Legendary drummer Joseph “Zigaboo” Modeliste’s first release since 2004’s I’m on the Right Track is a relic of sorts—a live EP originally recorded in 1980 from New Orleans’ Saenger Theatre with his post-Meters group Gaboon’s Gang. Titled
Funk Me Hard Live, of the album’s five tracks, only its opening number“Let’s Get Fired Up,” a hard grooving tribute to the New Orleans Saints has seen the light of day. Like that rare 45 single (which still makes it rounds among audiophiles), “Let’s Get Fired Up” is more of a collector’s piece for the serious funk aficionado.
Albeit engaging, the recording quality of Funk Me Hard Live is on par with that of a solid bootleg—fuzzy, muddled and often clamorous. For most of the album, the drums and vocals factor most prominently in the mix, which may or may not be a good thing depending on where you stand. With two vocalists, two keyboardists (one, a young Ivan Neville), two guitars, an additional percussionist and a bassist (Dumpstaphunk’s Nick Daniels), there’s clearly a lot going on here. Most disappointingly, Daniels’ bass lines are virtually indistinguishable from the bottom end of Neville’s B3 throughout. Without a solid pocket, the grooves lay bare, and with the drums raised so high in the mix, the rhythmic guitar rakes rarely resonate with anything other than the distortion left in the wake of a cymbal splash. The guitar solo on “I Don’t Know Why,” a song dedicated to New Orleans legend Professor Longhair (who had died just a few months earlier), barely rises above the backbeat, and Daniels’ bass solo on “Standing in Your Stuff,” a longtime Zigaboo stable, is an inaudible squabble at best. That being said, there’s a lot of fire on this disc, and an artifact of this nature doesn’t surface often. The stiff, syncopated strut, warped organ and sizzling guitar of the final tune “I Know You Don’t,” almost warrants the purchase alone. If you worship New Orleans funk, your mind should already be made up.