2010 is the best year for funk reissues since the 90s
My funk collection is way too big, but I always keep an eye out for CD’s of classic or rare funk, just so the lp’s don’t get worn out anymore. I had figured that after the major labels exhausted their big hit makers’ catalogs there would be no more classic funk to come out on CD. But I was way way wrong here.
The big hitters like Earth, Wind & Fire, Parliament, Sly & the Family Stone Rufus & Chaka Khan now have just about all of their catalogs on CD. Columbia gave us all the Isley Brothers, all of the Herbie Hancock jazz/funk, and a great deal of the Philly Sound – O’Jays and Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes. Other labels have released Grover Washington (“Reed Seed”), Patrice Rushen (“Shout it Out”) & Ramsey Lewis’ funk period (“Salongo”), and it keeps on coming.
Warner Brothers has finally brought out all of Charles Wright & the Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band, Graham Central Station, and Bootsy’s Rubber Band. Zapp and Prince CD’s have always been easy to track down. Thru Rhino you can get nearly all the Average White Band, War, Slave, and Tower of Power.
Polygram/Universal long ago (thanks to Harry Weinger) put out their entire Ohio Players, Parliament, Barry White, Stevie Wonder & Marvin Gaye, and most of their Kool & the Gang, Cameo and a handful of Bar Kays and Con Funk Shun from back in the day. Their James Brown reissues are legendary, although there are still a few JB albums in their original form that are waiting out there.
But waiting right behind these radio hit funk bands are a slew of lesser known (but just as funky) groups that are FINALLY getting more of their catalog out.
First off, itunes is making available all the JIMMY CASTOR BUNCH from Atlantic! This is an incredible find, and any fan of the funk should look into what is available from him there. Check on “E Man Groovin” “Life Truth & Death” “Maximum Stimulation,” “Equal People” and one of my all time favorites: “Bertha Butt Encounters Vadar.” You can also get the complete STEVE ARRINGTON solo albums, like “Positive Power” with the ridiculous “15 Rounds of Lovin’”. Other groups like Mass Production are finally available in full. Now and then a stray funk classic like ADC Band’s “Long Stroke” would pop up on itunes that you can purchase, but that has become a hunt too, although somewhat easier and less dusty than perusing lps at a record shop.
Out of nowhere it seems, a number of indie and import labels (Soul Brother, Wounded Bird, FunkyTown Grooves, Demon/Edsel, Verve, Strut, Soul Jazz, Harmless, Ubiquity, Light in the Attic, Luv & Haight, Thump, etc.) have cranked up their reissuing of great funk, and I can’t be happier. Most if not all of these can be found at dustygroove.com, and I’m happy to shamelessly promote them. I can often find the used CD at amazon.com somewhat cheaper, but nobody give you discs weeks before the scheduled release date like dustygroove.
Since I like to hold CD’s in my hand (it helps doing radio to have disc info, liner notes, etc handy) I am thrilled to be able to finally complete my record collection with some of these long LONG lost funky albums.
SOME GREAT ALBUMS TO COME OUT ON CD IN 2010:
ROY AYERS – LOTS OF LOVE (1983)
This was a lost album in between Roy’s transition from Polydor to Columbia around 1983. It is one of his most party blasting - and most Fela-influenced. An absolute MUST HAVE!
BAR KAYS – FLYING HIGH ON YOUR LOVE (1977)
Their 2nd lp after joining Mercury in 1976, the Bar Kays are in full effect on this one, total funk and soul blowout. Unfortunately this lp is available on a 2in1 CD with “Too Hot to Stop” (most of us already have this one) and the mix is not very good. And something horrible happened to “Let’s Have Some Fun” it is an alternate mix and not the complete song. That track (the hit single) is unplayable. A real disappointment. It also sounds like it may have been from someone’s lp – played to a CD player. Not cool if it is sold as an original mix. But at least I can put that album in my Bar-Kays collection, a definite for any funkateer.
BEGINNING OF THE END – BEGINNING OF THE END (1973)
This is an incredible surprise!! This lp is way hotter than the first lp from this Bahamas based funk outfit, their big hit “Funky Nassau” was great and this is a brilliant follow up, with better songs and a totally great feel. If you like “Funky Nassau” get both lp’s (now on CD) from this fantastic band!
BRICK – AFTER 5 (1982)
Nobody knows about this one but it is ON HIT! The last album from Brick on their great run on Bang/CBS in the late 70’s, this one did not even chart, but it is HOT! Killer tracks like “Free Dancer” and “Wild and Crazy” are as hot as anything from the “Dusic” album. A great surprise because I figured it would NEVER come out on CD. It is packaged with “Summer Heat” as a 2-in-1 CD.
BRICK – SUMMER HEAT (1981)
A 1980 session produced by Ray Parker jr, with a lot of crazy-cool grooves. “Sweat (Til You Get Wet)” was the single. The sound is a little polished - but to me Brick needed no one’s help - but that’s alright, it’s extended Brick, ‘nuff said! Comes in a 2-in-1 cd with After 5, a real bargain.
BRICK – WAITING ON YOU (1980)
Their 4th album, after “Good High” “Brick” and “Stoneheart” This is a very deep pocket session that will have you tripping off the advanced groove consciousness of Brick. These guys are very mature here, and their vocals and riffs are just exquisite. It is not your typical 1980’s R&B, but some of the songs here will become your favorites.
