Various Artists

Friday Night Funk

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The title and concept of this funk compilation is contrived, as it's ostensibly meant to serve as a soundtrack for a Friday night when you're ready to launch a weekend of blowing off steam. Whether it's Friday night or not, though, it's a decent enough compilation of secondary funk. It spans the late-'60s soul-shaded variety to the disco-fied version from a decade or so later, though the absence of dates for most of the tracks in the liner notes sure does make it difficult to place it in total context. Some of these artists were big names (Mavis Staples, Curtis Mayfield, Joe Tex, Ike Turner, Lloyd Price, Bobby Womack, Lee Dorsey), and one or two of the actual tracks are fairly familiar to soul fans (the Meters' "Look-Ka-Py-Py," Funkadelic's "Electric Spanking of War Babies"). But most of it's rarely played anywhere except in collectors' houses and specialty clubs meaning that, on the one hand, it's not as good as the best funk classics, but on the other hand, it'll be appreciated by serious funk fans who want to hear something good in the genre other than the classics. It's a little uneven and not wall-to-wall killer by any means, but there are few subpar tracks, and some very good ones. There are good early James Brown funk era-styled knockoffs from obscure acts like the Continental Showstoppers and Gus "The Groove" Lewis; some actual ex-James Brown sidemen on Maceo & All the King's Men's "Funky Women"; a fine moody cinematic instrumental from Ike Turner & His Kings of Rhythm, "Thinking Black"; a good 1968 B-side from Joe Tex, "Wooden Spoon"; an obscure Curtis Mayfield song on Marvin Smith's 1968 recording "You're Really Something Sadie"; and a cut off Lee Dorsey's excellent 1970 Yes We Can album, which was New Orleans R&B at its funkiest. The already loose concept does get even less focused with the inclusion of Bobby Womack's "If You Don't Want My Love (Give It Back)," which will strike most listeners as a decent introspective early-'70s soul ballad rather than a funk outing. But what the hey, it does add some diversity and unpredictability to the set, and is ultimately more welcome than not in this company.

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