some recommended funky soul from the days before it became just "funk"...
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Lickin' Stick - James Brown & the Famous Flames (King)
The first track on the funky page has got to be one by JB, and I chose this one because from a subjective point of view, this 1968 release was the first record that made me grasp the magic of funky soul. When I first heard it, it sounded to me like a mess. Then one day when I heard it on the radio I found myself tapping my feet, my fingers, and just about every bone of my body to it. That was it. One of the hardest, black-est forms of soul music was mine to enjoy for life. For many more JB tarcks, including what I believe to be the first funk record - 1964's Out of Sight, go to the James Brown page.
The Chambers Brothers were a self contained soul band, that usually played a unique mixture of gospel-laden vocals with somewhat rock-ish instrumental backing. However on this track they untypically employed a horn section, and came out with one of the funkiest soul records I ever heard. The lyrics are sure funky too - going uptown, to Harlem! The LP is titled The Time Has Come, and it's from late '67 or early '68.
Funky Way - Calvin Arnold (Venture)
Calvin Arnold had consistently good releases in the 60's and 70's, but as far as I know this track - again from early 1968 - was his only venture into the genre of heavy funky soul. And what a recording this is! Excellent backing vocals, a remarkably original arrangement and a wonderful lead vocal all tangled up in funky brilliance.
Good time - The Mighty Hannibal (Loma)
A good time indeed - "I saw the Wikced Pickett, doing the funky broadway... and Stevie, was on the jukebox, singing shoo be doo be doo dah day". My guess is that Pickett was also just on the jukebox that night, but with a funky jukebox joint like that, what more do you need. The Mighty Hannibal (real name James T. Shaw) had some other great funky releases, as well as the Vietnam ballad, Hymn #5. Another claim to fame of his is writing "Roll with the punches" (recorded by Garnett Mimms and others). I've heard he lives in NY City now - hello Mr. Shaw, if you're out there...
Hoppin John - Melvin Van Peebles (Stax)
This was on the soundtrack of the 1971 film "Sweet Sweetback's Baaadasss Song", released by Stax (both the soundtrack and the film itself). This was also released on a 45, Stax 097 (B side to "Sweetback's theme"). I'm not sure about Van Peebles's actual involvement with this track. Some of the music on the film's soundtrack was credited to an early version of Earth, Wind and Fire, but the 45 was credited to Melvin Van Peebles. In any case this is dangerously funky! But don't rush out and get the video tape. Hoppin John is just played as background music to a scene that's, er, well, maybe funky, but not in the sense we usually refer to on these pages.
I need help (can't do it alone) - Bobby Byrd (King)
Famous Flame Bobby Byrd was James Brown's sidekick for many years, recording solo sporadically in the 60's and more intensively and successfully in the early 70's. I love his voice which is husky, urgent and terribly soulful. He's had some great deep soul releases, but his claim to fame was pure funky soul tracks; His excellent "I know you got soul" has been sampled to death and consequently played a lot, so I chose this one to represent Bobby Byrd, one of the funkiest people ever. BTW JB himself can be heard on this, as on many of Bobby Byrd's records. Also listen to the amazing lead guitar work here.
The funky judge - Bull and the Matadors (Toddlin' Town)
This is as raw soul as you can get - even the group's name is quite raw... This is slow, burning funk, with Bull screaming away in terror of the expected verdict. This was released a little after he "judge" songs craze in 1968 (Here comes the judge - Shorty Long / Pigmeat Markham versions etc), though this does not seem to be a novelty record at all - rather it sounds like a protest record to me. Notice how the guitar sorts of starts a new melody just at the end of the fade-out... great stuff. Toddlin Town was a spin-off of the One-derful group that survived a few years more than the original group of Chicago labels.
Sock it to 'em judge - Pigmeat Markham (Chess)
While we're into the courtroom craze of '68, this one IS a novelty record. Hilarious lyrics from famous, late great comedian Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham. This was the follow up to his version of "Here comes the judge". It was not as successful, but on the musical side of things, rather more interesting - the rhythm track is just as funky as they can get.
Movin' dancer - Bobby Holley (Weis)
The Weis label was distributed by Stax though I don't think it had any musical connection to the Memphis studios. Another brilliant funky dancer which did not achieve the success it deserved.
Baby ain't you shame - Jr. Walker & the All Stars (Soul LP)
Jr. Walker was one of the most important innovators of funky soul. His early 1965 hit Shotgun already has many of funk's ingredients - complex, syncopated rhythm patterns, and lack of a chord progression pattern. A member of the Motown stable for most of his career, Jr. Walker was light years away stylistically from most of his Motown contemporaries. This track is one of my favourites by him, taken from the Home Cookin' album, 1968.
Hook and sling - Eddie Bo (Scram)
Well, New Orleans funk is a genre on its own within the wonderful world of funky soul, and surely this classic, which actually made some impact on the R&B charts in its release year of 1969, deserves a place amongst the Soul of the Net's prime funk choices. Still a popular club track, this recording by New Orleans veteran Eddie Bo has indeed stood the Test of Time.
Funky Soul (pts. 1 and 2) - David Batiste (Instant)
Instrumentals were truly a major element within funky soul, and here's a classic one from 1972 that is apparently quite popular in clubs, and also apparently not easy to get and quite expensive at that. Personally I still don't own it but I am able to share this funky gem with the listeners of the Soul of the Net thanks to Mr. Eric Kidder, Houston Texas record collector and dealer, who very kindly sent me this on a tape. Part 2 includes some chanting on top of the funky instrumental groove, and is also quite worthwhile.
We got more soul - Dyke & the Blazers - (Original Sound)
Dyke & his Blazers were true funk prioneers and surely must be represented on this page. The one I chose by them is a 1969 R&B hit - a bold record both politically and musically and one of their best, though their earlier sides like the original Funky Broadway were perhaps more ground breaking and amongst the earliest specimens of funky soul.
I turned you on - The Isley Brothers (T-Neck)
The Isleys were and are the ultimate adaptable soul group. Always sounding contemprary, for the past 40 years. So here we are in 1969, the year when the classic Motown and Memphis sounds began to fade, yet funky soul was en vogue; the Isleys effortlessly shed the Motown sound in favour of some hot funky stuff. They hit gold with "It's your thing", but personally I prefer this follow up, a smaller sized hit.
Different strokes - Syl Johnson (Twilight)
Syl Johnson's 1967 follow up to "Come on sock it to me" may not be full fledged funk but you can hear the style in the making. However as we know Mr. Johnson took off on a completely differnet direction soon after this with some wonderful bluesy soul ballads first with Twinight, (Twilight's later name) and then of course with Willie Mitchell at Hi.
You're losing me - Ann Sexton (Seventy Seven)
I've just noticed that there were no ladies featured on this page so far, so here's a classic funky track from 1973 by the great Ms. Sexton to put that right.
Supergood - Vicky Andeson (King)
James Brown protege (a.k.a. Myrna Barnes) answered her boss's Super Bad hit (1970). What a great voice, sharp as a knife, also see The deep soul of James Brown.
Crazy - Wess & the Airedales (Durium LP, Italy)
Wess Johnson replaced Rocky Roberts as lead singer with the Airedales, a soul/pop band that was extremely successful in Italy in the 60's. See also the Living Room Top 40 for more by the Airedales.
Your thing ain't no good without my thing - Marie Queenie Lyons (De Luxe LP)
An appropriate answer to the the Isley Brothers' "It's your thing".
I don't dig no phoney - Moody Scott (Seventy Seven)
Suggested for this page by Sue Tapper...
If you've got a suggestion for a FUNKY record along the lines of the above,
let's hear it