Various Artists

Funky Tales

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Although the Nashville-based Excello label is primarily known for its recordings of Louisiana swamp blues with Slim Harpo, Lazy Lester, and Lightnin' Slim, it moved into soul music pretty aggressively in the late '60s and early '70s. This 24-song compilation of tracks that were cut for the label between 1967 and 1976 offers yet more evidence of how many vital, little-known soul sides were issued during the era by small companies. This is the greasy stuff, too, with no relationship to either "sweet soul" or proto-disco. If you like the sound of the James Brown band circa 1969, or the hardest elements of Stax/Volt, and want more of the same by acts that you never heard on the radio, this is a good investment. Aside from Slim Harpo (represented by a funkish number) and Marva Whitney and Maceo Parker (both of whom recorded for Excello after leaving the James Brown road show), few of these names will ring any bells for all but the most seasoned soul collectors. It's mostly quality, gritty fare, including quite a few percolating instrumentals (the underwater Booker T.-like groove on the Solicitors' "Music for the Brothers" is a highlight). For some quality imitation James Brown arrangements, check out the two previously unissued tracks by the mysterious Little Royal.

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