Various Artists

Because You're Funky

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As stated right there on its garish, rather incongruous fuchsia cover, Because You're Funky is a compilation of rare funk 45s -- more specifically, it's an incredibly solid compilation of 24 ultra-rare, never before (and scarcely since) compiled instrumental funk and soul 45s dating from the mid-'60s through the early '70s, culled from the crates of veteran British DJ/collector the Rustler. If anything is known about the colorfully named outfits responsible for these scorching sides, you're not going to find it here -- a far cry from the lovingly annotated likes of, for instance, The Numero Group's Eccentric Soul series. Although the music is every bit as worthy of such treatment, the information contained in the liners is limited to songwriting credits and occasionally a producer, presumably transcribed off the 45s themselves. In that respect the set fails as history lesson, although the very obscurity and anonymity of so many eminently enjoyable, if admittedly generic, recordings may suggest some history in itself, an evocation of the grassroots energy, seemingly endless wealth of talent, and lack of critical regard that accompanied funk music in its original flourishing as vernacular form. In any case, the volume of scraggly guitar licks, hip-hugging basslines, ragged but righteous horn sections, reedy organs, and hard-hitting drum breaks amassed here is just staggering. It nearly risks being too much of a good thing, unless of course you're a true funk fiend, but there's just enough subtle variety in sound and feel -- from the jazzy, laid-back U.S. Warren to the heavy psychedelic funk-rock of Creations Unlimited; from the Meters-esque fluidity of the Four of Clubs' "Funkity" to the skronking spy movie sleaze of Seven from Eleven's awesomely named "Strawberry Snocone, Pt. 1"; from the thick organ and full-bodied horns of Basic Sounds of Pittsburgh's "Down Beat," which recalls Mingus in its timbral richness, to the Soulful Two's odd, almost classically inflected "Fi-Yi Dance," with its prominent tambourine and flamenco-tinged acoustic guitar lead -- to keep casual more listeners grooving. And yes -- it barely requires mentioning -- this is a dynamite party record.

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