Wayman Tisdale was just 45 when he died – but in that relatively short life he packed in more that most people could ever dream of achieving. After a hugely successful basketball career (an inductee of the Collegiate Basketball Hall Of Fame) he switched to music in the mid 90s and his distinctive bass playing was eventually highlighted on eight well-received solo albums. He was also to guest on countless albums with other musicians (people like Dave Kos and Jonathan Butler) who knew they could depend on his rock solid approach to sonically anchor their sound. Throughout his musical career, Wayman consistently cited his influences as the great funk musicians of the 70s and in the months before his passing he managed to finally record an album – this one – which pays direct homage to people like Bootsy Collins, Robert Wilson and George Clinton.
Indeed the spirit of Clinton hangs heavy over the set (Clinton actually guests by the way). For the album (as big bad George often did) Tisdale adopts an alter-ego – “Tiz” while he dubs his accompanying band “The Fonkie Planetarians”. Together they produce a sound that, like Clinton’s music, is bass-heavy, loose, funky and a little quirky. It’s no surprise that you can hear it to its best effect on the Clinton-guested ‘This Fonk Is 4 U’, but there’s more of the same on ‘Let’s Ride’ (featuring George Duke, by the way) and ‘Every Now And Then’. ‘Sunshine’ and ‘If You Really Want To Know’ are slower and slinkier but still down and dirty while the only true ballad is ‘Been Here Before’. For this Tisdale managed to recruit the late Ali Woodson to take lead vocals. In fairness the song’s not that good (it lacks a central focus) but dear old Ali tears it apart as only he could. In many ways it’s a testament to him as well as to Tisdale and worth investigating by all those who love Woodson’s raw attack.
‘The Fonk Record’ is a decent attempt to recreate the off-the-wall funk sound of the 70s but several listens reveal that the individual parts are greater than the whole … a good album that could have been a lot better.