Funk

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The worlds of jazz and funk have been intertwined since the early days when James Brown brought us the One. Both genres have been such an influence on each other over the years that it is often hard to tell where one starts and the other ends.

The funk genre at JMA is not an exhaustive list of all the funk bands in the world, but is instead a list of the best, most pure funk bands that are of the most interest to jazz fans. Our definition of pure funk can be found in the music of James Brown, Bootsy Collins and Parliament.

Funk is a genre that is often misunderstoood, poorly imitated and pimped for all the wrong reasons. You will find none of that at JMA. Its hard to describe what is pure funk, but often it involves interweaving snippets of syncopated melody that intertwine in circles within loops and land on the one every other bar. Funk artists such as Bootsy and Parliament, with their constant improvised polyphony, are closer to the concept of early jazz than most jazz artists since the 1930s.

funk top albums

Showing only albums and live's | Based on members ratings & JMA custom algorithm

PARLIAMENT Mothership Connection Album Cover Mothership Connection
PARLIAMENT
4.89 | 9 ratings
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SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE Stand! Album Cover Stand!
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
4.58 | 11 ratings
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FUNKADELIC Let's Take It to the Stage Album Cover Let's Take It to the Stage
FUNKADELIC
4.67 | 6 ratings
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FUNKADELIC One Nation Under A Groove Album Cover One Nation Under A Groove
FUNKADELIC
4.54 | 8 ratings
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JAMES BROWN The Payback Album Cover The Payback
JAMES BROWN
4.73 | 3 ratings
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TROY 'TROMBONE SHORTY' ANDREWS Trombone Shorty Album Cover Trombone Shorty
TROY 'TROMBONE SHORTY' ANDREWS
4.62 | 4 ratings
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JAMES BROWN Revolution of the Mind Album Cover Revolution of the Mind
JAMES BROWN
4.93 | 2 ratings
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JAMES BROWN Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud Album Cover Say It Loud: I'm Black and I'm Proud
JAMES BROWN
4.90 | 2 ratings
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FUNKADELIC Funkadelic Live - Meadowbrook, Rochester, Michigan 1971 Album Cover Funkadelic Live - Meadowbrook, Rochester, Michigan 1971
FUNKADELIC
4.90 | 2 ratings
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SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE Life (aka M'Lady) Album Cover Life (aka M'Lady)
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
5.00 | 1 ratings
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CANDIDO (CANDIDO CAMERO) Beautiful Album Cover Beautiful
CANDIDO (CANDIDO CAMERO)
5.00 | 1 ratings
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JAMES BROWN It's A Mother Album Cover It's A Mother
JAMES BROWN
4.50 | 2 ratings
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This list is in progress since the site is new. We invite all logged in members to use the "quick rating" widget (stars bellow album covers) or post full reviews to increase the weight of your rating in the global average value (see FAQ for more details). Enjoy JMA!

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BIG SAM'S FUNKY NATION
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funk Music Reviews

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE A Whole New Thing

Album · 1967 · Funk
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siLLy puPPy
SLY & THE FAMILY STONE weren't kidding around when they titled their debut album A WHOLE NEW THING which hit the market in 1967. The San Francisco band wasn't only a cutting-edge band musically by fusing soul, funk, rock and psychedelic music, but they were also one of the first successful bands to have a racially mixed lineup that had both girls and boys playing together like good little kids should. Despite all this groundbreaking effort though, the album went virtually unheard by the listening public at large but it was an immediate hit for musicians and those lucky enough to find it on their turntables. A likely story. The material wasn't “commercial” enough and because it was so different and didn't fit in with any radio formats thus receiving no airplay and despite being on a major record label, little was done in terms of promotion. Sly was urged to write more radio friendly tunes and soon after this release of this album, “Dance To The Music” was released which got the band recognized.

Musically this album is far from a throwaway. It shows a promising young act with a whole heap of strong tracks here. Although the songwriting isn't quite as strong as the following two albums for this first phase of S&TFS's career, it certainly has a few winners such as “Underdog,” “Turn Me Loose” and “Run, Run, Run.” In fact most of the album is quite pleasant with the exception of a couple out-of-place mediocre ballads that interfere with the flow. Certainly not the best album the FAMILY came up with but considering how revolutionary this sound was at the time and that there are plenty of interesting tracks to be had, this is required listening in my book.

SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE Life (aka M'Lady)

Album · 1968 · Funk
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siLLy puPPy
Although this was one of the least successful of their albums in terms of sales, I find this to be my favorite early album by SLY & THE FAMILY STONE before they would begin to experiment and expand their sound on the following album STAND. This album continues the group's unique mix of soul, funk and R&B but with catchier tunes that are more refined and polished until they shine! Every track on here is super catchy with the perfect mix of funk laced grooves backed up by a totally satisfying horn section. The entire band is on fire here delivering the most enthusiastic of performances. The music on this album has been a gold mine for samplings of hip hop and electronic musicians alike.

