The Funk, The Whole Funk and Nothin’ but the Funk by Elliot Levine – Reviewed by Chris Mann



Composer and keyboard player Elliot Levine has toured with Wilson Pickett and Heatwave and has opened for Brian McKnight, Freddie Jackson, and McCoy Tyner.

He has had the number 1 song on, with over 1 million downloads. This amazing feat was mentioned in the Wall Street Journal. Elliot has three internationally released CD’s which have received extensive airplay and distribution. He has headlined at Blues Alley and the Kennedy Center. 

In 2003, he scored the music to an Emmy nominated documentary, "Teens in Between", which was featured in Film Festivals.  His music was also used on "Inside the NBA" on TBS (2001), as well as an independent college movie, "Friends With Benefits" (2003).  He has also featured on the Karvavena release "The Abduction of the Art of Noise".  This funky CD is his fourth solo release.  How funky is it then? 

The opener Bladum features a great mass of keyboards – clavinet-style but sounding more like a vocoder.  There’s cool electric piano sound in there too. The bass is nice and solid, accompanied by drumming which has a great feel.  There’s a very nasal rock guitar solo and a crisp, gorgeous bass solo.  Get Up With It continues the funky theme Incognito-style with big keyboard chords and an upfront rhythm guitar.  The bass is sparse and really effective – which gives lots of room for keyboard soloing, some of it quite intense.  There’s that rock guitar again… 

A fake human beatbox opens Clear It.  I’m not sure why.  The piano has a real Marcus Johnson feel and phrasing – I love it.  The bass and drums again sound excellent – and live I think.  The scratching could have been more vicious if the rhythm had been harder to match.  The beatbox thing could have been scrapped – so could the guitar.  Prince’s When 2R in Love sounds very gentle like 70’s Bob James music.  The chorused guitar is too intrusive, in contrast with the subtle rhythm section.  The overall atmosphere is like very old Earth Wind & Fire - and for me that’s good. 

Say Yes is another gently funky song featuring acoustic piano in a Marcus Johnson style.  This soothing ballad has a nice rise and fall in intensity as it progresses.  Get Funky With It “does exactly what it says on the tin” and in a very simple way.  The combination of keyboard sounds used is strong, as it is on all the tracks here.  I particularly like the organ sound.  This is funky, bluesy and a bit, well, sleazy.  I like it. 

My favourite song, though, is Sweet Funk Suite.  The piano sits back on this smoother-than-smooth groove.  The drum track again is subtle – set in a very appealing live acoustic.  There’s a Lee Ritenour-style percussive guitar sound.  Mmm, more of this and less of the axe-attack please.  Is this an Andy Narell album?  That lovely steel drum sound and funky bass on Saturday Night at the Wall Street Lounge would make you think so.  The chord sequences used on this song have that good-time, summertime feel too.  What a lovely atmosphere. 

Urban Groove is now an overworked idea and title but this is a good original composition.  Sounds like a Yamaha electric grand and therefore fantastic! I’d have been happy for the guitar to be left out – it’s not needed.  It’s called Yeah and it’s deep jazzy funk.  The lush, woody bass sound is overlaid with smoky, seductive alto sax.  This captures much of the atmosphere of Roy Ayers’ better music from the ‘70’s.  Listen – you’ll know what I mean by that.  What can I say?  Yeah!!! 

There’s a strong vocal performance on the on the romantic ballad I Want to Know – with a hint of  Will Downing.  Good cymbal work shines out in this simple and very effective arrangement.  There’s good cymbal work on the closer Breathe too, which has shades of Dexter Wansel.  Levine uses warm and cuddly electric piano in place of the more dramatic and high-tech sounds Wansel is known for.  My rough notes say “old-fashioned and lovely”.  Makes me want to dig out my old copy of Wansel’s “Voyager” – which can’t be bad. 

Maybe (like me) you haven’t heard of Elliot Levine before and maybe this CD won’t turn your world upside down.  While summer is still with us, though, play it in your car and turn it up and you’ll realize that the title isn’t an idle boast: there are no club anthems here but the funk runs right through this album and it will grow on you.



 No label or producer credits – CD available from