SuperFunk, Vol. 2

Various Artists

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SuperFunk, Vol. 2 Review

by Richie Unterberger

BGP scoured far and deep for the 20 funk rarities (three previously unissued), spanning the mid-'60s to the late '70s, that comprise this CD. None of these artists made a notable splash as funk or soul artists, although a few -- Pee Wee Crayton, Preston Epps, Johnny Otis, and Joe Houston -- had early R&B/blues/rock hits in the 1950s and are represented by obscure and highly atypical ventures into funk. Given how many rarity compilations in all genres aren't as musically exciting as they are rare, it's a nice surprise to find much excellence on this anthology, which can be heartily dug by most rock listeners, not just funk devotees. If nothing else, it's a testament to just how wide and serious James Brown's influence was during this period. Billy Garner's "Brand New Girl," Granby Street Development's "Jelly Roll" (with the incredibly lewd female spoken interjection "that cat looks so good to me/he can have his jelly roll free!"), and Jackie Harris' "Do It, Do It" all kick up a funk fuss, much like what Brown and the J.B.'s did during their prime, and Freddy Wilson's "Promised Land" is one of the most accurate vocal imitations of Brown you'll find. Still, the grooves are so intense and compelling that you don't really mind that these tracks are quite derivative of the soul/funk godfather. Although many of the cuts are instrumental, also on hand are some fair female vocal numbers by the likes of Brenda George, Thelma Jones, and Irene Reid, though it are the wordless numbers that generate the most heat. For some variation, there are some wah-wah, fuzz and phasing effects in Sidney Pinchback's "Soul Strokes" that show the influence of psychedelia, while Willard Burton's "Warm the Pot ('Til It's Good and Hot)" has the sort of more jagged rhythms and warped textures that came into vogue with Stevie Wonder and Rufus. Joe Houston, known for his blues/R&B playing, blows as athletically as anyone in the J.B.s' horn section on "Mr. Big H," which bears a 1977 date but sounds much more like a 1969-1970 recording. It's a very cool collection that should be at the top of the list for those who've exhausted the major funk icons and are looking for undiscovered nuggets.

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