Funk rarities

British label BBE's Funk Spectrum compilation series towers over the rest.

Mar 21, 2001 at 12:00 am

For every scratchy old groove dropped into a hot track or a DJ set, someone dug through hundreds of dusty records looking for a little-known cut to cannibalize. There are already bin-loads of compilations that collect funky rarities, but British label BBE's Funk Spectrum series towers over the rest, thanks to a string of expert celebrity co-curators--the first Funk Spectrum boasted tracks selected by Josh "DJ Shadow" Davis alongside nuggets from series mainstay Keb Darge, while Funk Spectrum II sported guest picks from Masters at Work's Kenny "Dope" Gonzalez. III offers a peek into the collection of hip-hop guru Pete Rock, and as long as Rock's the selector, it's the funkiest Spectrum yet.

Most crate-diggers are just looking for that catchy lick, that perfect beat. But most of Rock's picks are worth hearing from first note to last. Starting out with a soul-drenched and desperate B.B. King cut ("Chains and Things"), he shines light on a dozen funky minor masterpieces, both unknown (Cresa Watson's fatalistic rap "Dead," Lee Dorsey's swaggering, funny "A Lover Was Born") and unlikely (Grand Funk Railroad's "Nothing Is the Same"). Darge programs 11 rather anonymous groovers for the set's second half, and they can't help but pale in comparison; III starts to sound more like an above-average "breaks" collection than the party album of the young new year. Still, trackspotters and funk fans are gonna wanna dig this up.

Lee Gardner writes for City Paper, where this review first appeared. Send comments to [email protected].