Various Artists

Golden State Funk

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Is this truly impossibly rare Bay Area funk? Sure -- half of these 20 cuts hadn't even been released, a few others hadn't been issued until they surfaced on some other early-21st century CD compilations, and the others appeared on very rare, very obscure releases in the late '60s and early '70s. As with any compilation that goes deep into rarities of a certain genre, this isn't stuff you could seriously put on the same level as the best funk from the era, and it's often derivative of major artists in the style. In this case, you'll hear serious props given to Sly & the Family Stone, the psychedelic funk-era Temptations, and James Brown, among others. That doesn't mean, however, that there aren't a lot of good, fun cuts here -- more so, in fact, than there usually are on such specialized rarity anthologies. While "Poor Sad Child Pts. 1-2" by the Windjammers, for instance, is a total rip of the Norman Whitfield-produced Temptations, it's a really good rip -- something that really doesn't happen too often anytime in pop music when there seems to be obvious and deliberate imitation/emulation involved. Also nearly great are the Love Experience's "Are You Together for the New Day?," with its nonstop wah-wah guitar and urgent call-and-response vocals between the lead and backup singers; Martin Holmes & the Uptights' simmering, slightly Latin-influenced instrumental "Sweet Talk"; Wally Cox & the Natives' exuberantly silly nonsense vocal party tune "Zu Zu"; and Ramona King's similarly frivolous "Super Chicken." And Jimmy Bee's "Vida Blue, Pt. 1," cut in 1971 in honor of the Oakland Athletics pitching sensation, is a must for baseball novelty disc fans, boogying as it does with genuine if standard-issue James Brown-styled thump. Sure, there are some tracks that don't have much going for them but cookie-cutter funk competence, but even some of those are played and sung with an astonishing urgency over and above what the average material deserves.

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