Since September 2010, this blog has recorded the journey of this middle-aged man as I attempt to listen to all the music in my CD collection. CDs revisited in their entirety from start to finish - no skipping tracks, no shuffle. CDs only - no vinyl, no tapes, no downloads. And just as CD technology (and the album format itself) becomes obsolete. I'm no music critic, just a music junkie with too much time on my hands.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Various Artists - What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (2006)

You know I love reissues from Rhino Records. Those folks know how to do things right.  When I saw this box set advertised, I ordered it immediately.  Rhino describes the set as "an unprecedented shadow history of funk, pulling together rare sides from well-known artists and definitive grooves from less-known but supremely gifted masters of the art form."  Despite the cover's insistence that they were released from 1967-77, tracks are from the years 1967-78.  No matter.  The tracks are heavy on the years '68-'72, culled mainly from the vaults of Atlantic, Atco, and Warner Bros. Records.  With a few exceptions, these are deep tracks and rare finds, many released digitally here for the first time.  I'm just guessing, but I'd say that over 60% of the tunes are instrumentals.  4 CDs, 91 tracks, and, in an 84 page booklet, wonderful liner notes that break down each track.  While I'll listen to these tracks in order for the blog, I recommend experiencing this music by shuffling all 91 tracks along with some other funk/soul music of the time.

As many of these songs were originally released only as 7" 45 rpm singles, it is appropriate that the box that holds all the goodies is the size of those old records.  They've even put a picture of one of those old 45 adapters in the afro of the cover picture.  Good stuff.  The packaging even won the Grammy for Best Boxed/Special Limited Edition at the 50th annual awards.  As with any Rhino product, buy it when you see it because you never know how long each release will be in production.

I'd love to work at Rhino.  Call me, guys.

27 tracks, 1.2 hours

Tracks on the first disc cover the years 1967-1969.  There's two tracks here I had heard before: The Bar-Kay's Soul Finger and Rufus Thomas singing The Memphis Train.  Both are top notch. Of the other 25 tracks, the keepers are a Hammond B-3 organ instrumental cover of The Shadow Of Your Smile by Brother Jack McDuff, Gangster of Love (Parts I & II) by Jimmy Norman, Snatching It Back by Clarence Carter, Sexy Coffee Pot by Tony Alvon & The Belairs, a funktastic cover of the Isley Brothers' It's Your Thing by the group Cold Grits, and Funky Canyon by Phil Moore, Jr. (I just can't resist a good Hohner clavinet part).

Warning!  Without question, the instant earworm is Pig Snoots, Part I by Natural Bridge Bunch.  Click the link at your own risk.  "Cute pork sure is good pork."

I'm not wild about the sequencing, but there's nothing I skip on this disc. The contribution by the Commodores (yes - those Commodores) certainly isn't their best effort, but I can't resist the syncopated drum part.

21 tracks, 1.2 hours

Tracks on the second disc cover the years 1968-1971.  There's one track here I had heard before: a cover of Jumpin' Jack Flash by Ananda Shankar (previously reviewed here).  This is a strong disc throughout, but if I had to pick the top tracks, I'd pick Gossip by Cyril Neville (who would later join the Meters), Somebody In The World For You by The Mighty Hannibal, Sookie Sookie by Don Covey & The Jefferson Lemon Blues Band, the cover of I Can't Get Next To You by Afro-Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaria, and Feelin' Alright by Lulu.

We're also treated to a couple of recordings from Sly Stone (delivered under pseudonyms on his short-lived Stone Flower label because he was under contract to Epic): Stanga by Little Sister and I'm Just Like You by 6ix (pronounced "six"? "six-nine"? "six-eye-ex"?).

21 tracks, 1.2 hours

Tracks on the third disc cover the years 1970-1972.  The only song with which I was familiar was Suavecito by Malo, a wonderfully smooth Summertime Latin number which reached #18 on the charts in 1972. Not the strongest of the 4 discs, the other quality cuts here are Hard Times by Baby Huey & The Baby Sitters, a cover of Spinning Wheel by Wade Marcus, Goin' Down by legendary New Orleans producer Allen Toussaint, You Gotta Know Whatcha Doin' by Charles Wright, Ridin' Thumb by King Curtis, and what could be the funkiest gospel record ever released, Hang On In There by The Stovall Sisters.

The highlight of the disc, possibly the whole set, is an alternate mix of Aretha Franklin's Rock Steady, unreleased until this set.  Dang, that's some fonky sanging.

22 tracks, 1.3 hours

Easily the best of the four discs (and that's really saying something).  In the words of Freddy Benson, "All I can say is WOW!"  Check it:

Personal Memory Associated with this CD: None, but I'm certainly game for a second box set for the years 1977-1987.  This baby needs a sibling. 

I don't own it (unfortunately), but Rhino also produced a limited edition of 5,000 "singles collections" which included  re-pressings of twenty-five classic seven-inch singles in a package shaped like a vintage singles carrying case. All of the reissued 7" vinyl records feature the original 45's A & B sides and with faithfully replicated labels and sleeves.  These sets are currently on the resale market for $75-130.

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