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Author's note: the following feature was originally drafted circa 2004 for the (now defunct) Vinyl Vulture collector's site, for whom I had already contributed some reviews of old (and usually obscure) records. Sadly it was declined: I recall they felt it wouldn’t be of interest to their readers. I begged to differ, and as I'd already put a lot of time and effort into it I thought it should be posted somewhere on the internet - in fact, it served as the original incentive for my own website. So here it is. I hope you share my opinion that it was Vinyl Vulture's loss…

   

Whenever there's a new musical trend, if Record Companies have got their wits about them they’ll leap aboard the bandwagon, no matter how paltry the product they may have available to offer the punters. So, throughout the 70's, the growing realisation of the commercial possibilities of music made in the main by acts of black (or multi-racial) origin led to a glut of cash-in compilations, initially relating to soul music, and later in the decade (the dreaded) disco. As you will soon see, in the haste to maximise profits many of these compos were stuffed with diabolical filler that was either of the extremely lightweight variety, well past its sell-by date, or didn't even fit the criteria at all: so when, exactly, did rock ‘n’ roll revivalists Showaddywaddy metamorphosise into disco dudes? 

However, on the plus side, the compilers also occasionally sought to make up the numbers by dusting off obscure funky gems that would otherwise have continued to languish in the vaults, or at best would otherwise have been exposed to only a handful of devotees. As such, I’ve worked my way through a considerable wedge of these compos, and have sought to prise the funk from the junk for your convenience. So next time one pops up at a car-boot, charity shop, or second-hand vinyl emporium of your acquaintance, you might consider investing a few bob on something you may otherwise have passed on – or not, as the case may be. 

Just a word of warning: although you may find this article informative, as well as (hopefully) entertaining, it is very much written as a subjective view, there being certain highly regarded artistes who operate in these areas whom I personally find highly irritating, if not entirely unpalatable. An obvious example that springs to mind is Aretha Franklin. The Queen of Soul? As far as I’m concerned, she’s the Queen of Scream. And as for James Brown and Sly Stone, well, more about them later...

This is my at-a-glance summary of the following compos, a composite rating based on the following criteria:

A - the percentage of stuff on the album that has some kind of funky groove

B - the quality of the funk

C - the level of track rarity/obscurity

D - the rarity of the album itself

If an album's rated 3 or less, don’t consider shelling out more than a pound (if even that) for it, unless you really feel you won’t be able to sleep at night otherwise. Between 4 and 6: lash out over a quid if you’re flush and/or feeling in a generous mood. 7 and above: whatever you fork out, if funk’s your thang you’re getting a good deal.

PART 1 (1971-1977)

    

Motown Gold 5 (Tamla Motown 1971)

Funk Factor: 7 (out of 10)

By the 70’s, Motown seemingly sensed their time as the soul singles market leader was up, so kept up with the times promoting their roster via the expanding album market. On this double compilation household names like Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye abound, but there’s also a large turnout of lesser lights, and some unexpected ones too – did you know that prior to “Bat Out Of Hell”, rock howler Meatloaf was a Motown artiste? The mind boggles. Surprisingly, there’s a fair bit of funky stuff to get your teeth into. The Crusaders (another unusual Motown signing) cover Sly Stone’s “Thank You” (and make a better fist of it without the distractions of drugs, groupies, and sycophantic rock hacks), whilst one Popcorn Wylie pops up with "Funky Rubber Band", possibly the most out-and-out Motown funker I've ever heard. But perhaps the really interesting act here is Rare Earth, a bunch of honkies who provide a marvellous mélange of funky rock, proving such alchemy possible. So how come they’re now all but forgotten, whilst Sly and Hendrix are revered for their (rather duff in my opinion) efforts in this field?

   

22 Dynamic Hits Volume II (K-Tel 1972)

Funk Factor: 3

My next pick isn’t a soul comp at all. In the early 70’s, before such things really began to proliferate, there was already a whole spate of recent chart hits compilation albums around (more often than not released by K-Tel) that broke new ground by licencing original material from other record companies, cramming as much of it onto vinyl as possible, and flogging it at bargain basement prices. K-Tel's sleeves were a real eyesore, a garish array of colours festooned with black and white photos of the acts concerned - presumably the budget didn’t run to colour pics, so the sleeves were luridly designed to compensate. The comps themselves showed no discrimination, ranging from candy-floss pop to album-oriented artistes who’d stumbled across the singles charts. Most of the black acts on this are of the reggae variety, but there's a couple of funky tracks, one being “Running Away” by (the over-rated) Sly Stone. However, also lurking among the makeweights (i.e. flop singles used to pad the album out) is Billy Preston’s more-to-my-taste pumping clavinet-led instrumental workout “Outa-Space”.