The songs are filled with that idealistic 60s glee and still not politically charged as they would become on future releases but rather focus more on personal issues like the dating scene or groupies. My favorites are the ones about animals. The track “Chicken” is just brilliant as the bass line actually sounds like a chicken! The track “I'm An Animal” could refer I guess to a suppressed atavistic repression of our evolutionary history but I rather think it was born out of the desire to have a lot of fun with the tune instead since the whole band is so playful with it.

Although this is one of the lesser appreciated albums by the group simply because it's overshadowed by the following albums, I highly recommend this as an essential listening experience because this is the pinnacle of their first phase and although it may not be able to compete with the complexity of the others, it is one of the funnest of the bunch that always gives me that warm fuzzy funky feeling every time I hear it. The only complaint I have about this album is that it is way too short. So catchy are these tunes that the earworms often demand that I listen to it twice! A rare thing indeed. Simply a classic of the ages. And always remember: you don't have to die before you live!

JUNIE MORRISON When We Do

Album · 1975 · Funk
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js
George Clinton has referred to Walter “Junie” Morrison as one of the top musical geniuses of our time, and one listen to Junie’s debut album, “When We Do” we’ll convince you that, once again, George is on the one. Junie hasn’t exactly gone un-recognized in the world of music, but he should probably be more well known given his accomplishments. Our story begins when Walter is involved with the Ohio Player’s earliest and most creative years, his bizarre synthesizer based surprise hit, “Funky Worm”, launched a new modern funk sound that remains influential to today. Later, after Junie left the Players, he helped revitalize Funkadelic and took part in some of their most successful albums. After that, he spent some time as a co-conspirator on many George Clinton recordings. Sometime back in the mid 70s, in between stints with the Players and Funkadelic, Morrison took the time to knock out this very creative art-funk album, one of the best you will find in the genre.

As you can expect, “When We Do”, is reminiscent of early Funkadelic and Ohio Players, but there is also some art rock influence of the David Bowie/Beatles variety, occasional Frank Zappa styled rapid changeups, plus that ambitious studio-derived expansive sound that goes with albums like Hendrix’s “Electric Ladyland” and Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Goin On”. Obviously Morrison spent a lot of time on the production as falsetto voices will fade into watery psychedelic drift and orchestral strings mix with psychedelic guitars and a variety of keyboards. The creative orchestral approach of this album can also recall some of Quincy Jones’ best 70s work. It sounds like Junie took a little more time on side one, as it is the more creative side. Side two winds out with a few numbers that are good, but no match for the material the album opened with. Also, side two starts to lean a bit more towards the ballad side of things, but fortunately, Junie’s ballads do come across as heartfelt, not the gratuitous cheeze that mars some RnB albums. Despite the funk and RnB influences, this album isn't really a groove laden dance album, instead, Morrison uses the RnB elements as another part of his personal musical panorama.

This is an excellent diverse funk based album that rates well against other top albums from the funkafied 70s era, and side one in particular contains some of the most creative and original music from that genre's peak years.

REUBEN WILSON Got To Get Your Own

Album · 1975 · Funk
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Rokukai
Reuben Wilson has played it straight for the majority of his career--the exceptions being his 1971 psychedelic soul/funk album "Set Us Free" and 1975's gritty, urban "Got to Get Your Own" (which lists his band as "The Cost of Living", essentially a revolving door of awesome musicians). One of the few souljazz organists to make a dent as a leader in the Blue Note stable, Wilson specializes in mellow, slightly funky renditions of popular tunes, sprinkling his own compositions onto his albums to showcase his songwriting skill.

Wilson has only one partial songwriting credit on "Got to Get Your Own", but it's difficult to imagine his own songs could improve this set. It's brash, funky, and loaded with soul. The only cover of a well known song is the Chi-lites "Stoned Out of My Mind", which is given an uptempo, slightly disco reading. "Stoned Out Of My Mind" and "Together (You and Me) are the only songs you'd expect from Wilson, and the only tracks which prominently display his Hammond B-3. The rest (except "In the Booth, In the Back, In the Corner, In the Dark") sound like they could easily be at home on an Ohio Players record.

"In the Booth, In the Back, In The Corner, In the Dark" has, after hundreds of spins, become my favorite song on the album and ranks as one of the catchiest soul songs I've ever heard. It would be a fabulous record without it--with it, "Got to Get Your Own" is a true classic. Track this one down at all costs.

