After its birth in the mid to late sixties, funk’s popularity quickly grew. With its fusion of soul, R&B and jazz, funk’s heyday was the seventies. While the peak of funk’s popularity was during the seventies, it was during the seventies that some of the greatest funk music was produced. Indeed, looking back at the seventies, the quality of funk produced during that decade has never been equalled. No wonder. Just look at the giants of seventies funk. James Brown lead the way, with Sly and The Family Stone, Earth Wind and Fire and in Philly, M.F.S.B. following in the Godfather of Funk’s wake. There was more to funk than most people realized. It was a musical genre that not only has been influenced by various disparate musical genres, but gave birth to many sub-genres.

While funk’s roots can be traced to soul, jazz and R&B, out of funk, other sub-genres emerged. Jazz-funk, fusion and P-Funk, pioneered by Parliament and Funkadelic. Often, funk had a soulful or jazz tinged influence. Proof of this is Nina Simone and Esther Phillips, two female funk pioneers who feature on Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s, which was released on 20th May 2013, by Harmless Records’ Backbeats’ imprint. Sometimes, funk’s R&B influence shines through. On Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s Johnny Otis demonstrates this. So, funk, we can safely say, in the seventies, was a broad musical genre, one with many sub-genres emerging. Not only that, but during the seventies, funk was in the rudest of health. It seemed its popularity would last forever. That however, didn’t happen.

Music as we know, is cyclical. Musical genres drift in and out of fashion. Funk’s popularity didn’t last forever. Not at all. Instead, it’s popularity waned and it was forced to reinvent itself. The near death experience that disco suffered, affected funk’s popularity. It was almost guilt by association. After all, many disco artists came from a funk background. None more so than Chic, whose popularity slumped. So realizing the end was neigh, shrewd funk groups new their music had to evolve. It was survive or die. To stay relevant as the eighties dawned, funk albums became much more spartan.

Gone were horn sections. Out too were keyboards that had become synonymous with funk. So funk groups waved goodbye to their Hammond organs, clavinets and Fender Rhodes. Replacing them were synths. Even the drums weren’t sacrosanct. Not at all. They were replaced by drum machines. For veterans of seventies funk, this was unbearable. It was a step too far. Not only had they thrown out some of funk’s most effective, and important instruments, but they’d thrown out funk’s very soul. Funk was no longer the musical genre it had once been. For some people, it was a mere synthetic shadow, stripped of its soul and potency. No longer would music like the nineteen tracks that feature on Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s be released. The track on Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s are a powerful reminder of why the seventies were funk’s greatest days.

Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s features nineteen tracks from labels like RCA Records, Date Records, Epic Records, Jewel Record Corp, Philadelphia International Records, Columbia and Trius Records. Among the familiar faces on Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s are Sly and The Family Stone. M.F.S.B, Nina Simone, Esther Phillips, Jimmy Castor and Shuggie Otis. These artists show the different sides to funk music. This includes the soulful, jazzy or even R&B-tinged sides to funk. One thing each of the tracks on Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s have in common is their quality. Compiler Dean Rudland has dug deeply and diligently, compiling nineteen quality tracks, which I’ll now choose the highlights of.

My first choice from Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s is Nina Simone’s Funkier Than A Mosquitos Tweeter. This was a track Nina’s 1974 album Is It Finished. It was released in 1974, on RCA Victor. This was during one of Nina’s most successful and critically acclaimed periods. Whether it was jazz or funk, Nina was equally at home. Here, it’s funk all the way. Her vocal is sassy and strident, playing an important role in this classic track’s success.

While Nina Simone was one of the most successful artists in the history of music, Esther Phillips is one of the most underrated. Although she enjoyed some success as Little Esther Phillps and later, during her time at Kudu, she never truly enjoyed the success her talent deserved. Proof of this is Home Is Where The Hatred Is, a track from her 1972 album Alone Again, Naturally. Released on Kudu, Esther’s vocal is a fusion of anger, frustration and power. She unleashes a vocal masterclass that’ll have you spellbound. So much so, that you’ll be adding some Esther Phillips to your record collection.

One of The Jimmy Castor’ Bunch’s best known tracks is his cover of We’ve Only Just Begun. It was a track from the 1972 album It’s Just Begun, which was released on RCA Victor. Since the birth of hip hop, It’s become a source of inspiration for hip hop artists, who’ve liberally “sampled” it. This includes the Jungle Brothers, Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five, Bomb The Bass and 45 King. No wonder they’ve sampled this track’s delights. Quite simply, it’s a storming slice of gloriously funky music. With its blazing horns, wah-wah guitars and funky rhythm section, this is seventies funk at its best.

