Various Artists

Original Raw Soul, Vol. 3

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"Various artists" is somewhat of a misnomer for Original Raw Soul, Vol. 3. While the 17 tracks here technically offer up a few tracks each from various different bands, each of these bands is a different permutation or alias of the Whitefield Brothers, a German-born duo of hyper-prolific funk revivalists who have been recording rare grooves under different names nonstop since the mid-'90s. The various pseudonyms take on different roles and pull from various funk/soul subgenres. New Process echo the harder-edged political soul searching of Curtis Mayfield with "Freedom," and "Bus People Theme" is a mostly instrumental strut that revamps the hustle of '70s street life soundtracks. One of their more popular incarnations, Poets of Rhythm, offer up the gorgeously breezy organ/electric piano groove of "Summerdays," a song with a beat so thick it sounds like it was created to be sampled. Under the (unfortunate) moniker Mercy Sluts, the Whitefields work in a Meters vein on "$600 Song," with crisp drum breaks and deep-fried organs strolling along arm in arm. The different styles and variables begin to blur at points. Hard garage funk tracks from the Transgressors become indistinguishable from those of New Process, performed by the same players at different times. All the different band names can get confusing, even to the bands. "Funky Sex Machine" is a faux-live track modeled to a T after the James Brown Live at the Apollo recordings. Credited to Karl Hector & the Funk Pilots, the lead vocalist introduces the band as the Poets of Rhythm before exploding into fevered blasts of horns and greasy guitar lines. This confusion gets broken up some when Indian poet/songbird Bajka shows up for a few tracks, backed by the Whitefields and crew in a more flute-heavy commune vibe. Her smoky vocals on these songs under her own name set them apart from the rest of the mostly instrumental fare. All of the tracks collected here are highlights from over a 20-year span of one-off singles by the Whitefields' various projects, all of which are so genre-genuflective that they nail every nuance of recording, style, and mood. There's virtually no telling them apart from their predecessors, which is the point. Boiling down the different band names and foggy details of the projects just leaves listeners with a collective of musicians so obsessed with this era of funk and the culture surrounding it that they've made it their life's work. Almost every track on Original Raw Soul, Vol. 3 is so strong that the back-story beyond that obsession becomes irrelevant.

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