James Brown

Funky Men [Disky]

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As James Brown worked with a stable of talented female singers, so he also allied himself with the best and brightest funky men in the business. This imported single disc collects those men and their classic songs in a nice, tight package that rounds up a lot of difficult to find (or even remember) material from his years with the TK label. While the bulk of the disc focuses on the mid- to late-'70s material of Bobby Byrd and the J.B.'s in particular, it hinges around the seminal 1980 "Rap Payback (Where Iz Moses?)" -- the song that opens and closes (with the 14-minute remix version) Funky Men. Released late in the year, it is a winning combination of funk mixed with a little proto-rap and, although it failed to make much of a splash in the U.S., where rap was rising thanks to Fatback Band's "King Tim III" and the Sugarhill Gang's "Rappers Delight," it did quite well in the U.K. charts. An additional highlight is the incredible funk groove of Byrd's "Back From the Dead" -- a solo venture recorded after he had parted company with Brown. Elsewhere, the contemporary, sharp disco of "Just Wanna Make You Dance, Pt. 1," by the J.B.'s featuring Maxxi, and the quiet groove of the J.B.'s Internationals' "Nature, Pts. 1 & 2" round out the mix nicely. And, of course, no compilation would be complete without a dance or two. Brown, Byrd, and the J.B.'s teamed up for a jamming 1980s rehash of "Mashed Potatoes," which finds its way on board as well. Although it can be argued that Brown's earlier collaborations are his best, this is still a solid collection of late-in-the-day hits that have been cruelly overlooked in recent years.

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