   

Pure Gold on EMI (EMI 1973)

Funk Factor: 1

Now, in true Max Bygraves style, I wanna tell you a story. When I was completing my junior school education, my parents offered me an irresistible incentive/bribe to pass my “11-plus” exam to advance to Grammar School: any album of my choice - something I’d never actually had the pleasure of owning before. So I duly obliged, and trotted off to WH Smiths to collect my booty. Whittled down to the following 2 contenders, which did I plump for? A K-Tel Chart Hits compo in an horrendous cover but groaning with my glam faves, or this EMI comp with its shiny alluring 3D block of gold bullion sleeve, containing not much glam at all (or much else of interest for that matter). No prizes for guessing my choice. Pure Gold? A classic case of fool’s gold! It also has to be said that EMI, that giant Record Company with its enormous resources, was practically a funk-free zone throughout the 70’s, the only real stuff of note dribbling in via its Motown licencing hookup, such as the Temptations’ “Psychedelic Shack” on this. No wonder I hate their horrible red and brown label so much.

   

Scorchin’ Soul (Sounds Superb c.1973)

Funk Factor: 2

Sounds Superb (an offshoot of cheapo label supreme Music For Pleasure, which was itself an offshoot of EMI) appears to be one of the first budget labels to have cashed in on the mushrooming 70’s soul scene. Visually they've pushed the boat out to persuade punters into procuring their product, with a sleeve featuring a foxy chick in funky denim threads and shades, apparently blissfully grooving away to the delights within. Unfortunately, the majority of the tracks (mainly from the sixties), contrary to the album’s title titillation are about as scorchin’ as an average day in Manchester (it’s not known as the Rainy City for nothing you know). But as most of them have been licenced from the Bell label (whose stellar acts included David Cassidy and the Bay City Rollers), that hardly comes a shock. The only thing that comes remotely close to funky terrain is Lee Dorsey’s spiky groove “Ride Your Pony”. Funnily enough, despite its prodigious output this was the only Music For Pleasure-related compilation that I managed to find for this feature – surely there must be more about?

   

Super Bad (K-Tel 1974)

Funk Factor: 4

Have you noticed that some artists’ impressive body of work is often overlooked by the ignorant majority, who only recall the big hit that true fans consider not only unrepresentative, but complete rubbish too.  Examples of this include: the Rolling Stones’ “Satisfaction”, Joni’s “Big Yellow Taxi”, and Stevie Wonder’s truly awful “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, for which he got his just desserts: losing over a decade of hard-earned credibility virtually overnight. Well, this LP features Curtis Mayfield’s equivalent of the above syndrome: “Move On Up”, that until fairly recently blinded me to the fact that Curtis actually turned out some proper super bad fare such as “Freddie’s Dead”, sadly not here. As for the rest of this album, it doesn’t quite live up to its dirty-lowdown blaxploitation image. For every great groove like the Isley Brothers’ “That Lady” there are several slices of soul schmaltz such as Gladys Knight’s “Midnight Train To Georgia”. The unearthed truffle here is “The Message” by Cymande, whose loose-limbed approach to funk is possibly due to their West Indian background.

       

Black Explosion (Ronco 1974)

Funk Factor: 3

Like their “as advertised on TV” rivals K-Tel, Ronco licenced tracks from various record companies for “tributes” to happening scenes. Somewhat curiously however, as well as providing bandwagon-jumping vinyl for the not-so-discerning customer, they also churned out a line of supposedly useful domestic devices (such as portable sewing machines), that usually turned out to be a complete waste of money. As far as the funk is concerned, take out the established heavyweights of Isaac Hayes’ "Theme From Shaft” (which I love) and Sly’s “Dance To The Music” (which I don’t), and you’re likely to find yourself listening to this album as often as making use of a Ronco household appliance i.e. hardly at all. Of the flyweights left, the main contenders are Wilson Pickett and Gladys Knight. But no matter how hard Wilson screams on his ’73 offering “Soft Soul Boogie Woogie”, he can’t break out of his 60’s bubble, so the award for funkiest find (surprisingly) goes to Glad, with “I’ve Got To Use My Imagination”. But honestly, the competition here is akin to two bald men fighting over a comb.