Johnny Otis has two claims to fames in life. His first is that he was one of the pioneers of R&B. He released his debut single, That’s Your Last Boogie, in 1948. Later, that year, Johnny and Little Ester Phillips has a US R&B number one single with Double Crossing Blues. Johnny’s other claim to fame is he’s the father of Shuggie Otis, one of music’s most reluctant, but gifted musicians. By 1972, Johnny had adapted to changes in music. Not only was still making music, but his music had elolved. The Johnny Otis Show released Watts Breakaway as a single. Although a prime slice of seventies funk, Johnny’s R&B roots shine through on this explosive slice of driving funk.

Shay Holiday’s career may not neither have been the longest, nor the most successful, but it was truly memorable. After all, she released It’s Not How Long You Make It on Jewel Record Corp, in 1973. Written Jerry Strickland and Bobby Patterson, who produced the single, Shay’s vocal is sassy, powerful and soars soulfully above the funky arrangement. This marriage of soul and funk results in not only a hidden musical gem, but an extremely expensive one.

I didn’t just choose Casey Jones’ single Good Thing Part 2, so I could make a gratuitous joke about railways. Not at all. In many ways, I was almost railroaded into choosing this track, given its quality. After an understated opening, where hypnotic drums provide the arrangement’s heartbeat, Casey’s vampish vocal enters, and the track explodes into life. Soon, you’re embarking on a musical journey, one that’s both soulful thanks to Casey’s vocal, but fast and furiously funky thanks to his backing band.

I’ve often said that M.F.S.B. were much more than Philadelphia International Records’ house-band. Quite the opposite. This multitalented band were also songwriters, arrangers and producers. Often, their role in the Philadelphia International Records’ success story is downplayed. That suits certain people though. However, what made M.F.S.B. such an outstanding band is their versatility. Family Affair, a track from their 1973 sophomore album M.F.S.B, which reached number 131 in the US Billboard 200 and number twenty in the US R&B Charts. Here, M.F.S.B. combine some heavy duty funk with mellow, jazzy keyboards and a touch of Philly Soul.

Apart from Nick Drake, Shuggie Otis must be one of the most reluctant musicians of the seventies. He could’ve and should’ve been huge. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. His seventies back-catalogue amounts to three albums. Ice Cold Daydream is a track from his 1971 album Freedom Flight. While Strawberry Letter is a better known track, Ice Cold Daydream allows Shuggie to kick loose his shackles and become a strutting funkateer, a role which he carries off with considerable aplomb.

Mention seventies funk groups, and many people will reply Sly and The Family Stone. For four years, between 1969 and 1973, their star shawn brightly. Sadly, amidst chaos and a trail of destruction, their star burnt out. Thankfully, during that period, they released three peerless studio albums. 1969s was the first of these. It featured genre-sprawling Sing A Simple Song, where seamlessly Sly Stone fuses funk, psychedelia, soul, rock and jazz. The result is a timeless, anthemic track that epitomizes an era.

Al Kooper’s Toe Hold is my final choice from Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s. Written by Isaac Hayes and David Porter, it was a track from Al’s 1968 debut album I Stand Alone, which was released on Columbia Records. Although Toe Hold is a primarily a funky track, albeit with a real late sixties sound, it incorporates soul, gospel and rock. Here. Al’s vocals veer between soul and rock, accompanied by gospel tinged harmonies. His band keep things funky, but sometimes, especially the keyboards, have a rocky sound. Having said that, this is a tantalising taste of the multitalented Al Kooper, as he embarks upon his solo career.

For anyone who likes their music seriously funky, then Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s is an album that must find its way into your record collection. During the nineteen tracks on Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s, you can hear funk’s soulful, jazzy and R&B roots shine through. What else shines through is the quality of music. There’s contributions from familiar faces like Sly and The Family Stone, M.F.S.B and Nina Simone. You’re also introduced to some hugely underrated artists. Many people won’t have heard of Esther Phillips, Shay Hliday, Casey Jones or Johnny or Shuggie Otis. So hopefully, Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s will introduce their music to a much wider audience. Maybe after hearing Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s, which was released on 20th May 2013, listeners will embark on a musical voyage of discovery.

Compiler Dean Rudland, deserves credit for not just sticking with the tried and tested tracks that feature on many funk compilations. Instead, Dean’s dug deep into his record collection. No corners of his collection have been left unexplored, in his quest for the funkiest of music. After much crate digging, Dean’s come up with nineteen slices of the funkiest music you’re ears will be lucky to hear. This is Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s, a compilation guaranteed to get any party started. 

In many ways, Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s is a reminder of the golden age of funk. Long gone and much mourned, the golden age of funk is but a passing memory. Thankfully, Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s is a reminder of these few short years. Indeed, Paaaarty Time-Serious Funk From The 70s is a like a musical walk down memory lane, where you hear familiar tracks and forgotten treasures. By the end of your trip down this musical memory lane, you realize that funk doesn’t get any better than this. Standout Tracks: Esther Phillips Home Is Where The Hatred Is, Shay Holiday It’s Not How Long You Make It, M.F.S.B. Family Affair and Al Kooper Toe Hold.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: