the original song being covered is the track “Every Breath You Take”. Originally done by The Police, the new version of the song once again has a lot more energy. The horns on the track once again give the song a stronger quality than what was previously there. And just like on the song “Your Love,” the use of female vocals from Sandra Perez takes the lyrics in a different direction.

The song “Careless Whisper” originally from Wham is yet another track that benefits from the addition of horns. However, instead of dramatically changing what the song feels like the horns feel very much at home with the rest of the song as if they had been there right from the beginning. The horns do give the track a jazzy but that simply adds to the charm of the song.

One of the stranger arrangements on the self-titled release from RetroFunk has to belong to Robbie Williams’ “Supreme”. The resulting arrangement of the song takes the feel of the song and seemingly transports the song into the seventies right in the middle of the Disco era as the track now feels a bit too much like “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor.

Not all of the arrangements on the release work perfectly. The RetroFunk version of the Michael Jackson’s “Billy Jean” is changed from rock and roll and given a funk treatment. The decision to move the song in that direction creates the weakest moment on the album.

The new release from RetroFunk contains eleven album tracks and three “bonus” tracks. Of the bonus tracks, the strongest arrangement belongs to the newest song of the songs included “Clocks” by Coldplay. The song is given a “dance” treatment and the resulting track once again takes the band’s sound into the disco era.

RetroFunk proves itself to be a very strong musical concept as the songs that appear on the band’s self-titled release are well-played, well-sung and have very strong production quality. Each track on the album has its own unique take on the original song and that makes for a very entertaining release.

To hear just a little sample of what the band RetroFunk sounds like, check out the band’s promo video on YouTube.