Various Artists

Funk Soul Brothers [Metro]

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As whistle-stop tours of funk go, this is pretty interesting, consisting of 16 cuts mostly drawn from early 1970s records, though a few rather ill-fitting efforts from the early 1980s slip in. Only one of these songs, Curtis Mayfield's "Freddie's Dead," is famous, though other respected gents dot the set, some known more for straight-ahead soul or soul-jazz than for funk: Aaron Neville, Lee Dorsey, Roy Ayers, Jimmy McGriff, the Meters, and Bobby Womack. Filling out the program are names that at this point are mostly known to aficionados, like Ripple, O'Donel Levy, S.O.U.L, and Sir Joe Quarterman & Free Soul. The lack of big stars or a solid thematic center might put some off, but for funk fans seeking some good off-the-beaten-track sides, this is recommended, both for its quality and eclecticism. It covers credible James Brown knockoffs, like Sir Joe Quarterman & Free Soul's "(I Got) So Much Trouble in My Mind," Moody Scott's "I Don't Dig No Phony Part 2," and Eddie Bo's "If It's Good to You (It's Good for You)"; Maceo & All the King's Men's "Got to Get Cha" comes by its James Brown influence honestly, as these fellows (led by saxophonist Maceo Parker) were in Brown's band in the late 1960s. Lee Dorsey's "Yes We Can," from 1971, predates the more famous Pointer Sisters hit cover of the tune. Ripple show a strong Sly Stone influence on "I Don't Know What It Is But It Sure Is Funky," and Aaron Neville, known more for New Orleans soul, seems to be trying to emulate Superfly-era Curtis Mayfield (and quite admirably) on "Hercules." And S.O.U.L.'s "Soul Part 1 & 2" is a real overlooked gem, with its jazz-influenced groove and rockin' lead flute.

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