 

Motown Chartbusters Vol. 6 (Tamla Motown c.1974)

Funk Factor: 1

This compilation (in common with most of the “Motown Chartbusters” series) is more or less devoid of funk, so I include it here purely to comment on the sleeve design. OK, so Motown may have felt the need to garner themselves a more contemporary image, rather than let everyone continue to think they just existed in a 60’s time warp of “Baby Love” and “Dancing In The Street”, but surely this dystopian nightmare scenario by portentous sci-fi artist Roger Dean wasn’t the answer? The baffling decision to let this "distinctive” designer loose here has unsurprisingly resulted in a cover that screams absolute incongruity to the (soul) music within. It certainly confirms that the man was a one-trick pony who should have stuck to sleeve-designing chores for pretentious prog-rockers. And it did Motown no favours either. When his efforts for this album were submitted, the “Yes” man should have been given a resounding “No!” and shown the door. I sincerely hope this album bombed big time as a result of such a misguided decision, although the number of copies I've come across suggest otherwise.

   

Soul Train (Philips 1975)

Funk Factor: 7

Here we may well be taking a ride on the Soul Train, but it contains several funky carriages to stretch out in. Old favourites of mine the Ohio Players give us the super-sleazy “Skin Tight”, although disappointingly their other contribution is a dreary ballad. However, there are several other great grooves that are certainly new to these ears: if, like me, you’ve got time for the Godfather of Soul’s backing tracks but can’t handle his tuneless shrieks and grunts, then you should enjoy the less in-your-face variety as proffered by Joe Tex on a couple of cuts here. There’s also a surprisingly funky offering from old blues shouter Etta May, on which she “duets” with a nifty flute-y synth noise. And if you dig funked-up easy listening, check out Little Anthony’s cover of the old Francis Lai weepie “Theme From Love Story”. So when it comes to the funk on this double compo, it’s a case of full steam ahead - Whooh-Whooh! Who’d have thought a label as naff as Philips (the home of Peters and Lee plus Nana Mouskouri, lest we forget) had it in them to come up with such funky fare?

   

Souled Out (K-Tel c.1975)

Funk Factor: 5

K-Tel follow up “Super Bad” with another graffiti-laden compilation. The cringe-inducing title effortlessly secures the “Cheesiest Pun” award, but in contrast, the contents are far from embarrassing. The album as a whole features popular and well-respected soul hits from the early 70’s with relatively little filler, but there are a few obscure gems mixed in too. Isaac Hayes takes on his rival (or to put it more cynically his downmarket clone)  Barry White with a funky riff that snakes around the lurve celebration of “Joy”, whilst the Philadelphia International crew of Bunny Sigler and chums (billed as Executive Suite) stoke things up with “(I’ll Keep You Warm) When the Fuel Runs Out” – presumably a comment on the early 70’s power-crisis? However, the best is literally kept until last, as Ultrafunk (a British outfit? – see below) provide a super-funky platform for proto-rapper Mr Superbad to celebrate the profound musings (and kick-ass martial arts) of the “Kung-Fu Man”, as played by David Carradine in the great 70’s East-meets-Western TV series.

   

Disco Party (Adam VIII 1975)

Funk Factor: 2

Time to fleetingly nip over the pond into American compilation territory, with the Adam VIII label presumably being the Septic (tank, Yank) equivalent of K-Tel, Ronco, and their ilk. As far as such things were concerned Stateside, by this time disco was probably already well on its way to becoming the zeitgeist. I was looking forward to spinning this in anticipation of uncovering some rare funky nuggets from the unheard-of likes of the Moment Of Truth, and (bit of a mouthful this) the Love Childs Afro Cuban Blues Band. Unfortunately nothing without previous form was any good: like most of the big names here, it’s either lightweight soul or tedious variations on the hustle. However, you have to laugh - when they start running out of vaguely suitable material, filler is roped-in from the ridiculously non-disco sources of AOR monsters Styx and Bachman-Turner Overdrive (the “Smashie and Nicey” signature tune), and funniest of all, Nottingham’s finest Paper Lace, and their plodding paean to the Windy City “The Night Chicago Died”.