BRASS CONSTRUCTION II (1976)
Unrepentant disco-funk genius here! If BC1 was a 10, then this is a 9. A must have for any fan of Brass Construction, and anyone that wants some HOT dance grooves. FINALLY available after 34 years! This jam session is the reason I was moved to make this list.
BRASS CONSTRUCTION 5 (1979)
Randy Muller was trippin on BC 3 and BC4, but he gets back into a killer funk pocket with thumpers like “Right Place” and “Get Up to Get Down” This is advanced thump for those who know what I mean. ADVANCED.
CHUCK BROWN & THE SOUL SEARCHERS – BUSTIN’ LOOSE (i) (1979)
A little known masterpiece, the entire album of Chuck Brown & the Soul Searchers is just a soul/funk/go go delight! It is really the album that started Go Go! It is upwards of $30 to try and get the import CD reissue of this, but you can download the entire album from itunes and its all good.
CHOCOLATE MILK – WE’RE ALL IN THIS TOGETHER (1977)
This was one of my all time favorites back in the day, for me right up there with Kool & the Gang’s “Light of Worlds” and some EWF as deep conscious, creative, grooving funk genius. But the sound was always too scratchy and murky to enjoy the old RCA lp. Now it is finally available (along with “Milky Way” as a 2-in-1 CD) and I’m in Chocolate Milk heaven.
JUNIE MORRISON – EVACUATE YOUR SEATS (i) (1984)
P-Funk madman Junie has a number of outrageous solo albums, from Westbound and later on CBS, most of which have yet to be reissued. But you can finally get his outrageous 1984 Island release “Evacuate Your Seats” in full noisy techno-funk effect on itunes I would start with the mixes of “Techno Freeqs” and “Stick It In” and go from there.
MANDRE – MANDRE 4 (1982)
Mandre (Andre Lewis) is a stone trip. Guitarist, arranger and writer, he produced his wife MAXAYN’s three trippy early 70’s albums, then did a stint as bandleader with Frank Zappa. After that he recorded for Motown some spacey dance groove albums as “Mandre.” His mysterious monicker left him and his cosmic groove music on the margins for years, and collectors and re-issuers MUST get to the three Mandre albums on Motown. After Motown, Mandre did one more lp on a tiny indie label, which was just as funky and trippy as the others. A recent lp reissue of Mandre 4 generated a lot of excitement, but my copy was terribly scratchy. Then a CD reissue came out – with just as many scratches as the lp!! A huge disappointment ‘cause the music is great.
MFSB – SUMMERTIME (1976)
A fantastic groove music session from the house band at Philly International. This one has a ‘summer’ theme throughout. The only other album as tightly themed from this time is ‘Motor Booty Affair” the underwater album from Parliament. The work is truly creative here, and the CD comes in a 2-in-1 CD with their “Philadelphia Freedom” another killer session from around 1976.
PHILADELPHIA INTERNATIONAL ALL STARS – LET’S CLEAN UP THE GHETTO (1978)
I never thought a release as odd as this one would ever get reissued, but it came in a 2-in-1 CD with a live Philly stars album. This is the lp with the killer all-star track about the trash on NYC streets, and choruses from Teddy Pendergrass, O’Jays, Lou Rawls etc. Was hunting down the long version of that song online and the whole album popped up.
PLEASURE – JOYOUS (1977)
For my money the best album from Portland's jazz-funk masters, Pleasure. The legendary title cut is only slightly above the awesome jamz throughout the entire disc. I gave it five stars ***** in my book back in the day. Ace finally woke up and put this record out on its own. Two more Fantasy lp’s from Pleasure still need to be released: “Future Now’ and “Special Things.” A 1982 Pleasure album “Give it Up” came out this year, but aside from the (hot) single “Sending My Love” that lp is forgettable.
SUGARFOOT – SUGAR KISS (1984)
This is a real trippy lost gem. Roger Troutman is at the top of his game, producing the legendary Sugarfoot of the Ohio Players. A highly original session, with a fantastic sound, but no hit single left this great disc forgotten for years.
BILL WITHERS – ‘JUSTMENTS (1974)
Another long lost masterpiece from a living legend. This lp followed up the great “Live at Carnegie Hall” album. Then the label (Sussex) folded, and it seemed like Bill wasn’t heard from again until “Lovely Day” in 1977, but he had been putting together some strong, creative, original funky soul here.
BILL WITHERS – MAKING MUSIC (1975)
A powerful session that just got lost in the shuffle of other great funk band breakouts, but this is a VERY STRONG record. Bill has Louis Johnson on bass on some incredible cuts, and some all-star musicians with him. Bill is in full effect, but again, no million selling single just left this piece of genius on the margins.
There are probably others that came out this year, but these are the ones I’m bugging on. One noticeable theme with these 2010 CD reissues is that most of these records did not have a monster radio hit to support their sales, and the blockheads at these record companies over the years never knew the music in the first place, so it just sat around.
That is why the efforts of the reissue labels to the the REAL SH+T out there should be commended. There is still a great deal of great funky music from the classic funk era, if folks just keep on digging.