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V/A - Chicago One-Stop Staff Picks, Vol. 1

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Artist: V/A

Album: Chicago One-Stop Staff Picks, Vol. 1

Label: Aestuarium

Review date: Oct. 15, 2003


At a cursory glance, there seems to be almost no similarity between garage rock and funk. Garage rock is all about sweet vocals and crazy fuzz guitar riffs while funk is entirely horn charts, grooves, Hammond Organ, and fat bass lines. The former is misogynistic, macho, and the progenitor to punk, the latter is hyper-sexed, smooth, and the precursor to disco and hip hop. One is by white suburbanites, the other is by urban blacks. So what could these two styles possibly have in common? Well, a lot. Both grew out of the influence of a couple groups (the Beatles and the Rolling Stones for garage rock, James Brown for funk) who became so huge that they inspired a generation of disaffected youths in search of a musical voice to pick up instruments, form bands in their garages, and release singles on small regional labels with the hopes of somebody hearing them and them hitting it big.

What really separates the two is Lenny Kaye. His Nuggets compilation of 1972 made garage rock hip. In the 30 years since, there have been hundreds of different garage rock comps mining every local mini-scene that ever was. Funk on the other hand became the land of a few big names (Sly Stone, George Clinton, and Curtis Mayfield, to name a few) with the regional groups languishing in obscurity. There really isnít a single funk compilation that historically had the effect of Nuggets. Not that youíd be able to tell by looking around the music world right now, though. With labels like Daptone, Soul Fire, and Desco releasing new old-school funk and Soul Jazz and Stones Throw putting out comps of old, old-school funk, we seem to be in the midst of a funk renaissance of sorts. And when Mick Collins makes a funk record (The Voltaire Brothers I Sing the Booty Electric), you know something has to be in the air. The reasons arenít totally clear, but the result has been lots and lots of great, fresh grooves.

Chicago One-Stop: Staff Picks Vol. 1 is a funk comp the way a funk comp should be; itís actually just 3 7" singles from 3 Chicago area funk and soul bands from the late 60s/early 70s. While this limits the scope of the compilation, it does add an air of authenticity to the whole thing. Single #1 is from a mysterious Rockford, IL, singer named Joey Irving whose grooves are just begging to be ripped off by some hiphop group or other. His voice is like a slightly less polished Curtis Mayfield that floats above the mix and is so desperate that youíre never quite sure heíll be able to find the ground. Wayne Carterís single has even better hooks, saxophone, and some sick organ lines. The third single by Sugar Hill shows off the bandís prowess for both funk and soul. What is incredible about this band is that their lead singer, Khadijah Anwar was only 14 when this was recorded; her voice has just as much range and depth as a much more seasoned vocalist. She propels the mellow soul of the b-side that might otherwise fall flat (though there is something slightly odd about a 14-year-old singing about wanting to give out her love).

While funk is generally known as a style about easy sex, women, and assuredness (or spaceships and chocolate cities, depending on who you talk to), these sides clearly show the other side of the scene, the instability, the desperation, the loss. At no point in these 6 songs are the singers actually in love, theyíre either longing for it or getting over it. Much like their garage rock counterparts from a decade before, these groups just wanted to make it through their music but more often than not fell short. So weíre just left with their singles, which is just fine. Itíll give all those garage rock collectors who have run out of rare singles something else to look for.

By Dan Ruccia

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