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July/August 1999

Brass Fantasy
The Odyssey of Funk and Popular Music - Vol. 1
Atlantic Records

With The Odyssey of Funk & Popular Music-Vol. 1, Brass Fantasy releases their first recording since 1992's The Fire This Time. Returning with another mix-bag selection of predictable R&B classics like "If You Don't Know Me by Now" and sentimental show tunes like "Don't Cry for Me Argentina," they add intriguing retoolings of songs by The Spice Girls, Notorious B.I.G., and Marilyn Manson. And with all Brass Fantasy records, the results are as varying as their choices.

Despite the jazz spike given to Spice Girls' "Two Become One," the song's inherent sappiness triumphs. The substandard hip-hop takes on DeFunkt's "Next," and a very wrong reading of Notorious B.I.G.'s "Notorious Thugs" pushes nothing more than your endurance to listen to these disposable dalliances.

Brass Fantasy performs best with the most unlikely-Manson's "Beautiful People." With the swarming tonalities of brass smears at the intro, Brass Fantasy creates a weird nightmare before engaging in a pounding slam dance of jolting rhythms. On "Beautiful People," Brass Fantasy successfully linked Manson to Charles Mingus while keeping the original's mechanical edge intact. They up the ante on uncut satire with "Don't Cry for Me Argentina" by transforming the campy torch song into a rococo rendezvous. Although neither version proves worthy of further investigations, they're indicative of Brass Fantasy's mastery of finding faux diamonds in the most desolate coal mines.

The Odyssey of Funk & Popular Music is low-brow frivolity enlivened by high-brow musicality. Bowie and Brass Fantasy still reign as kings of camp after influencing bands like the Sex Mob and Jazz Passengers to follow their whimsical hearts. Now, if only their hearts had better songs to choose from.
-John Murph

Originally published in July/August 1999
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