       

Disco Hits 75 (Arcade 1975)

Funk Factor: 2

When it came to the disco cash-in stakes in this country, “As seen on TV” specialists Arcade (whose releases were often targeted at the easy listening/Reader's Digest/pipe and slippers crowd) surprisingly appeared to be the first budget label out of the blocks, although inevitably they were soon joined by the rest of the pack (see below). Presumably, their haste to clamber aboard this particular bandwagon explains the preposterous presence of acts from as-far-from-disco-as- possible genres like Country and Western (Tammy Wynette, Ray Stevens), Glam Rock (the Glitter Band and their now-disgraced ex-Guv’nor), and early 60’s teen pop (Brian Hyland). Eliminate these and a few other aberrations and it’s in the main more powder-puff soul, with not much funk about other than the squelch-fest that is the Fatback Band’s “Yum-Yum”. Oh yes, there’s also the alleged “comedy” track “Funky Moped” by Jasper Carrott, which to near-quote Bernard Manning, is as funky as rabies in a guide dogs home.

 

Motown DiscoTech 2 (Tamla Motown 1975)

Funk Factor: 7

It seems evident from this album that the 60’s soul giants had started moving into the nascent disco market, complete with track segues. But before your eyes start glazing over, I can give you the good news is that the majority of the tracks here are likely to be of more than a little interest to the funk enthusiast. The Commodores contribute their own brand of funk with “Slippery When Wet”, whilst Norman Whitfield’s protégées the Undisputed Truth chip in with the odd but groovy gospel-funk hybrid “Help Yourself”. There are even creditable stabs at the genre by the normally far more sedate Smokey Robinson ("Virgin Man") and even more soporific Gladys Knight and the Pips ("Daddy I Could Swear I Declare"). But the undisputed jewel in the crown is the majestic unexpurgated 8-minute version of Eddie Kendricks’ chugging monster “Keep On Truckin’”. Talking of which, just a small point of interest here: am I alone in wondering why this supposedly full-length album cut doesn’t feature the crashing gong-like sound that appeared on the 45 edit?

   

Soul Motion (K-Tel 1976)

Funk Factor: 4

K-Tel continue their quest to make us all chortle with their penchant for coming up with cunning puns for their soul compos. And what is it with the seemingly mandatory graffiti-sprayed cover artwork? Were they trying to suggest that soulful sounds and social squalor went hand in hand? Whatever their intent, at least they still managed to get their hands on some decent gear, with only a few duffers spoiling the party. Familiar groove cuts from KC And The Sunshine Band, MFSB, and the O’Jays mingle with more laid back stuff like the Billy Paul smoocher “Me and Mrs Jones” (listen closely to hear just how eratic the drummer is). One of the  tracks that kick-started my journey on the funk freeway way back when is featured: the magnificent “Bus Stop” by the Fatback Band, still in my opinion the all-time king of the disco-funk crossover, even if it has been heard a little too often lately. But the dark horse here (if you’ll excuse the expression) is the sophisticated groove of Eddie Drennon’s “Let’s Do The Latin Hustle”.

 

Drivin' Soul (DJM 1976)

Funk Factor: 2

DJM’s output usually consisted of ropey old pop guff, with their biggest attraction by some distance (although God knows why) being the strangulated singing and plonking pub-rock piano playing of Elton John (henceforth referred to here as Fat Reg). So it comes somewhat as a surprise that they managed to cobble together a double LP’s worth of soul tracks. However, as far as funk fans are concerned one should tread very carefully. The likes of the Ohio Players, the O’Jays, and Jimmy McGriff may well be featured on this album, but sadly there’s nothing from their 70’s funky purple patches, just earlier soul/blues recordings from the 60’s, before they really got into gear (when I first drafted this, there was no pun intended here... honest). Unfortunately the rest of the tracks on this comp are pretty similar too: only Robert Parker’s “Barefootin’” (barely) qualifies for inspection on the funk-o-meter, as a pre-funk boogaloo-style strutter.

