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James Hollihans The Funky Misfit in Ultraphonic Stereo by James Hollihan

It seems to me that a blurb from the conductor of the Nashville Symphony Pops orchestra is the wrong way to go when getting a recommendation for a funk/hipster/groove/lounge album. Said conductor, Jeff Steinberg, recommends James Hollihan’s The Funky Misfit in Ultraphonic Stereo for its "melodic clarity, and harmonic sense." Great. But hipster funk designed for the lounge isn’t about craft. Never has been, never will be. It’s about groove. It’s about feeling. No one’s ever listened to Grant Green or Soulive and said, "Whoa... that’s one helluva b13 he worked into the melody over that dominant. What great harmonic sense." Nope. Listening to Grant Green is about feeling the 2 and 4.

That’s the problem with The Funky Misfit. It tries so hard to be clever and hip at the same time that it winds up being neither. It’s fun, it grooves mildly, and it sounds like an imitation of hipster lounge music. Not a bad imitation, but an imitation nonetheless. Lounge music is not the place to display your chops as an arranger and/or composer.

The album begins with the title track. It’s the highlight of the disc. A strong, syncopated bass loop augmented by angular percussion kicks off the album. When the keys enter, it’s hard not to shake the ol’ moneymaker a bit. Unfortunately, it’s downhill from here. "Groove Deville," the second track, could be good. Mixing a bit of recent Jimmy Smith with some smoother sounds, it’s certainly promising, but the groove has gone somewhere and doesn’t return for the rest of the album. The airy percussion and slippery bass never quite mesh, and without a solid rhythm section the whole thing is built quite tenuously.

From then on, we’re left with the worst of Wes Montgomery, Earl Klugh, horribly corny string arrangements and a laughably bad attempt at samba with "It Came From Brazil," which should have been titled "It Came From an Episode of Love Boat."

This album is why lounge, groove, hipster, and funk are all words that aren’t taken very seriously.

Additional Info

  • Artist / Group Name: James Hollihan
  • CD Title: James Hollihans The Funky Misfit in Ultraphonic Stereo
  • Genre: Ambient Jazz
  • Year Released: 2004
  • Record Label: Nuevotron
  • Tracks: The Funky Misfit, Groove DeVille, Across the Desert Sky, The Hush of Love, The Waltz of the Leaves, Cypress Shores, It Came from Brazil, Solitude, Cafe Blue, Angel Noir
  • Rating: Two Stars
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