Chill Out And Escape With Ghost Funk Orchestra’s Quiet Storm Soul

Ghost Funk Orchestra | An Ode to Escapism | (Karma Chief/Colemine)
3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Videos by American Songwriter

“To enhance your listening experience we recommend turning off your lights and unplugging your telephone. Close your eyes and allow your mind to wander.”

That’s part of the spoken word introduction to this NYC 10 piece collective’s sophomore full length. It’s appropriate advice too for the Seth Applebaum fronted band’s smooth combination of jazz, soul, Latin and R&B; somewhat on the ghostly side but mostly cool and relaxing. Sultry female vocals share space with instrumentals that glide and swoop rather than dive into your consciousness. Back in the mid-70s this would have been considered “quiet storm” music, basically an urban, romantic, easy on the ears gumbo made for lights-low listening.

There’s plenty of groove to these grooves, especially when the songs open up as on the subtly bubbling “Little Bird” and the appropriately titled “Quiet Soul,” the latter bringing strings into the mix.  Horns appear to urge the music along but mostly support the tunes rather than soloing. The eleven tracks generally stay in an easy flowing vibe with some rhythmic changeups, but nothing to shake you out of a mellow atmosphere.

Listening with headphones heightens the experience since it’s easier to pick out the layered instruments in songs like the closing “Cost of Loving” and lyrics sung by a feline female vocalist. The music takes a few spins to fully appreciate. Little jumps out initially, but after repeated listens the songs exude a more individual style. Despite the band’s name, the funk is kept on low boil. No one would mistake this for the edgy qualities of James Brown, Funkadelic, or Prince, although occasional glimpses of a rawer approach sneak into the production like the baritone sax on “Fuzzy Logic.”

Dim the lights, fire up the lava lamps, bring out the incense and candles, snuggle up with your honey, push play and sure… “close your eyes and allow your mind to wander,” enhanced by the mood music of Ghost Funk Orchestra. You couldn’t ask for a more comforting, even calming soundtrack for these divisive, unsettling times.       

Check out our interview with Ghost Funk Orchestra from yesterday.

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Bobby Hebb

Behind the Song: “Sunny,” Bobby Hebb