Various Artists: 10 Years of Fort Knox Recordings

By Eric Blendermann

One of the Venn diagrams you could draw of the diverse and sometimes bewildering Washington, DC music scene would include one circle representing funk and breaks gurus Fort Knox Five, one representing downtempo dons All Good Funk Alliance, featuring a winning guest appearance by Vancouver-based producer Neighbour & MC Think Tank (rhyming “Canadian basements” with “subterranean bassbins” – yes!).  Equally booming, and with that go-go swing again, is “Rock On It” by new label signing Qdup, with vocals by DC rapper Flex Matthews, bringing just a touch of Newcleus to the 21st century.

Australian producer Omegaman (another new Fort Knox signing) leads the pack of Latin jams in this collection, which his suave and funky “El O’Man Boogaloo”.  Another excellent track with a Latin flavor is the urgent, energetic “Sabor Tropical,” from Empresarios, led by percussionist Javier Miranda.  And the dreamy favela soul of “Salvador Diaspora,” by Rex Riddem of Nappy Riddem (with vocals by Brazilian singer Carlos Scorpião and a Fort Knox Five remix), swings along nicely on a bouncy bass line decorated with piano licks and flute fills.

10 Years of Fort Knox Recordings does a great job of showcasing the broad musical imaginations of the label’s artists, which is probably to be expected in a community where nearly everybody is from somewhere else.  The driving sitar jams of International Velvet (a side project from Thunderball’s Rob Myers) bump up against the cocktail jazz of Speedy Consuela (FK5’s Steve Raskin with friends and relations), while the psychedelic revivalism of Liftoff (Raskin and Myers again, with Steven Albert and Raskin’s wife Johnna) gives way to the reggae rhythms of See-I and Nappy Riddem.  And of course, Fort Knox Five themselves are represented with the muscular funk of one of their early singles, “Dodge City Rockers,” and the irrepressible dancehall of “The Wonder Strikes Again,” from their Radio Free DC album.

Friends, 10 Years of Fort Knox Recordings is all over the place, and it’s all good, although in some places it’s not the deepest-thinking music you’ll hear (looking at you, “Mr. Hipnoid”, “Volume,” and “Angle It”).  But it doesn’t have to be – when you get right down to it, Fort Knox Five and their collaborators on this collection are first and foremost dedicated to the art of moving butts, and they get right down to it all over this album.  It’s a fun listen and a great introduction to a stalwart label on the Nation’s Capital music scene. If DC is a melting pot, Fort Knox Recordings is bringing a lot of good flavors for that fondue.

Rating: 8.0/10

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