   

Motown Superstars (Ronco 1976)

Funk Factor: 3

Lurking behind the façade of the joyous and carefree sound of young black America, Motown puppet-master Berry Gordy was never one known to spurn opportunities to financially benefit from his empire (hey, this is the dude who co-wrote "Money", a brash statement of fiscal desire in an era of lovey-dovey lyrical schmaltz). So when those domestic appliance/budget compo chaps at Ronco came a-calling for his wares, he was no doubt happy to oblige at the right price. However, contrary to expectation this album is virtually entirely absent of the 60’s goodtime grooves that Motown is famed for, instead full of its more musically humdrum 70’s catalogue. Bad news then, for fans of the classic motor-city sound - what a con by Ronco, but also astute if despicable work by Mr Gordy, keeping hold of the crown jewels for himself and selling off the tat in its place. But their loss is our gain, for amongst the dreary flotsam and jetsam of the Jackson Five et al lies a solid slab of proto disco-funk that belies its title: “Shakey Ground” by the Temptations.

       

Disco Explosion Vol. 1 (Pickwick 1976)

Funk Factor: 4

Oh dear... Like Arcade before them, it would appear that ultra-cheapo label Pickwick latched onto the burgeoning disco scene with such alacrity, it seemed as if they weren’t exactly sure what disco actually was. They’ve scrabbled about to find anything that vaguely fits the bill, with less than convincing results – how they had the nerve to call this “Volume 1” begs disbelief. OK, probably more by luck than judgement they managed to get hold of a few TK tunes (by George McCrae plus KC and the Sunshine Band), but it’s another outrageous exercise in con-manship putting out this album under the disco banner when it’s full of stuff like cabaret soul (Maria Morgan), reggae (the Pyramids, Paul Davidson), and lightweight pop (Reparata). However, as far as funkateers are concerned, the album is saved from almost total embarrassment by the inclusion of the downright obscure Black Stash with their “Mighty Love Man”. It’s more likely a Mandingo-like concoction than bona-fide blaxploitation, but whatever, it sure sounds like funky pimp-shit, man.

   

Disco Rocket (K-Tel 1976)

Funk Factor: 3

K-Tel’s first apparent foray into disco territory suffers much the same malaise as similar early cheapo disco-comps, i.e. there’s not that much resembling disco music on it. Discotheques may have been around a while before the musical genre itself evolved, but surely no credible DJ in his right mind would even consider spinning utterly improper piffle by the likes of the Bay City Rollers or Manfred Mann’s Earth Band? One or two nascent disco groovers such as KC and the Sunshine Band’s “Shake Your Booty” give this hotch-potch a thin veneer of credibility, but it’s not until the end of side 2 that anything vaguely resembling funk comes riding over the horizon like the cavalry, with the appearance of the classic War chugger “Low Rider” (a.k.a. the Marmite music), and the surprisingly strong funky groove of “Disco Music” from the British-based JALN Band, one of several outfits who were outrageously airbrushed from DJ Trevor Nelson’s recent TV overview of the UK soul scene (he erroneously proclaimed Hi Tension as the nation's first-ever funk band).

   

Disco Dancers (CBS 1976)

Funk factor: 5

Like all the “majors”, CBS had its share of white rock superstars to cater for the easily pleased (Dylan, Springsteen, etc), but unlike EMI for example, they made sure they also had a smattering of soul-oriented acts on their roster, even if their motives were more likely pecuniary than altruistic. So with any CBS comp you were likely to get your money’s worth. Of course, this being the early days of disco most tracks here lean more to the funky soul side than true disco as it came to be loved or loathed, depending on your point of view. A good example is soul vet Johnny Taylor’s “Disco Lady”. When I heard this on its UK release, I naively thought “this isn’t very good disco… it's far too laid back”. Now I realise it’s not actually disco at all. It would not be surprising were it originally titled “Sexy Lady” (or similar) until Johnny’s paymasters leant on him to incorporate the new buzzword. If so, then highly cynical, but of course it paid off as it sold millions in the US. Now when listened to in proper context, it’s quite funky – a shame I couldn’t see it that way years earlier.

