Funk & Soul Classics
The Best and the Rest of Soul and Funk from the UK’s Master DJ
A couple of weeks ago I was chatting to my brother about music in general and the albums that I’d recently reviewed when I flippantly said “I can’t remember the last time I listened to music for fun.”
We laughed at the time; but it preyed on my mind for the next few days. I absolutely love music; and I hope that comes across on the website; but not to listen to music is sacrilege surely?
By sheer coincidence this album appeared on the TV adverts and I decide to fork out my own hard earned cash to purchase it; and it acted as a bit of a ‘pallet cleanser’ as I played it non-stop on a return journey to London (5 hours plus, each way) and a couple of times this week as I caught up on some paperwork and reports as part of my day job.
For those outside the UK Craig Charles started life as poet in the halcyon days of Punk; eventually evolving into one of the nation’s favourite actors (well; in our house anyway) all the while spinning discs for the pleasure of Soul and Funk fans across the country on his national radio show.
At face value; there shouldn’t be any surprises here as Craig has been a musical taste-maker for many years; but there are gorgeous surprises lurking all over these three discs.
Disc 1 is pretty much a Classic Soul album with timeless hits from the Otis Redding, Temptations, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, The Jacksons and Freda Payne rubbing shoulders with leftfield tracks by Little Richard, The Isley Brothers, Sly and the Family Stone and the golden larynx of Al Green.
But we also get a smattering of Northern Soul from Edwin Starr with 25 Miles; and who among us will ever tire of listening to Al Wilson singing The Snake?
The rarities from Bobby Byrd, Maceo and Bill Withers are well worth listening too.
Craig gets his ‘Funk On’ with Disc 2; and this was where my ears pricked up; as this genre is still a learning curve for me.
Starting with a couple of crossover hits from Wilson Pickett and Sam & Dave, I was soon in uncharted territory with Give Me a Little More Time from Chairman of the Board and Frank Wilson’s Do I Love You? Then the MFSB tune TSOP rekindled memories of Youth Centre discos and my mind was completely blown when I heard P-Funk by Parliament for the first time – Yowza! Yowza! Yowza!
I was thrilled to hear both Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings included as I love them both; but disappointed that there was no place for someone like the Commodores; although Johnny ‘Guitar’ Watson performing Ain’t That a Bitch? Isn’t a million miles away from Brick House.
Surprises land left right and centre on this disc with British R&B stalwart Georgie Fame reinventing Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag and seriously making it his own; and it’s a similar story with Sandie Shaw’s oblique version of the Stones Sympathy For the Devil. Why the Hell have I never heard that track before? It’s bloody amazing!
Those of us who listen to Craig’s radio shows wouldn’t expect anything less than a couple of tracks from Gil Scott Heron and Terry Callier to be included; and they are, but not the obvious by any stretch of the imagination – the Gil track is Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) done in his own distinctive manner; and Terry Callier very nearly steals the show with Ordinary Joe.
Disc 3 is worth the entry fee alone; as Craig Charles introduces us to 20 brand new acts that you ain’t gonna hear anywhere else; and the world is a better place for hearing them.
Opening with the only hit here Aloe Black – I Need a Dollar, my groove was most definitely ‘on’ as we sublimely glide through things of rare beauty from Omar, Shaun Escoffrey, The Excitements (from Spain and I saw in a Newcastle club two years ago), Betty Davis and The Apples.
Elsewhere the Funk gets a Jazz injection on cool tracks by Cookin’ on 3 Burners, Mario Biondi and the High Five Quintet and the exquisite Nick Pride and the Pimptones; all of which will make you do a soft shoe shuffle as you cling on to the one you love.
The track selection, order and mix is so intricate and clever you might even think thought had gone into the balance; as nothing here jars at all as one track seamlessly slides into another; whether you’d heard of the act or not.
It wouldn’t be fair if I didn’t highlight the one song that doesn’t quite work and sticks out like a sore thumb; and when I tell you what it is you will think I’ve lost my mind.
This version of RESPECT by the Sainted Aretha is actually a live track; and is presumably included because Craig loves the song but the fees for the original were too expensive. Sadly this version doesn’t do anyone any favours.
Three discs of this quality for plus or minus £10 is value beyond belief in my humble opinion.
Released October 2015