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 Review archive:  # a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Zapp - Zapp/Zapp II/ Zapp III [Robin Songs/ Cherry Red - 2016]

Zapp where a funk collective from Hamilton, Ohio. Who where a huge influence on the electro side of the funk genre, landed up been heavily sampled by West Coast hip-hop artists, and had their own distinctive take on funk. The band formed in the late 1970’s, and this new double CD reissue brings together their first three albums from between 1980 & 1983.

The band started in 1977 as a six piece, and revolved around four brothers from the Troutman family- Roger( who was the mastermind behind the project) on lead and background vocals, guitar, bass, keyboards, harmonica, vibraphone, percussion, &  talk box. Larry on percussion, Lester on drums, and Terry on keyboards, bass, & background vocals. Added to this family line-up we had Gregory Jackson on keyboards, lead and background vocals, and Bobby Glover on lead and background vocal.

The bands first self titled album is from 1980, and  has quite the flavour of  Parliament, Funkadelic & P-Funk running through it’s six tracks, as both Bootsy Collins and George Clinton where hanging out with & influenced the band during the albums production. Through it does manage to add it’s own edge & creativity to the funk sound- in particular with it’s use of: Talk box( which is similar in sound to the vocoder), blends of squelching synth bass work with strutting & tight guitar work, and up-beat/distinctive R&B touches like harmonica.  The album opens with "More Bounce to the Ounce”, which was the bands first single, &  still stands as one of their most known tracks. The nine & a half minute affair is a tight, layered, playful & rather cheeky blend of squelching ‘n’ throbbing snyth bass pumps, locked guitar struts, robotic like talk box vocalising repeating the tracks title, and layers of male sighs, laughs, and mouth shakes.  The remaining five tracks mostly keep-up the day-glo, cheeky, and buoyant vibe of this first track, though thankfully they don’t over use the Talk box element, as it’s used fairly sparingly blended with more standard mix of soulful yet cool male vocals, which move from swooning & sleek, to layered harmonising.  With the tracks  going from urgent & tight, though to jazzy & disco drum tinged, onto sleek & laid-back. The first album takes up the whole of the first CD on this reissue, with the remainder been topped off with five bonus tracks- these come in the shape of single versions of album tracks from each of the three releases.

Disc two of course opens with the bands second album 1982’s Zapp II.  And once again it opens with a lengthy funk jam- “Dance Floor” comes in at just over the eleven minute mark. It brings a clapping ‘n’ snapping beat, tight guitar struts,  stabbing synth bass, urgent horn embellishments, spacey synth noises, and of course the Talk box- which for this track is used in quite a varied manner- going from talky robot like, through to swooping harmonizing, onto layered. Also the track has a quite fiery Prince-like guitar solo at it’s mid way point. The rest of the album takes in another five tracks, and these move from horn heavy & rousing gospel like choir lined funk. Though to doo-woop meets harmonica up-beat affairs, onto fairly lose jazz-funk work-outs lined with electro synth elements.

Lastly on disc two we of course have 1983’s Zapp III, and it’s seven tracks.  And by this point the bands ability to still sound fresh & write memorable tunes had started to slip somewhat. The opener “Heartbreaker” brings together a tight taping rhythm, funk synth swoops, horn work, and sadly a overuse of the Talk box- which is just stretched all over the track in often rather messy layers. The rest of the album does vary the pace of the tracks, moving from the more soulful-though-corny, onto tight slamming electro funk meets tight guitar grooves with  harmonica edges. Through to detailed afro percussive meets gospel choirs & horn edged. Onto to the more light jazz-funk work-out. I guess of the three albums it’s the more varied, though sadly not much of it is very memorable.

The set is topped off with a 12 page colour inlay booklet- this features a new five page write-up about Zapp, and the three albums. As well as single labels, groovy pictures of the band, and of course full track credits.  So in summing  this reissue, I’d say if you enjoy your funk with a electro &  often cheeky edge this will certainly please you, just don’t expect too much from Zapp III.

Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5Rating: 3 out of 5

Roger Batty
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