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Saturday, March 15, 2008

The Desco Funk 45' Collection - Spike's Choice 1&2

The new funk movement that is currently represented by Big Daddy, Stark Reality and Poets of Rhythm owes a debt to Desco Records. One of the key players in popularizing live funk for a new generation, the New York label specialized in limited-issue 45s of new acts until its closure in 2000. As each single was limited to 500 copies, they sold out quickly, making it nearly impossible to build a complete collection. Thankfully, Spike's Choice brings together the first twelve singles in their entirety in one handy CD.

The dominant influences here are boogaloo and James Brown, as will be made clear by the Sugarman Three, Lee Fields and Sharon Jones, all of whom are decisively retro in their approach. Hard drums, honking sax, and strident vocals are hallmarks of the Desco sound, erupting to life on "Soul Jasper" by house band Soul Providers and Jones' low-down cover of JB's "I Got the Feeling." Ravi Harris and his Prophets offer a trippy alternative brand of funk on "Thunderbird" and "Path of the Blazing Sarong." These sides are simply some of the funkiest released in the last ten years. Spike's Choice is a crucial document of the resurgence of funk.
Classic '70s-style funk enjoyed a massive resurgence in popularity during the '90s, not only providing the basis for the vast majority of hip-hop recorded during the decade, but also becoming a party music of choice on college campuses otherwise dominated by politically correct alternative rock; moreover, funky jazz acts like Medeski, Martin & Wood moved into the good graces of neo-hippie, jam-band audiences, and even most alternative metal bands bore some semblance of the music's stamp, thanks to predominantly rock-oriented acts like Faith No More and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. So it's somewhat surprising, even with the advent of sampling technology, that a full-scale funk revival movement, centered around old-school bands who played live instruments, never quite took shape. Thankfully, the New York-based Desco Records, founded by Philippe Lehman and Gabriel Roth, moved in to fill that vacuum in 1997, releasing a series of 45 rpm records devoted to funk of every flavor. The company moved into the CD market in 1998, and anyone who missed out on those vinyl issues can easily catch up with Spike's Choice: The Desco Funk 45 Collection, which collects the A and B sides of the company's first 12 singles. The dominant influence here is James Brown, both in the straight-ahead, late-'60s-style funk of singers like Sharon Jones, Joseph Henry, and the masterful Lee Fields, and the J.B.'s-derived instrumentals by the Other Side and the label's house band, the Soul Providers. Elsewhere, the groundbreaking Ravi Harris and the Prophets deliver a trancey, sitar-driven variation on the sound, and the Sugarman Three proffer a greasy brand of soul-jazz boogaloo reminiscent of artists like Lou Donaldson. It's all performed live, and it all sounds astoundingly authentic and organic, which makes this already enjoyable music even more infectious. Whether the singles collected on Spike's Choice prove to be the start of something big or not, they stand on their own as some of the funkiest of the decade.

Spike's Choice, Vol. 2 is the second CD collection of funk-revival label Desco's terrific limited-edition 45s, featuring the A- and B-sides of eight singles (all tracks are making their CD debuts). Aside from the Sugarman Three (who cover Lou Donaldson's "Turtle Walk") and Joseph Henry (who guests as lead vocalist for the otherwise instrumental, Meters-influenced Mighty Imperials), none of the acts were present on the first volume of Spike's Choice. The Daktaris open the collection with their brand of Fela Kuti-style Afro-funk, and there's old-style Southern soul from Naomi Davis and the Knights of 41st Street, who welcome guest organist Cliff Driver. Perhaps the most intriguing discovery, though, is the insane energy of the Unstoppable S. Robinson and His Marvelaires. The collection is highly recommended for old-school funk fans hungry for new material in the genre, especially those who enjoyed the first volume.
Steve Huey, All Music Guide

Spike's Choice - The Desco Funk 45' Collection Vol I

1. Side A. Let A Man Do What He Wanna Do - Lee Fields
2. Side B. Steam Train - Lee Fields
3. Side A. Diggin' Up The Yard - The Other Side
4. Side B. You Do Something I Don't Do Nothing - The Other Side
5. Side A. Path Of The Blazing Sarong - Ravi Harris & The Prophets
6. Side B. Hot Pants Road - Ravi Harris & The Prophets
7. Side A. Damn It's Hot (Part 1) - SHARON JONES
8. Side B. Damn It's Hot (Part 2) - SHARON JONES
9. Side A. Bump N Touch (Part 1) - SHARON JONES
10. Side Hook And Sing Meets The Funky Superfly (Part 1) - SHARON JONES
11. Side A. Thunderbird (Part 1) - Ravi Harris & The Prophets
12. Side B. Thunderbird (Part 2) - Ravi Harris & The Prophets
13. Side A. Earl's Backywad Barbecue - The Soul Providers/Bosco's Billionaires
14. Side B. Freddy's Ribs - The Soul Providers/Bosco's Billionaires
15. Side A. Soul Jasper - The Soul Providers
16. Side B. Let The Music Take Your Mind - The Soul Providers
17. Side A. Who's The King? (You Know That's Me) - Joseph Henry
18. Side B. I Feel Right - Joseph Henry
19. Side A. You Better Thing Twice - SHARON JONES
20. Side B. I Got The Feeling - SHARON JONES
21. Side A. Take It Or Leave It - Lee Fields
22. Side B. Hay Sallie Mae Get Off My Feet - Lee Fields
23. Side A. Papa's Got A Brand New Bag - Sugarman Three
24. Side B. Double Cross - Sugarman Three

Spike's Choice - The Desco Funk 45' Collection Vol II

1. In The Middle Stereo
2. Forty First Street Breakdowne
3. Catapult
4. Cherry Pickin'
5. Turtle Walk
6. Kick The Blanket
7. Toothpick
8. Waiting For The Juice
9. Humpin'
10. Humpin' Part 2
11. Never Found A Girl
12. Matador
13. Talking About A Good Thing Part 1
14. Talking About A Good Thing Part 2


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