As music writer Bill Dahl's liner notes point out, this compilation of material from 1968-1977 (1973-1977 apparently being a typo) is especially interesting because some of the featured artists are better known for their blues and southern soul credentials, not surprising considering that a large segment of The Windy City's black population has their roots in Mississippi and other states in the Deep South. As a result, Funky Funky Chicago includes a diverse group of recordings, some with a distinct downhome flavor and others that would have sounded appropriate at various South Side disco clubs back in the day.
Among the earthier performers on this collection, guitarist Jimmy Johnson (aka The Bar Room Preacher) is probably the best known (at least with blues aficionados) for his work with fellow axeman Jimmy Dawkins as well as for his own albums on Alligator and Delmark. As it turns out, Johnson had been playing a variety of styles before devoting himself pretty much exclusively to the blues in the mid-1970s. His three sides from 1968 for the Stuff label - "Get It" and both versions of "Let's Get a Line" - are essentially tough instrumental cuts with his backing band, the Lucky Hearts, providing some truly funky accompaniment. Fans of James Brown's late 1960s period will probably dig these tracks. Eddie Houston's "Away from Home" was recorded around the same time and demonstrates a strong Otis Redding influence. "43rd Street Bus Stop" may be this compilation's most interesting track in that it seems to have one foot in 1955 and the other in 1975. Nowadays, Mack Simmons is known strictly as a blues harmonica player, but his attempt to start a new dance craze (the "43rd Street Bus Stop," of course) features funky grooves as well as very dated-sounding synthesizer squiggles - and then - BOOM! - out of nowhere come some gutbucket guitar, harmonica, and sax solos. Weird but engaging.
Complete with throbbing bass, punchy horns, and scintillating wah wah guitar, the Chosen Few's "Cut Me In" and "We are the Chosen Few" sound like mid-1970s funk on the cusp of disco, as does Casey Jones' excellent "(Get Up Off Your) Rusty Dusty." Georgianna McCoy's voice is as sweet as honey on "I've Got to Space" and "I Don't Want Nobody Else" on which she is joined by capable backing vocalists and musicians, the Classetts. Released on Andre Williams' short-lived Scorpio label, "(Charlie Brother) We Got to Love One Another" is credited to a mysterious figure known as "The Rock," although it's Jo Ann Garrett's vocal chops that take center stage. In the liners, Dahl theorizes that Williams himself may contribute a line or two during the proceedings. Williams also had writing and production involvement with Artie White's seductive "A Love Like Yours (is Hard to Find)" from 1977. Finally, lines like
Funky funky Christmas,help make Electric Jungle's "Funky Funky Christmas" this album's cheesiest moment. The passages where the instrumentalists quote "Little Drummer Boy" and "Deck the Halls" don't help, either. That said, you'd be thankful to hear this playing over a store's PA system instead of the usual holiday crap they pipe in during the upcoming Christmas shopping season, which is right around the corner, you know.
Mama's fixin' food.
Papa's watchin' football,
Food sure smellin' good!
People comin' over,
Grandma's on the way.
Funky funky Christmas,
Sho' nuff, funky Christmas day!
Get Funky Funky Houston Volume 1 - Rare and Unreleased Recordings from the Vaults of Ovide Records 1968-1969 here.
1. Cut Me In - The Chosen Few
2. I've Got to Space - Georgianna McCoy & the Classetts
3. (Charlie Brother) We Got to Love One Another - The Rock
4. A Love Like Yours (is Hard to Find) - Artie White
5. Funky Funky Christmas - Electric Jungle
6. Let's Get a Line - Jimmy Johnson & the Lucky Hearts
7. I Don't Want Nobody Else - Georgianna McCoy & the Classetts
8. (Get Up Off Your) Rusty Dusty - Casey Jones
9. We are the Chosen Few - The Chosen Few
10. Away from Home - Eddie Houston
11. Get It - Jimmy Johnson & the Lucky Hearts
12. 43rd Street Bus Stop - Mack Simmons & Jimmy Mitchell
13. Let's Get a Line - Jimmy Johnson & the Lucky Hearts