PARLIAMENT Live: P.Funk Earth Tour

Live album · 1977 · Funk
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Chicapah
I have a well-respected musician friend who related in an interview a few years ago that when he was in his early teens he thought that playing bass guitar “funky” meant playing the instrument badly. His story of youthful naiveté is hilarious for the innocent irony involved but shouldn’t be taken too seriously. Yet if one was to judge the entire musical genre known as funk by Parliament’s “Live: P-Funk Earth Tour” double album one might draw a similar conclusion. I won’t mince words. It’s one of the worst in-concert recordings I’ve ever encountered. I can hear the excuses already. It was 1977. Folks just wanted to party. Funk was a legitimate movement that was infiltrating R&B, jazz and rock by leaps and bounds and Parliament’s head honcho George Clinton was simply basing his unique form of satire upon that foundation and capitalizing on its growing popularity. Therefore it’s just a glimpse into a wild & wooly era that won’t be repeated and should be viewed as nothing more than a historical curiosity. I’ll readily agree to all of that. But there’s no excuse for sloppy musicianship. I recall that Frank Zappa did much the same thing as Mr. Clinton with his sarcastic brand of humor yet on stage he and his cohorts steadfastly maintained the same high level of professional integrity that they insisted on in the studio environment. I expected to hear something equivalent to that mindset when I sat down to listen to this album. I was wrong to do so.

The show begins with over 6 minutes of "P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)," a loose jam in which the band members seem to be slowly finding their assigned spots while the drums, trombone, sax and electric piano vamp without a trace of urgency. Their leader George delivers a rambling spoken introduction to the mumbling crowd that eventually leads to an ensemble-warbled chorale that’s hard to understand. An imperceptible segue to "Dr. Funkenstein's Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication Medley" ensues. It sports the same lazy vibe but this time a thumping bass guitar is more involved as it becomes obvious to me that the audience participation aspect of the presentation is going to take precedence over the music. That’d be fine if this was a video but that’s not the case. My ears are all I’ve got to go by and they’re starving already. At least on “Do That Stuff” the drums lay down a solid beat for the bass to lock onto and the song is a tad more organized but the group as a whole is still stuck in a stifling, one-dimensional rut. "The Landing (Of The Holy Mothership)" is next and it’s a snippet-filled, mostly pre-recorded comedy routine that’s impossible to follow, much less to find anything to laugh about. Maybe the stage props gave it relevancy. I hope so. For "The Undisco Kidd (The Girl Is Bad!)" a pattern surfaces that involves the rhythm section laying down a basic funk base but, alas, it never evolves into anything engaging. Instead, you get a long soliloquy punctuated by a hook line chorus that’s pointless unless you happened to be there that night and were able to merrily join in the communal sing-along. Those of us wanting to hear some great musicianship are out of luck, I suppose.

"Children Of Productions" is the shortest cut and that’s a shame because it’s the apex (relatively speaking) of the album. It’s a unison chant with brassy horns and decently layered harmonies but it passes by like a rare cool breeze in the middle of August and is gone. "Mothership Connection (Star Child)" is a rowdy jam that rumbles behind a repeated refrain and features enthusiastic exhortations aimed at the audience. After a long spell the track inexplicably evaporates into the ether and then fades back in as "Swing Down, Sweet Chariot." The same gospel-tinged mantra continues but a male vocalist scats on and on for a full five minutes till you reach the number’s noisy ending. That’d be okay if it was special but it ain’t. Suddenly you’re whisked away from the live festivities and treated to a studio take of "This Is The Way We Funk With You." It’s vaguely reminiscent of what Sly Stone was up to in the early 70s but it’s also not terribly original or inspiring. Monotonous describes it best. We’re then returned to the scene of the crime to endure a quarter of an hour of "Dr. Funkenstein." Due to the gathered throng’s reaction there must’ve been some kind of visual stimuli happening to enhance the moment but aurally it’s a lot of the same old shtick involving a crowd-sung chorus echoed ad nauseum. There’s a solo from the guitarist and an ARP ride to fill up some space but I found myself drifting into a coma waiting for something entertaining to occur. "Gamin' On Ya!" actually resembles a tune and by now that’s a plus. The full horn arrangement is very Famous Flames-worthy but all that does is cause you to yearn for James Brown’s inimitable charisma to give it life. Next comes their "Tear The Roof Off The Sucker Medley" and it’s an admirable rendition of one of their more recognizable ditties but it does sound very different from the rest of the album which begs the question “Is it live or is it Memorex?” At this juncture I don’t care but the suspicious fade-in to the closer, "Night Of The Thumpasorus People," gives the inquiry credence. By now the well-oiled show attendees are in a stimulant-induced frenzy so, while there’s plenty of excitement in the hall for the reveler in you to soak up, there’s not much for the jazz enthusiast to celebrate. It’s just another rave up that goes nowhere near interesting.

Released in the Spring of ’77 when George Clinton’s eclectic entourage was enjoying tremendous popularity in urban markets all across the civilized world, this 2-disc set sold and went gold. If you were one of the spunky pups who got to witness one of their stops along the P-Funk Earth Tour then I have no doubt that your memory of the event is a fabulous one. I wasn’t there but it was undoubtedly a hoot to treasure forevermore even if the music had to take a seat in the back of the bus. However, this album doesn’t do it any justice on one side or the other. Future generations who want to sample what went on at one of those concerts will not conclusively find out what the fuss was about from listening to this discombobulated mess. As a rule, a little bit of craziness goes a long, long way and then it quickly becomes ridiculous and a waste of valuable time. This proves it. To use their own grossly overused term, “What the funk?”

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