   

Dance to the Music (K-Tel 1977)

Funk Factor: 2

There is some evidence here that by now K-Tel’s carpet-bombing approach to compos was paying off, as their unsightly sleeves were now being splattered with colour pics of the acts involved, rather than plain old monochrome. But equally clear was they hadn’t ploughed back too much of their ill-gotten gains into the actual contents, as non-danceable travesties are much in evidence, such as teen scream cheeky chappie David Essex’s plea to “Hold Me Close” – I’d rather not thanks, David. As for Fat Reg’s turgid contribution “Benny And The Jets”, this may well be considered funky by his own lamentable standards, but not by anyone else’s. The closest thing to funk is that reliable old pastiche (and in my view an extremely good one) “Play That Funky Music” by white boys Wild Cherry, which I’m surprised hasn’t surfaced on these compos more often than it does. For surreal strangeness though, check out ageing MOR syrupy harmony dudes the Sandpipers blustering their way through a disco version of 60’s pop trash “Hang On Sloopy”.

   

Black Joy (Ronco 1977)

Funk Factor: 4

I had to resort to my trusty Halliwell’s Film Guide to inform you this was the soundtrack to a low-budget UK comedy cataloging the ups and downs of ethnic immigrants. Here the ubiquitous Ronco have gathered a wide but fairly shallow selection of popular soul stuff, the pick being the Moments’ saucy “Girls”. However, once one delves deeper a few goodies emerge. The Cimarons are a reggae act, but their version of the title track features some nice squelchy and spacey dub sounds, and the Real Thing actually surprise with an OK bash at funk “Dance With Me”. However the best cut is a strange but cool funky-reggae hybrid by Lee Vanderbilt called “Lonely I”. Meanwhile on the domestic appliance front, you will be pleased to learn the inner sleeve provides us with info on such essential Ronco products as a flower loom, a spin slicer, and the indispensable “cookie machine”. However, any devoted disc-spinner would ignore these goods in favour of the wondrous “record vacuum”, which not only cleans your vinyl, but helps keep it free of static too.

   

The Sound Of Things To Come (CTI 1977)

Funk Factor: 6

Of high repute, CTI (founded by the legendary 60’s Verve label jazz/bossa nova producer Creed Taylor) was THE jazz-fusion label in the early 70’s. But even they weren’t immune to bolstering their bank accounts with cash-ins given the right opportunity. As jazz-funk mutated into disco, so the label encouraged its artists to go with the flow, classic examples on this compo being blues veteran Esther Phillips’ driving funked-up take on the old standard “What A Difference A Day Made”, as well as top tinseltown tunesmith Lalo Schifrin’s venture into disco waters with his pulsing adaptation of the scary “Jaws” theme. Another snapshot of the crossover is flautist Hubert Laws’ “Love Loop”, sounding like a disco-fied theme for a glossy 70’s sex ‘n’ scandal serial, as penned by Harold Robbins or similar pulp author. For fans of funkier fusion, there’s Deodato’s familiar classic(al) reading of "Also Sprach Zarathustra" (a.k.a. “2001") along with perhaps the ultimate in jazz-funk-fusion grooves, Grover Washington’s  “Mr Magic”, although alas not here in its full glory.  

   

Soul City (K-Tel 1977)

Funk Factor: 4

K-Tel make yet another sortie into the soul marketplace, although someone should have told them that by now it was being fast superceded by the escalating disco phenomenon. There are a few quality (if not that obscure) funky groovers here such as Kool And The Gang’s “Open Sesame” and MFSB’s “Sexy”, and Earth Wind and Fire are also present, but only with their somewhat drab stab at funk “Saturday Nite”. Disco IS actually represented, in the form of Silver Convention and Donna Summer, although the latter’s “Love To Love You Baby” doesn’t particularly benefit from the association – it’s far funkier than given credit for. Caribbean crew Cymande have another opportunity to impress with “Friends”, but it’s a much less essential acquisition than “The Message” (as featured on “Super Bad”). Overall, an OK “starter” album showcasing the soul/funk/disco scene, good for those unfortunate souls being weaned off lesser forms of music (oft induced purely by peer pressure) such as heavy metal, but not of much value to the funk completist.

