Various Artists

SuperFunk, Vol. 4: Rare and Classic Street Funk from the Vaults 1966-1973

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Like the previous volumes of BGP's Super Funk series, this coughs up a batch of rare soul-funk, often licensed from labels with which the Ace reissue label (of which BGP is a subsidiary) has had long-running relationships. Contrary to what the subtitle ("rare and classic street funk from the vaults 1966-1973") suggests, these 20 tracks might be more "rare" than "classic" (two of them are even previously unissued). But generally they're pretty fun if somewhat formulaic slices of period early funk, not a one of them by a star artist, though soul and blues collectors might be familiar with a few names, like Eddy Clearwater, Albert Washington, and Vernon Garrett. The influence of James Brown gets pretty overwhelming at times, and if obscurities like Little Charles & the Sidewinders' 1970 single "Shanty Town" (co-written by Jerry Williams, aka Swamp Dogg), and Sugar Billy Garner's "I Got Some" are more credible Brown imitations than some, they're still so clearly indebted to the Godfather of Soul that they sound as if they're petitioning to be recognized as Brown's godsons. On their 1966 cover of "Out of Sight," in fact, the Soulsetters don't even go through the pretense of rewriting James Brown for their own purposes, slamming out the cover as if they've just been told to get through their encore as quickly as possible. Both Clearwater and Washington add some welcome older-school blues and R&B touches, and some ventures into harder, early-'70s style funk, instrumentals, and female vocalist-fronted arrangements add variety, though they're not necessarily of standout quality. A good portion of this is rawer than what usually makes the round on funk reissues; on "The Warm Up (Part 1)," a witty semi-serious cross between Junior Walker and Archie Bell & the Drells' "Tighten Up," the singer almost sounds like he's emceeing through an intercom.

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