Various Artists

Royal Grooves: Funky and Groovy Soul from the King Records Vaults

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By the late 1960s, sales on the King label were so dominated by superstar James Brown that other releases by the company were overshadowed and underpromoted. What's more, Brown's success was so massive that, as the liner notes to this CD aptly state, "King's release schedules were dominated by records by Brown, his band, or records that seemed to sound as if they were made by Brown." Almost a couple dozen such tracks from obscure 1967-1973 singles (with the exception of a previously unissued take of Bill Doggett's "Wet and Satisfied") are on this compilation, stretching even past the point where Brown left King for Polydor. Most of the artists are as little known as the singles, with the exception of the Coasters, Hank Ballard, and Bill Doggett, all '50s rock stars who were long past their prime by the time these cuts emerged. Brown had direct or indirect connections to some (though not all) of these discs, sometimes in the production and songwriting departments.

But though the influence of his funk is fairly pervasive, it's not all blatantly son-of-Brown (or daughter-of-Brown) in nature. It's reasonably versatile, funky soul from a time that would make for a good mix or party tape of rarities, though no doubt one that would spark scowls of disapproval from purists should they learn you did something as easy or common as to just go out and buy a CD. In addition to the more groove-oriented tracks, there are spins on the form in Kay Robinson's gospel-tinged "The Lord Will Make a Way Somehow," which also admits some social consciousness reflecting the wake of Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination; some way-out squealing sax on the Presidents' "Shoe Shine Part 2," and Connie Austin's "Ball of Fire," which sounds as indebted to early-'70s Marvin Gaye as Brown. Of course, some of these are obvious if enjoyable James Brown knockoffs, like Frank Howard & the Continentals' "Do What You Wanna Do, Pt. 1" or Clay Tyson's spoken rap "Clay Tyson (Man on the Moon)," which actually uses the backing track of Brown's smash "I Got the Feeling." For good old-fashioned novelty fun, it's hard to beat King Coleman's "The Boo Boo Song," its exuberant, bubbly sing-rap of nonsense syllables coming off like an exaggerated Joe Tex emulation.

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