The Ron Kane Files

Writing About Music

Tuesday, January 08, 2008


1-8-08 Shakatak



DRIVIN' HARD 823017.2








All are CD’s.

Arguably Shakatak are the best known and loved Britfunk band in Japan – possibly only #2 to Level 42 (although I am very partial to Freeez for my Britfunk #1). I remember back in the 80’s, there were tons of Shakatak CD’s when not many artists had more than one CD. One presumes this is largely due to the Japanese domestic market. Indeed, all of the Shakatak CD’s I have found (used) to date are Japanese pressings (except for one or two, “Coolest Cuts” being a collection).

The two names I recognize in Shakatak are Bill Sharpe who notably collaborated with Gary Numan and Roger Odell, who was the drummer for prog-rock group C.M.U. ( = Creative Music Unit ), whose “Space Cabaret” album I just love.

About the only things Shakatak have in common with the other legends of Britfunk is that they’re English, have a hot bass player and are more popular in Japan than they are in the US or UK. Mark King of Level 42 wins for ‘best Britfunk bassist” – his solo album “Influences” is astonishing.

I will be honest – I never paid much attention to Shakatak at the time – I perhaps thought they were merely ‘dance music’, as opposed to the post-punk “new wave” music of which I was so fond (think A Certain Ratio, for instance). I also didn’t really care for Level 42 in the 80’s; now they’re one of my favorite British bands. Really, the sole Britfunk band I did at the time (in real time) was Freeez, whose masterful “Southern Freeez” album is still my #1 favorite Britfunk album – I remember it being referred to as “Punk-Funk”, too. And still not (entirely) on CD, as of 2008.

So, back to the care-free 80’s – a little ‘white-boy’ Britfunk, please! Ooh, a sweet mix-tape of the aforementioned bands…maybe throw in some Medium Medium, too.


Anonymous Jim Donato said...

Re: Britfunk vs Postpunk

Very astute observation there, Ron. Though I picked up on L42 at the time of their American success, I was aware that they were different from the postpunk music I had favored for lo those many years. L42 are a great band but there is NOTHING about them that owes the slightest debt to the punk revolution. If anything, L42 with their levels of musicianship, are the antithesis of punk and would have been huge starts even sooner, methinks, if punk hadn't shaken the tree for those crucial seven years there.

That meant that on a subliminal level, I did not consider L42 "cool," but since I liked what I heard [and have a huge collection to prove it] I was able to rise above my bias against non-postpunk music. Thankfully, I listen to my gut when it comes to music. But at the beginning there was a niggling voice in my head saying "you probably shouldn't listen to this - it's Dire Straits with a dance beat."

For that reason I still haven't gotten into Shakatak! I have the Sharpe & Numan album - it's good. Better than many Numan albums that immediately followed. But there's something smug, complacent and conservative about Shakatak. Level 42 aren't a whole world of different, but the caliber of their music stands apart from Shakatak to me. They had two lead vocalists - a plus. Boon's lyrics were thoughtful and unique for a "dance band."

Freeze I remember at the time were something of a teenybop phenom in the pages of Smash Hits. I saw the video for "Pop Goes My Love" once on MTV. They had the Arthur Baker hip hop sound of the time as I recall, and I really didn't think of them as a "funk" band. I would probably be interested in hearing some more Freeez as I always liked the Baker sound of tightly sequenced 16th notes coupled with his sturdy beatboxes.

8:18 AM  
Blogger Ron Kane said...


You need to hear the Freeez album "Southern Freeez" (Beggar's Banquet). I think I made a CD-R of the complete album, sourcing as much as possible from a "Best of" CD.


8:49 PM  

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