Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Various Artists; Pow Wow (Jazzman)

Jazzman are one of the best regarded reissue labels among funk fans. They put out excellent 7" singles of forgotten funk nuggets, well-remembered rare nuggets, and some fine c.d. compilations to boot. This collection is culled from the last bunch of 7" records released by Jazzman. The only superfluous cut is the collection's opening song "Hercules". Of course it's a funk classic, but so is "Sex Machine" and we don't need to see that on another compilation again, either. Now if it had a hot B-side that only a lucky few have been aware of... that would have been fantastic. However, anyone buying this compilation surely has a copy of Aaron Neville's "Hercules" somewhere in their collection already. Given this is the only over-exposed song on Pow Wow, that is easily forgiven. Jazzman's latest crop of re-pressed rarities includes some hardcore funk.
Carla Whitney's "War" is a rare side of Toronto funk, released by Attic Records in 1975. It is not a cover of the Edwin Starr hit, but rather it is a bubbling few minutes of funk with some heavy, rumbling bass. Too bad the album featuring this song sank without a trace, as Carla seems to have long disappeared from public.
Bajka's "The Only Religion" is a 1990's recording, despite it's Earthy, almost folk sound. There are a few cool instrumentals along the way, but the funkiest boogaloo jam I've heard in a long time is from Manny Corchado. It this compilation's namesake, "Pow Wow". The faux-Native motif might seem bigoted with it's asking Kemosabe to share his smoke, but I can't help but assume Manny meant no harm on this 1967 tune (although I can not understand the other words on this Spanish song, either) .
Elsie Mae's "Do You Really Want To Rescue Me" is an answer to the Fontella Bass' hit, but Elsie's response is slow and brooding rather than upbeat like "Rescue Me". Apparently this former James Brown back up singer only cut a couple of singles. This one was issued by King Records in 1966, and fits right in with James Brown's music from that era.
The Jonathon Richman cut "Egyptian Reggae" looked like an odd selection until hearing this 1977 track. A throwback for the disco era, this instrumental sounds more like a pre-Ska era instrumental from the Jamaican Count Ossie. The percussion is quirky, rattly and still funky. The final track is the only strange sounding piece of music on here. The Modern Egyptian Dance Band cut sounds like someone who enjoyed "Flight of the Bumblebee", and decided to try something more percussive, with sci-fi effects periodically beaming through a keyboard. A quirky end to a funky disc.

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