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 | 24 hours caching

PARLIAMENT Mothership Connection Album Cover Mothership Connection
PARLIAMENT
4.82 | 9 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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FUNKADELIC Let's Take It to the Stage Album Cover Let's Take It to the Stage
FUNKADELIC
4.47 | 6 ratings
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SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE Stand! Album Cover Stand!
SLY AND THE FAMILY STONE
4.32 | 13 ratings
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FUNKADELIC America Eats Its Young Album Cover America Eats Its Young
FUNKADELIC
4.37 | 7 ratings
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JAMES BROWN The Payback Album Cover The Payback
JAMES BROWN
4.50 | 3 ratings
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FUNKADELIC Hardcore Jollies Album Cover Hardcore Jollies
FUNKADELIC
4.31 | 4 ratings
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FUNKADELIC One Nation Under A Groove Album Cover One Nation Under A Groove
FUNKADELIC
4.12 | 8 ratings
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BOTHERS JOHNSON Look Out for #1 Album Cover Look Out for #1
BOTHERS JOHNSON
3.98 | 4 ratings
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FUNKADELIC Standing on the Verge of Getting It On Album Cover Standing on the Verge of Getting It On
FUNKADELIC
3.93 | 5 ratings
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PARLIAMENT Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome Album Cover Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome
PARLIAMENT
3.89 | 5 ratings
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PARLIAMENT Chocolate City Album Cover Chocolate City
PARLIAMENT
3.88 | 5 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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Soul Side Of Town
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Collected
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A Cosmic Jazz Funk Adventure
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DETROIT RISING
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Medicaid Fraud Dogg
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PARLIAMENT
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As One / Nightcruising / Propositions / Dangerous
Boxset / Compilation
THE BAR-KAYS
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funk Music Reviews

THE BAR-KAYS Coldblooded

Album · 1974 · Funk
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js
If you are not a fan of 70s funk music, or from Memphis, then you may not have heard of The Bar-Kays, but they are one of the longest running acts in the history of RnB/rock. Off the top of my head, the only bands that I can think of that have been around longer are The Isley Brothers and The Rolling Stones. “Cold Blooded” was The Bar-Kays recorded offering in 1974, and it featured them playing the pure funk of the times, as the disco thump that would alter the beat was still a few years away. The Bar-Kays had scored some hits in the late 60s as a Staxx sponsored RnB act, but their transition to rock, and later funk, did not bring any hits right away. They would eventually modernize and become a hit factory in the late 70s, but on “Cold Blooded’, they are still a few years away from all that.

“Cold Blooded” opens with the title track of the same name, and its probably the best cut on the album. Featuring a rampaging African-Latin rhythm section and building horn lines, this one sounds a lot like Mandrill or Osibissa in the early 70s. After this, The Bar-Kays settle into some solid funk tunes that often bare some similarities to 60s Sly and the Family Stone, and 70s Isley Brothers. The Bar-Kays are from the south, and it shows. Their tempos tend to be relaxed, their lyrics lack the irony of the p-funk mob, and their gospel influence is undeniable. Lyrical themes on the album are typical for the times and range from testaments to peace and love, warnings about the ways of the world, and musings on relationships gone bad. There are no insincere corny love songs on here, nor even a trace of disco vapidness. Overall “Cold-Blooded” is a good, but not remarkable, album in its genre. Any fan of classic 70s funk should probably check this out.

JAMES BROWN In the Jungle Groove

Boxset / Compilation · 1986 · Funk
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js
If you only own one James Brown record, “In the Jungle Groove” is the one to have. This is much more than just a compilation, this album is a near perfect labor of love by the folks at Polydor who put it together. Many of these tracks are well known, but were hard to get in the past because they did not appear on an album, or they did not appear as a single. Also, many of these tracks are complete versions, rather than edited versions released previously as singles. One cut, “I got to Move” had never been released before at all, which makes all of this a treasure trove for James Brown fans. Most of these cuts feature Brown and his band at their very peak in the late 60s to early 70s. Although the personal varies per track, many famous names show up over and over, including; Bootsy Collins, Catfish Collins, Clyde Stubblefield, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley, Jimmy Nolan, Bobby Byrd and many more. Even if you own previous versions of these songs, you still need to hear the power of the re-mixes presented here. There is no dead air on this one, every single track is smoking. Also, the long versions contain vocal and Hammond B3 improvs from James you have never heard before, he does get ‘out there’ sometimes.

When this album came out in 1986, it was right on time for the sampling revolution in hip-hop. If you listened to late 80s hip-hop, then you have heard these riffs a thousand times on sampled tracks that ranged from excellent re-workings of James’ music, to utter banality that dragged James’ music into mediocrity. Either way, this album is almost more of a soundtrack to the late 80s than the late 60s, aint it funky now.

BERNIE WORRELL Retrospectives

Album · 2016 · Funk
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js
When you think of 70s keyboard heroes who manned giant stacks of futuristic keyboards and synthesizers while mixing their jazz and classical training with the rock and RnB sounds of the day, names like Chick Corea, Keith Emerson and Herbie Hancock all come to mind. No doubt those were the names that topped all the keyboard player polls year after year back then, but there was another artist who did all the same things, but his name slipped under the radar, and that keyboardist is the ultra creative Bernie Worrell. Possibly because Bernie worked behind the huge shadows of larger than life characters like George Clinton and Bootsie Collins, in the various P-funk ensembles (Parliament, Funkadelic etc), that Bernie did not get the notice he deserved. Still, if you listen to those old P-funk tracks, no one contributes more than Bernie, and P-funk’s hugely elaborate arrangements would not have been possible without someone with Bernie’s training and classical background.

After leaving P-funk, Bernie has continued to work as a sideman with artists like Bill Laswell, Buckethead, various Talking Heads, Govt Mule, Les Claypool and others in the jam band scene. Worrell occasionally records as a leader, but he still does not grab a lot of attention, maybe its because his albums as a leader are not as strong as his contributions as a sideman. His latest release, “Retrospectives”, may be a good example of this. The premise behind “Retrospectives” sounds very promising at first, basically this is an album on which Bernie re-visits some of his favorite P-funk tracks and records instrumental versions of those tracks. To any long time Worrell and P-funk fan this is an exciting idea, but unfortunately the album does not come through as strongly as you wish it could. Some tracks are okay, but others are fairly lackluster.

Probably the biggest problem with this album is that it sounds like Worrell covered everything by himself. The drum tracks are not strong, nor is the production. An over reliance on ‘silly’ synthesizer sounds from the exotica era also becomes tedious and overbearing after a while. Many of these songs could use a little breathing room from all the persistent synthesizers. Overall this album sounds like a fun hobby home project, not the keyboard powerhouse it could have been. Possibly Worrell could get a good producer like Bill Laswell involved, and a real drummer, and these tracks could get a better life.

Despite the problems, there are some good tracks on here, “You Hit the Nail on the Head” is played reggae style with a melodica lead, and perennial favorite, “Flashlight”, is cloaked in string synth arrangements that Beethoven would be proud of. Possibly the two strongest tracks come at the end with “Balance” featuring a stronger drum sound and less synth clutter and “The Moment”, a punchy Prince style synth-rocker with the best production on the whole album. There are enough good moments on “Retrospectives” to make it worthwhile to Bernie Worrell fans, but you have to wonder what this would have sounded like if more time had been taken.

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!

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Artists with Funk release(s)

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