   

Boogie Nights (Ronco 1977)

Funk Factor: 3

For their next bandwagon-jumping budget bonanza, Ronco went cap-in-hand to the mighty CBS. Knowing that they had the upper hand, the latter presumably agreed to lease the purveyors of little-used labour-saving devices some of their booty, but only at a high price. In a deal the Dirty Digger would be proud of, the package not only included stuff that disco-crazy Joe Public was chomping at the bit for (the equivalent of “Sky Sports” or “The Movie Channel”), but also unwanted and unasked-for tack, vis-à-vis “The Shopping Channel” or “Men And Motors”. So as a result, quality boogieing-on-down-to material by Heatwave (another pre-Hi Tension UK funk band), Wild Cherry, and the Philadelphia International All-Stars sits uneasily alongside boogie-free contributions from the Sutherland Brothers, Noosha Fox, and worst of all, the aptly-monikered Dead End Kids with their wretched cover of the 60’s pop flim-flam “Have I The Right”.  No obscure funk lurking here alas, but some kudos must go to Ram Jam for their disco-metal fusion “Black Betty”.

   

Disco Fever (K-Tel 1977)

Funk Factor: 1

It’s 1977, and the world gets Saturday Night Fever fever (see below), so K-Tel inevitably follow where others dare to lead, and offer penniless punters their own down-market variety. It’s funny how David Soul, whose totally incongruous schmaltzy twaddle seems omnipresent on these disco comps, never actually gets to feature on any of the soul variety, where at least his name would be appropriate if not his music. As far as most of the rest of these tracks are concerned (T-Connection’s disco-funk behemoth “Do What You Wanna Do” excepted, but even that’s been hacked to pieces in this edited version), the fever here might as well be sleeping sickness. However, with regard to this compo I think I’d rather elect to suffer from any debilitating (even life-threatening) illness of your choosing, than be exposed to the pain inflicted through listening to the likes of the Brotherhood Of Man, Meri Wilson, and in particular Joy Sarney’s odious ode inspired by a Punch and Judy Show “Naughty Naughty Naughty”.

   

Saturday Night Fever (RSO 1977)

Funk Factor: 3

It would be almost sacrilegious to have written this feature without taking a look at the undisputed daddy of disco compo's, so I appropriately draw down the veil on this section by doing just that. Although millions acquired this album for the Bee Gees hits, there were probably just as many who were appalled at the thought of touching it with a bargepole for exactly the same reason. That included new wavers, metal-heads and funkateers alike - behavioural scientists will tell you that disparate forces often unite against a common enemy. As far as the Brothers Gibb are concerned I’m a sucker for their disco-era work, but a friend of mine has likened their falsetto squawk to having a razor-sharp knife thrust up one’s jacksy. But looking beyond the contributions of the toothsome tremulous trio, what do we find? Mainly disco filler, but for the funkophile the album’s worth picking up cheap for MFSB’s exciting slice of philly groove “K-Jee”, and in particular the monumental 10-minute version of the Trammps’ yardstick that is “Disco Inferno” – burn baby burn!

     

A handy cut-out and keep Funk Factor Table: to accompany you on crate-digging missions!

ALBUM

LABEL

YEAR

F.F.

Motown Gold 5

Tamla Motown

1971

7

22 Dynamic Hits Vol.2

K-Tel

1972

3

Pure Gold On EMI

EMI

1973

1

Scorchin’ Soul

Sounds Superb (MFP)

c.1973

2

Super Bad

K-Tel

1974

4

Motown Chartbusters Vol. 6

Tamla Motown

c.1974

1

Black Explosion

Ronco

1974

3

Soul Train

Philips

1975

7

Souled Out

K-Tel

c.1975

5

Disco Party

Adam VIII

1975

2

Motown Disco-Tech 2

Tamla Motown

1975

7

Disco Hits 75

Arcade

1975

2

Soul Motion

K-Tel

1976

4

Motown Superstars

Ronco

1976

3

Drivin' Soul

DJM

1976

2

Disco Explosion Vol.1

Pickwick

1976

4

Disco Rocket

K-Tel

1976

3

Disco Dancers

CBS

1976

5

Dance To The Music

K-Tel

1977

2

Black Joy

Ronco

1977

4

The Sound Of Things To Come

CTI

1977

6

Soul City

K-Tel

1977

4

Boogie Nights

Ronco

1977

3

Disco Fever

K-Tel

1977

1

Saturday Night Fever

RSO

1977

3

  onwards to Funk amongst the Junk Part 2 (1978-1984)

Please note: this article is copyrighted (as at March 2005), and cannot be reproduced for any commercial purpose without permission of its author. Any enquiries etc, please email me.

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