Various Artists

Chess Psychedelic Jazz and Funky Grooves

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Psychedelic jazz-funk is not the first, or second, style that comes to mind when people think of Chess Records. In its waning years, however, the label did record a fair number of outings in that vein by both established artists and more obscure performers. This 17-track compilation gathers 75 such minutes from 1968-1975, and though it contains some interesting quirkiness, really it doesn't hold a candle to either Chess' best output or the best psychedelic funk in general. Instead, there's a feeling of a label sliding behind the times and grasping, a little desperately, at trends in a futile effort to update its sound (which, in truth, wasn't all that much in need of updating). Much of the time, these get-hip-with-the-times relics sound awkward, particularly when vets like (believe it or not) jazzman Woody Herman are covering soul hits by the Temptations and the Isley Brothers. The Jimi Hendrix covers by Phil Upchurch ("Crosstown Traffic") and John Klemmer ("Third Stone from the Sun") aren't so hot either, and the attempts to make Bo Diddley and Muddy Waters psychedelic are, frankly, pretty awful. The Rotary Connection tracks are better, in part because their psychedelic soul seems like a more honest stylistic choice. The rest (including a couple mediocre mid-'70s Solomon Burke tracks) is spotty and fairly uninspiring, though Marlena Shaw's "Woman of the Ghetto" is decent early socially conscious soul-funk.