Various Artists

New Orleans Funk, Vol. 2: The Second Line Strut

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Like its predecessor, the long-awaited sequel to Soul Jazz's first collection of New Orleans Funk -- Vol. 1 appeared eight years earlier, in 2000 -- concentrates on the funkier side of the Crescent City, downplaying its signature R&B shuffle in favor of singles that sound more conventionally funky, at least in the '70s sense of the word. Not that New Orleans Funk, Vol. 2 is devoted entirely to unearthed gems from the '70s: it has several sides from the city's '60s heyday, as this digs all the way back to 1956 for Eddie Bo's "Hey Bo" and even bends Soul Jazz's penchant for including nothing but obscurities to serve up Benny Spellman's stone cold classic "Fortune Teller," deservedly a staple on most New Orleans R&B collections. Both of these selections are sharply chosen, as the clusters of polyrhythms on "Hey Bo" and the sly funky electric piano on "Fortune Teller" point the way toward the dense, snazzy, stylish funk emanating from New Orleans in the late '60s and '70s. They slide imperceptibly between the album's collection of rarities from heavy-hitters -- a dazzling, colorful "Tequila" from Allen Toussaint, "Four Corners" from Lee Dorsey, Art Neville doing a "Bo Diddley" that strips away Bo's trademarked beat, a typically cheerful, irresistible vamp from the Meters, a wah-wah drenched jam called "Street Parade" from Earl King, a really funky "The Rubber Band" from Eddie Bo -- and just plain obscurities, some by relatively-well known cult favorites like the Gaturs but many are from names that will only be known by hardcore aficionados. To most listeners, this may be the first time they hear the names the Prime Mates or Ray J or Joe Chopper or Jimmy Hicks, who serves up an answer song to Jean Wright with his "I'm Mr. Big Stuff," but they all have sides that are easy to enjoy, as do the other obscure acts here. Perhaps these are sides that aren't quite lost gems, as they tend to blend together into one heady party instead of stand out on their own, but this is all pretty hard to resist, as it's seriously funky and seriously fun -- maybe not quintessentially New Orleans, at least according to the traditional definition, but certainly it's quintessentially funky.

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