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.


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

    Satisfied '75 — December 13, 2006 @ 12:00 am

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

    Natsthename — December 13, 2006 @ 5:40 am

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

    Anonymous — December 13, 2006 @ 9:00 am

  • 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

    kingseyeland — December 13, 2006 @ 11:57 am

  • 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!

    Jeff - OWTK — December 15, 2006 @ 5:51 am

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Bio Pic Name: Heather Browne
Location: Colorado, originally by way of California
Giving context to the torrent since 2005.

"I love the relationship that anyone has with music: because there's something in us that is beyond the reach of words, something that eludes and defies our best attempts to spit it out. It's the best part of us, probably, the richest and strangest part..."
—Nick Hornby, Songbook
"Music has always been a matter of energy to me, a question of Fuel. Sentimental people call it Inspiration, but what they really mean is Fuel."
—Hunter S. Thompson

Mp3s are for sampling purposes, kinda like when they give you the cheese cube at Costco, knowing that you'll often go home with having bought the whole 7 lb. spiced Brie log. They are left up for a limited time. If you LIKE the music, go and support these artists, buy their schwag, go to their concerts, purchase their CDs/records and tell all your friends. Rock on.

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