In the 1990s, the popularity of acid jazz (especially in the U.K.) was great news for fans of Funk, Inc., whose 1970s Prestige dates had long been out of print. England's Ace label reissued all five of Funk's Prestige albums on CD, and in 1995, Fantasy combined the organ combo's first two albums, Funk, Inc. (1971) and Chicken Lickin' (1972), on this excellent 70-minute CD. When they first came out, both albums received their share of negative reviews from the more dogmatic jazz critics, who hated the idea of combining jazz with funk and soul. But the fact is that this material is infectious, captivating and hard-swinging. Funk, Inc. realized that jazz didn't have to be extremely intellectual to be worthwhile, and its mission (at least in the beginning) was to grab R&B fans with foot-pattin' grooves but expose them to the improvisational freedom of jazz. Soul-jazz tunes like "Bowlegs," "The Whipper" and "Sister Janie" were to the early 1970s what the music of Count Basie, Jimmie Lunceford and Lionel Hampton had been during the swing era -- improvisational party music that fared well among young African-American audiences. Other high points of the CD are B.B. King's "The Thrill Is Gone" and Sly Stone's "Running Away," both of which Funk really interprets instead of simply playing note-for-note covers. If you're getting into Funk, Inc. for the first time, this CD is the place to start.
Funk, Inc./Chicken Lickin' Review
by Alex Henderson