Between the years 1968 to 1975, there was a seemingly, an unending supply of funk music released on small, local labels across the US that fell into obscurity for one reason or another. Generally, these artists released one 7 inch single or album, on some tiny, local label that never made it anywhere, and then all but disappeared. Thankfully, numerous DJs, hip-hop producers, and record collectors around the world have spent years digging for these gritty, unpolished funk gems that have been discovered in record shops, dungy basements, attics, and other places few are willing tread, looking for that next bit undiscovered piece of funk history. As a result of these efforts, deep funk compilations became a thing.
The best compilations usually have a well sequenced track order, are lovingly remastered (but too much as to keep the grit of the original recording intact), and have long, detailed liner notes to give you some more background info on each artist. But not all deep funk compilations are created equally. So, I concocted a quick list of recommendations of some of the best of the best to get you started. All of these can found relatively easily, either digitally or physically and shouldn’t drain your wallet too much.
But, enough talk though. Let’s get started!
For The Uninitiated:
The Funky 16 Corners Stones Throw 2001
This is probably the best place to start. The Funky 16 Corners is superbly sequenced, with a song by song flow reminiscent of a good artist album. Each song on here exemplifies deep funk perfectly: long, syncopated drum breaks, way-wah heavy guitar, hypnotic hand percussion, and an orgy of horns and organ. Oh, and the James Brown channeling screams! So good. The title track of the album is a definite the highlight here, with the meat of the song being a 16 hit breakdown that no one had ever done before (and probably hasn’t since).
I say this is the best compilation on this list to start with simply because the majority of tracks on it are straightforward and serve as a great introduction into the world of deep funk.
Other highlights tracks: Soul Vibrations – The Dump, Co-Real Artists – What About You (In The World Today), Billy Wooten – In The Rain
Florida Funk: 1968 – 1975 Jazzman 2007
Unlike the other collections two collections, this is the only one the spends it’s time exploring a single state. Though there are other states in this series, this one is the stands out the most to me. For one, it revealed not one, but two separate sample sources for from DJ Shadow’s amazing Endtroducing… album (who contributed songs from his collection to all of the compilations on this list by the way). Two, the selection on here is just so tight. Not a minute is wasted on here. And three, unlike the others, this one is far more vocal-heavy than others (which are largely instrumental). However, I’d still say stick to The Funky 16 Corners as you starting point just because of the sheer diversity of sounds on that album. Not saying that this doesn’t have diversity, but if you’re just starting off, it’s best to get a sample of everything that deep funk has to offer. This is best reserved for after you’ve gotten a little taste and want to get more in-depth.
Other highlight tracks: The Universals – New Generation, Little Beaver – Everybody Has Got Some Dues To Pay,
Cold Heat: Heavy Funk Rarities, Vol. 1: 1968 – 1974 Now Again Records 2005
Cold Heat is pretty similar to the previously mentioned Funky 16 Corners, but with an emphasis on “heavy”. Most of these tracks are a bit more looser than the previous album, almost psych-y kind of way, but they definitely still funky as hell. A good example of this sound comes from Michael Higgins and The Supersoul’s track: “Loaded To The Gills”. Not only is it sloppy and all over the place, sometime the whole band is just completely out of time with each other. And yet it works! Not every track on here is like this one, but essence of this song threads the whole album. This one isn’t as easy to get into as the others, but rewards like no other when it clicks with you.
So there you have it. A brief look in the world of deep funk and deep funk compilations. I didn’t want to get too in-depth this time. Just wanted to give you a little taste. Let me know what you think of any of these songs, or of this post in general.
And hopefully the next post won’t take me so long to write…