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Video links: http://www.phatphunktion.com/fr_home.cfm
Seven years is a long between albums but for Phat Phunktion the distance between their third and fourth recordings was not filled with idle time. The band toured incessantly after its last recording You and Me received international distribution through Ben Sidran’s Nardis label subsequently selling some 10,000-plus copies. The band toured Europe in both 2006 and in 2012 following the release of this album. The years were not without strife however as co-producer/chart man and saxophonist Al Falaschi lost his wife to cancer and trombonist Courtney Larsen lost her father. Real Life in High Fidelity is dedicated to their memory. Several videos exist for the album’s songs and you can find the link to those in the header.
Keyboardist/vocalist and co-producer Tim Whalen has spent most of his non-touring time on the East Coast for the better part of a decade now but the band keeps strong Madison ties. Real Life in High Fidelity was recorded and mixed at DNA Studios by Mark Whitcomb and the band’s long-time members are Madisonians.
Phat Phunktion is an unstoppable groove machine and brings several weapons to bear. First and foremost is the songwriting. All of Real Life in High Fidelity’s songs were composed by Whalen and Falschi with a couple of lyrical contributions from Moses Patrou who is the son of Madison musician keyboardist extraordinaire John Chimes and also a member of percussion group the Handphibians. The album also features a cover of Earth Wind & Fire’s “Jupiter.” Secondly, the unparalleled horn section is as punchy and funky as ever. Inventive arrangements by Falschi punctuate the music and help define the band’s sound. There is little that eclipses the excitement of a nine-member band with a full horn section in live performance but it translates to the recordings as well. Whalen’s vocals just continue to improve and he makes for a world-caliber frontman. Guitarist Vincent Jesse, a UW grad in music, is the band’s other potent force. Check out his awesome playing on “Well Run Dry” a freaky guitar workout worthy of Hendrix comparisons. His playing throughout the album is impressively inspired.
Album-opener “You Want it All” showcases the band’s best qualities, the horns driving the song from start to finish. “Eyes of Mine” sounds like a lost Steely Dan track from that band’s heyday. Two songs exemplify the band’s songwriting depth and break up the relentless funk. “Broken” is an outstanding vocal song with real emotional depth and an excellent guitar solo from Jesse. “Dance in the Rain” features acoustic guitar and is a beautiful ballad, no doubt informed by Falschi’s personal loss. “No More” is more direct in this regard with overt references to his departed wife Kate.
Phat Phunktion started work on their next album last November and the fruits of that labor should be realized later in 2013. It’s been a while since the band has hit the road as well and a Madison appearance is sure to be in the making. Be sure not to miss that.