...we've got the means to make amends. I am lost, I'm no guide, but I'm by your side. (Pearl Jam, Leash)

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The coolest, funkiest box set unearthed this year

If I get an extra couple Jacksons stuffed in a Christmas card this year, I'll be heading out to buy myself what sounds like the best box set in quite a while: What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves (1967-1977). Reminding me of the scenes from the fantastic documentary Scratch where DJ Shadow is digging through dusty old basements and stacks of unloved records at a Davis, CA record store, this is a collection of castoff funk & soul lovingly assembled from the vaults at Atlantic and Warner Records by Rhino Records producers Mason Williams and Matt Abels.

I first saw this mentioned in Rolling Stone, the story of all the best parts of musical archaeology brought to life. Williams and Abels spent the better part of a year unearthing songs that time has mostly moved on from: one-hit wonders, side projects of well-known artists like Sly Stone or The Meters, alternate versions of songs from soul legends like Aretha Franklin. Some of the songs are total mysteries -- that is, other than the pressing of the song that exists now, no additional information could be tracked down other than the fantastic 4 minutes they left behind.

The set includes almost 100 slinky funky bass-groovin' songs on CD or vinyl (as well as a companion set of reproduction vinyl pressings of 25 of the original singles -- including their b-sides). What I've heard of the contents so far is absolutely fantastic and, best of all, completely fresh. It's all the great stuff you had a feeling was out there, but was never loosed from the vaults.

This could keep me happily shakin' it for months.

You Gotta Know Whatcha Doin' - Charles Wright

Jumpin' Jack Flash (Stones cover) - Ananda Shankar

Getting Uptown (To Get Down) - United 8

Whew. Yeah, it's that good.


At December 13, 2006 12:00 AM, Blogger Satisfied '75 said...

doood..beg, borrow , or steal to get this. it's great.

At December 13, 2006 5:40 AM, Blogger Natsthename said...

YEAH! This is on my list already, and I am looking forward to it. They just do not make music like this anymore!

At December 13, 2006 9:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll third that! Everything I've heard of this box is deep and funky. Thanks.

At December 13, 2006 11:57 AM, Blogger John said...

Somewhere inside the Soviet border, 1985:

Austin Milbarge: "It's 'Soul Finger'...by the Bar-Kays."

Emmitt Fitz-Hume: "They must be having trouble getting gigs."

- Spies Like Us

At December 15, 2006 5:51 AM, Blogger Jeff - OWTK said...

Never been a huge funk fan, but MAN! are these three tracks good - especially Uptown to get down. The sax parts near the end are terrific. I must check more of this material out. Thanks!


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