Classic House Series Episode #29 – Funk-A-Tron – R. Rivera’s Grooves

Legendary house producer Robbie Rivera‘s legacy stems largely from his status as one of the biggest contributors to the tribal-house genre.  The Puerto Rican-born DJ’s signature dark, dirty, underground tribal rhythms with heavy doses of Latin and progressive influences have rocked dancefloors around the world since the mid-90s with hits including “Bang“, “Feel This 2001” and “The Hum Melody“.

Rivera’s 2000 release “Funk-A-Tron” on the equally legendary Subliminal label is a brilliant departure from his usual sound as he serves up a slab of slithering, nasty electro house chock full of needle-sharp synth lines and a bubbling bass groove underneath.  Any Subliminal release at the time was worth listening to, and after about 30 seconds my decision to grab this one was complete.  The track became huge in the clubs and raves and I dropped this one so often that one of the hip-hop DJs I worked with back then went out and bought himself a copy simply because I smashed it week after week.

The original mix has held up well, but for me the Crazee Remix on the flip has always been my go-to.  The track would be resurrected and re-released in 2003 as “Funk-A-Faction” thanks to some new mixes courtesy of electro DJ/Producer Benny Benassi.  With lots of mixes to choose from, this remains a crowd-pleaser to this day and can kick the energy of your audience up to 11 in no time.

MADONNA’S MDNA – IS THERE ENOUGH THRILL IN THIS PILL?

Madonna is back with her twelfth studio album, MDNA and the first not to be associated with Warner Bros. records since 1982.  The question is always the same:  what is Madge bringing this time around and does a Madonna record still carry the same weight it used to?

The answer is, mostly, yes.  While it doesn’t resonate quite as well as Ray of Light or even Confessions on a Dancefloor, MDNA certainly works both as a decent Madonna album and as a piece of dance-pop fair.  Madonna isn’t stupid; she knows what her fans want and incorporates that into what she wants.  And she wants to dance again.

Serving as the album’s executive producer, Madge calls on some of the top names in dance music to bring the beats and the result is a much heavier sounding disc than Confessions, but laced with enough pop influences to give her some decent crossover appeal.  While her co-productions with tech-house superstar Benny Benassi (“Girl Gone Wild” and”I’m Addicted”) work well, it’s actually her work with Ray of Light collaborator William Orbit (“Gang Bang” and “Some Girls”) that stands out here, especially with the harder-edged beats and synth lines that Mr. Orbit drops all over these tracks.

Some of the tracks that should otherwise carry the record do fall a bit flat here, notably the lead single “Give Me All Your Luvin'” featuring hit-generating guest superstar Nicki Minaj and MIA, with rather silly chanting and guest rhymes that really don’t add much to the song at all.  And this seems to be the biggest hole in the album’s plot:  the lyrics are unabashedly clichéd and not very deep and meaningful at all.  That being said, it’s a Madonna record.  If you’re expecting something out of Bob Dylan’s notebook, head to that section of the store.  Madonna does what she does best, creating a good, uplifting party atmosphere and encouraging her legion of fans to head to the dancefloor one more time.

While there may not be any classics on here that will stand the test of time, MDNA is a disc that probably contains more bang for your buck than half the other albums on your local top 20 chart right now.  A must for the dedicated Madge-head, and possibly a pass for the casual fan, you’ll no doubt have the refrain from “Girl Gone Wild” in your head for a few days, but probably not six months down the road.  Check out the deluxe edition for a bonus disc including five extra tracks if you like, but the last thing I need to hear is anything labelled as a “Party Rock Remix.”

***/5

Please post your thoughts and comments about Madonna’s new disc below and let us know how you feel about it!