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What’s funky at Soul Fire Revue

The host talks about what albums are inspiring his show latelyBy Jeff Listerman

I’m still picking through several thousand CDs I’ve piled up over about thirty years and it’s quite a task, let me tell ya (if anyone can rent me a Bobcat skid-loader with a bucket attachment real cheap, you can contact me through the station….)  Anyway, spending countless hours separating the wheat from the chaff has been long overdue, and the fruits of this labor are soon to be heard on the Soul Fire Revue.

I’ve recently been going over a dozen or more compilations of lesser known soul and funk, and after going through them song by song, I have found some killer grooves. Most had one or two decent tracks but as you might imagine, all of these comps were not created equal. Some of the comps and comp series that I’ve been dissecting are a couple discs from Keb Darge’s Funk Spectrum Series. One, Keb Darge compiled with Kenny Dope on the Kay Dee Records label, and two called, Flying Funk and Flying Groove. These all had at least a few tracks I liked, but not many I fell in love with. The grooves on the Keb Darge stuff are unfailingly super soulful and danceable, but to me, rarely super-funky which is what I really got my radar out for. I also like a killer vocal struttin’ out over the top of my funk like I like icing on my cake, and those Keb D discs are mostly instrumental.

But now i´ll tell ya what did really grab me: one is the James Brown’s Funky People series, three different discs called “parts” 1,2 and 3. These are part of James Brown Productions that were recorded and released on his own People label that he started in 1971.

You gotta dig JB to really get into these cause the music as well as many of the vocalists are heavily influenced by the Godfather, and sometimes the influence is over the top, but that kind of makes it interesting too. In fact, the whole series is an interesting document of time and place with songs like the drivin’ super-fonky song “You can have Watergate but Gimme some Bucks and I’ll be Straight” by Fred Wesley and JB’s “Soul Power ‘74” by Maceo and the Macks, Maceo Parker, that is. My favorite song from all three is Lyn Collins’ relentless “Rock Me Again and Again and Again” from the first volume (or “part”).

The other disc that rang my bells was Dave Hamilton’s Detroit Funk Rare and Unreleased Twisted Funk 1967-1975. Again, these tracks were just way grittier and funkier than those on the other comps. Generally, the rhythms were just funkier and more complex and interesting. Dave Hamilton has put his name to quite a few other old soul comps, especially for the Kent label, and they may contain quality stuff as well, I’m just not as interested in 50’s and early 60’s soul as I am funk from the seventies.

Oh sure, there are some on this disc that aren’t anything too special, but quite a few are terrific. I love the singer who has five separate tracks on the disc, named Billy Garner. He busts out ferocious with the lead track, “Brand New Girl, Part 1”. It’s dynamite and his other tracks on the disc are plenty good. Gotta say, I always love those few songs in funkland that are truly hilarious while keepin’ a groove. Two you gotta check out are “Garbage Man” by an outfit called Ike Turner presents the Family Vibe (on comp In Yo Face! The History of Funk) and The Witch Doctor by Over Night Low (from the “King” records comp). Well this particular Dave Hamilton disc has one that’s right up there and it’s the ridiculous “Hunchin’” by Gip Roberts, those back-up singers are a riot, I shook my head and laughed every time I heard it.

Soul Fire Revue airs every Saturday from 8-10 p.m.