What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves from the Vaults of Atlantic, Atco & Warner Bros. Records

Gift Guide

Box Sets

What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Grooves from the Vaults of Atlantic, Atco & Warner Bros. Records

(Rhino)

In a tidy little box approximating the dimensions of a dozen 45s stacked neatly atop one another, the 4-CD What It Is! retraces the path of funk leaving its indelible imprint on soul, jazz, and Latin sounds, 1967-77. The rampant and obscure share equal billing as thick, syncopated rhythms lock into an enigmatic pattern, monster stomps by the Bar-Kays, Curtis Mayfield, Aretha Franklin, and Earth, Wind & Fire keeping things familiar, while rarities push this collection into the essential. Unless you're in the market for out-of-print vinyl, many of the mightiest songs compiled here will remain out of contemporary reach. Fringe singles produced during Sly Stone's There's a Riot Goin' On watershed appear in the form of "Stanga" by Little Sister and "I'm Just Like You" by 6ix. The Meters crop up all over the place, including contributions to Cyril Neville's "Gossip," Eldridge Holmes' "Pop, Popcorn Children," the Rhine Oaks' "Tampin," Dr. John's "Rite Away," and their own "Chug Chug Chug-a-Lug." As Ananda Shankar and the Mystic Moods prove that wicked funk often originates from the most unlikely of places, artists including Mongo Santamaria, Harlem River Drive, Malo, and Macondo remind us that funk never would have gained its bearings without first being influenced by tropical heat. Extensive liner notes yield valuable insight into the background of musicians otherwise forgotten or hardly acknowledged in the first place. Never letting up in intensity, What It Is! is nothing less than a blessing from the funk gods.

****

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