Various Artists

The Return of the Funk Soul Sisters

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Like the Funk Soul Sisters compilation to which this is a follow-up, this gathers 20 obscure woman-sung tracks (a couple of them previously unreleased) from that time in the late '60s and early '70s when soul was changing into funk. Martha & the Vandellas are the only big stars here, though Jackie Moore, Millie Jackson, Inez & Charlie Foxx, and Jean Knight all had their flashes of success. Otherwise, the performers are about as unknown to the general public as the songs are. More power to BGP/Ace for spotlighting the contributions of women to this fairly male-dominated genre, but it's really not that interesting a listen, even adjusting your expectations in the knowledge that these kind of collector-oriented anthologies aren't going to match the best classics of the style. The big issues are not the singing (which is pretty committed), the attitude (which is usually fairly tough), or the arrangements (which are pretty well done), but the songs, which are kind of anonymous period fare. That's even true of the numbers penned by big names -- mostly men, as it happens. For instance, Patti Jo's "Ain't No Love Lost," written by Curtis Mayfield, has a pretty generic Superfly-style arrangement, down to the sweet strings and hand percussion. Elsie Mae's pedestrian "Do You Really Want to Rescue Me, Pt. 1," co-authored by James Brown (and as a 1966 single, the earliest recording here), has surprisingly little of Brown's funk. Betty Moorer's "It's My Thing," meanwhile, is a contrived takeoff on the Isley Brothers' "It's Your Thing." The inspiration level rises here and there, as on Jean Knight's "Jesse Joe (You Got to Go)" (where she catches Jesse Joe making love to her sister), the fast-moving horn-driven funk of Gloria Taylor's "Grounded, Pt. 1," and the cool wah-wah guitar/organ blend of Mama Jean's "Women's Liberation." On the whole, though, it's a somewhat below average funk-soul comp.

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