20 Lost Funk Gems


Let’s get funky. There are lots of great “lost” funk albums out there. Here are ten, a dozen, 15, 20 of my favorites:

Rasputin’s Stash | Rasputin’s Stash – Little-known but widely sampled, this Chicago-based group released its self-titled debut in 1971 before encountering a series of bad breaks that ensured they would only release two albums total. Shortly after dropping Rasputin’s Stash, four of the group’s eight members left the band, and then their record label folded. Coulda, shoulda, woulda been a hit, but it’s still totally funky.

Listen: Mr. Cool

Mutiny | Mutiny On The Mamaship – Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey was a drummer with Parliament and Funkadelic, until leaving those groups after a dustup over salary. His next group, Mutiny, plumbed the P-Funk sound, with a healthy dose of righteous anger, playful mockery, and pure funk. Their 1978 album Mutiny On The Mamaship is almost the equal of any of the P-Funk bombs…

Listen: Lump

Magnum | Fully Loaded – Nothing subtle here. This group of LA teenagers banged out nasty, sub-Funkadelic guitar grooves while calling for revolution, comparing guns to orgasms, and yearning for warm wet nipples. A must-have for those who like their funk gritty and guitar-heavy…

Listen: Evolution

Various Artists | Nigeria Disco Funk Special: The Sound Of The Underground Lagos Dancefloor 1974-1979 – North America wasn’t the only continent getting down in the 70s, as this compilation amply proves. Nigeria was awash in funky grooves during that decade, and they weren’t all coming from Fela Kuti. The Sahara All-Stars, Bongos Ikwue & The Groovies, and T-Fire are but three of the nine forgotten funkateers captured here.

Listen: Take Your Soul [The Sahara All-Stars]

Sugarman 3 | Pure Cane Sugar – Funk lives! Released in 2002, this is the newest music on this list by a couple of decades, but you wouldn’t know by listening – Pure Cane Sugar is raw funk by the pound, and sounds like dusty vintage stuff. This New York City four-piece combo (don’t let the name fool you) has the chops to fit in seamlessly with the other bands mentioned here…

Listen: Funky So-And-So

B.T. Express | Non-Stop – This Brooklyn band is perhaps best known for their 1974 smash, ‘Do It (‘Til You’re Satisfied)’, but they’re hardly a household name when it comes to funk. Their 1975 sophomore album, Non-Stop, is a fine example of the state of funk at that time, blending hard funk with the occasional clutch of strings. Forgive the eminently forgettable cover of The Carpenters’ ‘Close To You’, and this one holds up well…

Listen: Peace Pipe

Betty Davis | Betty Davis – While Miles Davis was dabbling in jazz/funk fusion in the early 70s, his wife Betty was busy putting out some of the nastiest funk to be found anywhere. Featuring a star-studded band that includes drummer Gregg Errico and bassist Larry Graham of Sly & The Family Stone fame, as well as guitarist Neil Schon and keyboardist Merl Saunders, Betty Davis is high quality, super sexy funk.

Listen: If I’m In Luck I Might Get Picked Up

Swamp Dogg | Total Destruction To Your Mind – During the 1970s, Jerry Williams Jr was the kookiest funk artist this side of George Clinton. He wrote songs that were grabbed from the headlines of the day, he wrote songs that were out of this world, and he wrote good old fashioned love songs. But everything he wrote was funky, and wonderfully off-kilter. Fittingly, his gloriously subversive albums remain stubbornly out of print…

Listen: Total Destruction To Your Mind

Osibisa | Superfly T.N.T. Soundtrack – This won’t make anyone forget Curtis Mayfield’s brilliant soundtrack to the original Superfly, but that’s a standard few albums could meet. Instead, Osibisa’s free-flowing Caribbean grooves make for an excellent companion piece to Mayfield’s masterpiece. This is blaxploitation with a hint of brotherhood…

Listen: Superfly Man

The Upstroke | Porno Groove: The Sound Of 70’s Adult Films – This 2009 album compiles some of the best music from a batch of vintage porn films. Fantasy (not to be confused with Fanstasy Records) was behind many adult titles in the 70s, including Honeydew, Insatiable, and Ride Me Like A Wave. When the company’s founder passed away in 1985, its intellectual property became tied up in the legal system. In 2008, a huge collection of soundtrack material from those films was unearthed, and the best of that stash is featured here…

Listen: Greatful Head [from Jayne’s Woodstock Adventure]

Ripple | Ripple – Both sides of this 1973 LP start off like disco-lite, including the album-opening minor hit ‘You Were Right On Time’, before building up to furious funk jams that redeem this album’s place on this list. Ripple sounds like a self-contained history of the musical transition from funk to disco…

Listen: Get Off

Eddie Palmieri | Harlem River Drive – The title track is a groovy spin through a muggy New York City. Pianist Palmieri formed his first band at age 14 in 1950, and has been going strong ever since. This 1971 album is his funkiest, and a good stand in for all the funky Fania and boogaloo albums of the 70s, by the likes of Joe Cuba, Ray Barretto and Willie Colon…

Listen: Harlem River Drive [Theme Song]

Gil Scott-Heron and Brian Jackson | From South Africa To South Carolina – It might have a message, but it’s still pretty damn funky.

