Would Like to Pose a Question

L.A. Carnival

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Would Like to Pose a Question Review

by Johnny Loftus

It's another funk exhumation from Now Again/Stones Throw, this time from L.A. Carnival. The Omaha-based funk/soul/whatever crew was named after and revolved mostly around one Lester Abrams, who on Would Like to Pose a Question contributes everything from vocals and percussion to most of the songwriting. It's an album of its age, certainly -- "We Need Peace and Love" makes its intent clear, and the title track only backs up that sentiment. Then there's the meditative "Klan," which tracks heavy lyrics like "I killed a man today with my bare hands/A member of the Klan" over fluttery, psychedelic flute, plucked electric bass, and chattering cabaret piano. ("Black Man's March" dwells similarly on social ills, but it's a snare-led instrumental built from bursts of horn and an elastic guitar line.) The raw emotion in Abrams' lyrics (and delivery) hasn't diminished with age. However, what makes Pose a Question a real find is the Carnival itself. The band shifts effortlessly between both cutting and more lighthearted funk experiments, jazz phrasing, soulful vocals, and a pastiche of amorphous psychedelia that unifies it all. "Blind Man" is a warm and inviting carnival organ workout, while "Can You Hum a Tune"'s tasteful acoustic guitar licks seem to have curlicues of Latin influence in the spaces between the interspersed, two-voice main vocal. The album's original track listing is augmented here with four bonus tracks. Though their sound quality is greatly diminished, "Blues for L.A." and "Scratchin'" are some of the most furiously funky material here, packed with blistering leads and punchy horn charts and dominated by the slipshod genius feel of an off-the-cuff jam. There has to be a vanishing point where the crates can no longer be dug, where every prickly piece of ancient funk or buttery soul lovin' will have been unearthed and reformulated for the beats of tomorrow. That road is laid everyday, in mildewing basements and moldering backrooms the world over. The good news? It's paved with flagstones like Pose a Question, and the revealed ingenuity of another set of long lost funk savants.

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