Land of 1000 Dances: Special Soul & Funk Edition

Various Artists

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Land of 1000 Dances: Special Soul & Funk Edition Review

by Richie Unterberger

The previous two editions of the Land of 1000 Dances series also had a lot of soul songs named after innumerable dances. This special installment, however, is different: not only does Land of 1000 Dances: Special Soul & Funk Edition feature soul and funk songs exclusively, but it also moves the focus to a slightly later era. The first two volumes had songs spanning the mid-'50s to the mid-'60s; this one, by contrast, has tracks from the mid-'60s through the mid-'70s. It's a good spin on the concept, and perhaps one that was necessary just to keep the series (as small as it is) going. Yet this anthology isn't as strong as its predecessors, not because of the change in style and era, but because the songs themselves aren't as good. In part that's because the other two volumes had many chart hits that, while familiar to many collectors, got to be hits at least in part because they were better than many other such dance-themed tunes. This "Special Soul and Funk Edition," however, focuses on fairly obscure recordings, even when the performer is pretty well known. Perhaps as a consequence, much of the material is fairly generic soul and funk of its time, even if it does testify to the funk and soul community's ceaseless imagination at devising new dances, or at least new dances for the purposes of exploiting on disc. How many people really did the "greasy frog," "Boston monkey," "boomerang," "meditation," "Watts breakaway," or "Broadway freeze," to name just a few of the more colorful concoctions hailed in song here? Even if it's more of a collection of rarities and oddities than the cream of the soul-funk dance crop, however, numerous notable artists are represented with various attempts to capitalize on or start a dance fad. These include Rufus Thomas, Major Lance (whose "The Matador" is the most well-known track), Don Covay, William Bell, the Olympics, Albert Collins, James Brown (whose "Let a Man Come in and Do the Popcorn" is another of the more familiar entries), Joe Simon (who actually did a two-part "Moon Walk" single in 1970 long before Michael Jackson become known for that step), Parliament, and the Fatback Band. Too, a few jazz notables (Garland Green, Donald Byrd) and veterans of a bygone era (Johnny Otis) weigh in with their attempts to sound contemporary as well. Plenty of better and hotter dance-funk-soul grooves (often by some of the very artists sampled on this anthology) were done during this timeframe, however, making this something of a novelty tinged special interest project rather than a top-drawer thematic compilation.

Track Listing

Sample Title/Composer Performer Time Stream
Rufus Thomas 02:33 Amazon
2 Major Lance 02:26 Amazon
3 William Bell 02:12 Amazon
4 Jeb Stuart 02:36 Amazon
5 Don Covay 02:00 Amazon
6 The Whispers 02:38 Amazon
7 Jerry Williams, Jr. 02:49 Amazon
8 The Olympics 02:17 Amazon
9 Gypsies 02:33 Amazon
Entertainers Four 02:19 Amazon
11 Billy Butler 02:05 Amazon
The Triumphs 02:10 Amazon
13 Lee Williams & the Cymbals 02:34 Amazon
14 Richard Temple 02:15 Amazon
15 Harvey Scales & the Seven Sounds 04:45 Amazon
Albert Collins 04:02 Amazon
17 James Brown 03:06 Amazon
18 Eddie Bo 03:38 Amazon
19 The TnT Band 03:50 Amazon
20 Jackie Lee 03:23 Amazon
21 Joe Simon 05:53 Amazon
22 The Johnny Otis Show 02:33 Amazon
23 Parliament 02:30 Amazon
24 Garland Green 03:20 Amazon
25 Donald Byrd 03:21 Amazon
26 The Fatback Band 03:35 Amazon
blue highlight denotes track pick