Listen: Johannesburg

Exit 9 | Straight Up – Exit 9 was a super tight, nine piece funk band that (like many artists on this list) made the occasional foray into soul. Straight Up hits like the work of a harder-edged version of Earth Wind & Fire, and while it’s understandable why this group didn’t achieve superstar status, they deserve better than total obscurity…

Listen: Jive Man

Black Nasty | Talking To The People – Like Funkadelic, Black Nasty was a Detroit-based funk group that featured rock-styled guitar and soulful organ. They’ve been billed as the heaviest band on Stax Records, but their lone album, 1973′s Talking To The People, is several measures more soulful than any of Funkadelic’s early stuff, and reflects the soul-weariness of the early 70s… [read full review]

Listen: Talking To The People

Larry Williams & Johnny Watson | Two For The Price Of One – It’s hard to say where the “urban soul” of the late 60s ends and the raw funk of the early 70s begins, but Larry Williams and Johnny Watson’s 1967 album Two For The Price Of One is probably one milepost in that transition. Williams’ gruff vocals make harmless lines like “Sock it to me!” sound like a pointed invitation, while Watson kicks out the funky jams.

Listen: Two For The Price Of One

Eugene McDaniels | Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse – Jerry Wexler called him “the black Bob Dylan” and the left rev. Eugene McDaniels played with jazz musicians, but Headless Heroes Of The Apocalypse plays like a smoldering, righteous black power funk album. McDaniels was known as a hit-making songwriter for Les McCann & Eddie Harris (‘Compared To What’) and Roberta Flack (‘Feel Like Making Love’) before taking this solo turn. Its final track equated white people with a parasite in America, and earned Ahmet Ertegun a call from Nixon’s White House, which got McDaniels canned from Atlantic Records.

Listen: The Lord Is Back

Mother’s Finest | Another Mother Further – This is the only opener that blew P-Funk off its own stage. According to P-Funk bassist Cardell “Boogie” Mosson, “You had bands that wanted to kick our ass, but I’d say Mother’s Finest is about the one. We’d done a couple of concerts with them, and, you know, we wasn’t stroking on that funk, and they tightened that ass.” It’s easy to see how — this is big, stadium-ready funk with huge guitar hooks and singalong choruses.

Listen: Mickey’s Monkey

Exuma | Reincarnation – The artist born Macfarlane Gregory Anthony Mackey was born in the Bahamas, and it shows in his music. Reincarnation is more chameleon than album, shifting colors with every track. Exuma alternately sounds like a Bahamian Cat Stevens, a fired-up Taj Mahal, a raving voodoo witch doctor, and Richie Havens at Woodstock. And if you can’t get behind that combination, I’ve got a couple of George Winston albums for you…

Listen: Exuma, The Obeah Man [not from Reincarnation]

Various Artists | Car Wash Soundrack – This one sold a ton, but because of its title track, nobody thinks of it as a bumping funk album. It’s got some soul, some disco, and some Richard Pryor – a nice blend of 70s sounds, but it’s definitely funky… [read full review]

Listen: 6 O’Clock DJ (Let’s Rock)


Also funky…

Mandrill | Composite Truth
Cymande | Cymande
The Pharoahs | In The Basement
Bo Diddley | Where It All Began
Syl Johnson | Complete Mythology
Black Sugar | Black Sugar
John Lee Hooker | Free Beer And Chicken
Various Artists | The Funky 16 Corners
Budos Band | Budos Band II
Various Artists | Bay Area Funk

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2 Responses to “20 Lost Funk Gems”

  1. Aram Says:

    Years ago, I was driving around LA in my dad’s old Supra. All it had for music was a crappy radio that barely picked up any stations at all. Somehow I found a soul station and, before I knew it, I was listening to a song that I thought was one of the funkiest things I’d ever heard. Now, granted, I’m not anywhere close to being an authority on the subject of the funk, but this song struck me as particularly funky, with strong James Brown overtones. Turns out it wasn’t James Brown at all. It was a song called I Can Understand It, by a band called New Birth. I haven’t listened to it in a while, but I just checked out a sample of it on Amazon and, yeah, I still think it brings the funk…

  2. Arlo Chingaderas Says:

    A fine lineup indeed… the funk will set you free!!!

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