Various Artists

Westbound Funk

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Detroit's Westbound label (and its sister Eastbound imprint) might be best known for recording Funkadelic, who have a couple of cuts here. But it did a lot of other funk in the years 1969-1976, as demonstrated by this 20-track compilation. It is rare stuff: aside from Funkadelic, only a few artists here are likely to ring a bell, those including the Ohio Players (with a previously unissued cover of Traffic's "Feelin' Alright") and Bootsy Collins (with the previously unreleased slow-burning bass-heavy instrumental "RPM," credited to Boots). Westbound also briefly corralled Alvin Cash (who had a hit instrumental in 1965 with "Twine Time") with the 1970 dance chant riff-driven single "Stone Thing Pt. 1," Albert Washington (known more as a blues-soul man than a funkster), and Melvin Sparks (who'd done soul-jazz for Prestige). The rest are names that only show up in crates of DJ records for funk nights. But whether no-names or names, this is good varied funk, both vocal and instrumental, even if some of the reference points are obvious. Freddie Wilson's previously unreleased "In Born Soul," for instance, is one of the most accurate late-'60s James Brown imitations ever, though vocally he sounds a little like Brown in a pinched high register; Jackie Harris' "Get Funky Sweet a Little Bit" also follows the hem of the Godfather's garment, though vocally he doesn't sound quite as much like Brown. Elsewhere there is some quality instrumental jazz-funk with Melvin Sparks, who provides a touch of action soundtrack flair on "Get Ya Some"; Robert Lowe's sleek but cookin' "Back to Funk"; and the 19th Whole's seven-minute, organ-dominated cover of Sly Stone's "You Caught Me Smiling." The influence of the Norman Whitfield-era Temptations is felt on some of the vocal outings, like Funkadelic's "You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure." Some of the rest is of more ordinary quality, but it is the kind of compilation that helps prove there was way more worthy funk recorded in this period than the relatively small amount that made it to mainstream ears. It's too bad the liner notes are in such painfully tiny print, though.

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