Good funk that isn't disco?
August 17, 2009 7:09 AM   Subscribe

I'm looking for great funk/soul songs that aren't disco.

When I google for good funk music I end up finding lists that include a lot of songs that have way too much of a disco sound to them. I like the rare disco song, but overall, no thanks. So I'm looking for funk with more soul and less glitz. To give you an idea of what I'm looking for, I've been listening to the Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels soundtrack, so I'm really digging songs like James Brown's The Boss and The Payback, and Why Did You Do It by Stretch. Things in that vein.
posted by the other side to Media & Arts (35 answers total) 23 users marked this as a favorite
Try Betty Wright - Clean Up Woman, that one's pretty nice.
posted by lizbunny at 7:24 AM on August 17, 2009

Three compilations from the always excellent Soul Jazz Records label: New Orleans Funk; New Orleans Funk, Vol. 2; and Saturday Night Fish Fry. Note especially Lee Dorsey and the Meters.

Marva Whitney
Rufus Thomas

I'd give you more but I've got to head off to work.
posted by hydrophonic at 7:28 AM on August 17, 2009

songs i like that are funk:

anything by parliment
i'll be good to you by the brothers johnson
livin' for the city by stevie wonder
lovely day by bill withers
just the two of us by grover washington jr.

These are pretty major hits, i think, but they are funky and not disco.
posted by djduckie at 7:31 AM on August 17, 2009

Ike Turner
Parliament First Thangs and anything Funkadelic on the Westbound label

The In Yo Face collections from Rhino are pretty decent intro sets.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:31 AM on August 17, 2009

The Meters
posted by tom_g at 7:33 AM on August 17, 2009

I would also like to add that later Parliament is much more disco and less JB's much like the works of Herbie Hancock and Stevie Wonder in the early 70's.
posted by Pollomacho at 7:35 AM on August 17, 2009

Isley Brothers - especially It's Your Thing
posted by readery at 7:39 AM on August 17, 2009

Seconding anything by Parliament.
posted by Camel of Space at 7:42 AM on August 17, 2009

Isley Brothers: What readery said, but also Fight the Power, Work to do, That Lady. They also do two of the greatest funk covers ever: Spill the Wine and Love the One you're With.

Tower of Power: What is Hip, It's Not the Crime. Their ballads are delicious too.

Fela Kuti: Water Get No Enemy, Zombie. Sometimes jazzy, sometimes spooky, but with juggernaut rhythm.
posted by wobh at 7:44 AM on August 17, 2009

The Crusaders
posted by netbros at 7:45 AM on August 17, 2009

Adam Dorn, AKA Mocean Worker, has a few tracks that are funk-inspired.

Ditto for Ugress, especially Loungemeister.
posted by JaredSeth at 7:56 AM on August 17, 2009

You're asking about a huge body of music, so I'd suggest an easy way to find the funk and not disco: listen to songs released before 1976 or so.

The BBE compilations Funk Spectrum 1,2, and 3 are all great - and you can look for more Keb Darge compiled stuff, he's been a real champion of the sound over the years. Also check out the compilations The Funky 16 Corners, The Kings of Funk, Bay Area Funk vols 1&2, and those Soul Jazz compilations mentioned above.
posted by stachemaster at 8:04 AM on August 17, 2009

Charles Wright and the Watts 103rd St Rhythm Band, the albums In the Jungle Babe/Express yourself in particular. Amazing stuff.
posted by 8dot3 at 8:16 AM on August 17, 2009

The Blaxploitation compilations are an excellent place to start.
posted by philip-random at 8:57 AM on August 17, 2009

late 60s, early 70s James Brown
The Meters (Look-ka-py-py)
early Tower of Power
posted by keith0718 at 9:02 AM on August 17, 2009

Fred Wesley
Maceo Parker
Robert Walter
Beastie Boys
posted by OHenryPacey at 9:06 AM on August 17, 2009

Oh my god. There's so much here -- Funk is a gigantic and happy world. Her are some basic bands to get you started in addition to the excellent recs above (especially ++ Parliament -- also George Clinton laid it out under the Funkadelic name -- and the Meters):

- The Gap Band
- Average White Band
- The Ohio Players
- Slave
- Kool and the Gang (pref. from the 70's)
- The Neville Brothers
- Betty Davis (not to be confused with Bette Davis. Betty Davis was married to Miles, and she poured out pretty much the rawest funk out there)
- Rick James
posted by paultopia at 9:13 AM on August 17, 2009

There's great advice in this thread. Here are some of my picks:

* Early Funkadelic, especially the first, eponymous album and the second album, Maggot Brain.
* More James Brown, of course
* Sly and the Family Stone (Stand! or Greatest Hits, to get started)
* The Brothers Johnson
* Graham Central Station (featuring bassist Larry Graham, of Sly and the Family Stone)
* Victor Wooten. This can get a little smooth jazz-y at times, which is a good or a bad thing depending upon what you think of smooth jazz.

Finally, I just found this guys, Rented Mule, last week. They're a groovy funk/fusion blend.

If you end up digging old school funk, you may also find yourself liking "soul jazz," some fusion, and some "smooth jazz." I'm throwing those genres out there to enhance your Google-fu. Finally, put any or all of the artists mentioned in this thread into Pandora, and you're sure to find some other acts that you'll like.
posted by wheat at 9:36 AM on August 17, 2009

The Intestate '76 Soundtrack. Quite possibly the finest video game soundtrack ever produced. I know, I know: you didn't want a video game soundtrack. I'm just saying this isn't what you think and it oozes funk.
posted by chairface at 9:46 AM on August 17, 2009

Yeah, there's just so much music that qualifies. If you don't want disco then only make informed choices from songs recorded after '76 or so.

I'll nth anything by James Brown, Parliament/Funkadelic, Sly and the Family Stone but that's really just the very tip of the iceberg.
posted by ob at 9:59 AM on August 17, 2009

I'd recommend you start by getting as much James Brown as you can--he really is the master. His original band (early 60's) included Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker and Bootsy Collins, all masters of funk themselves. When the James Brown band regrouped in the late 60's, his musicians weren't as gifted, but the groove got even funkier, maybe because he stripped stuff down to the very core to simplify the parts. Listen to something latter day (from the 70's) like Funky President, or I've Got a Bag of my Own (inside sample tracks)--yow!!!

Beyond that, some good advice here. Other great comps to get you started (seconding In Yo Face series as well)--Really Heavy Soul, Revenge of the Ghetto Grooves, and others in those series are pretty stellar. In terms of Parliament, don't miss The Motor Booty Affair--killer track (and album).
posted by Go Banana at 10:06 AM on August 17, 2009

The Meters is pretty vital but the song you really need is "Hikky Burr", by Quincy Jones and, yes, Bill Cosby.
posted by nicwolff at 10:12 AM on August 17, 2009

Seconding the Interstate '76 soundtrack, if you can find it.

The game itself was flawed but excellent, but the soundtrack has probably some of the coolest funk I've ever heard.
posted by iamcrispy at 10:47 AM on August 17, 2009

Response by poster: Sweet! Clearly I'm a complete amateur when it comes to this genre of music, and I suppose I might as well have asked what some great Rock n' Roll songs are, but thanks for humoring me. I'm going to be checking out all of these suggestions.
posted by the other side at 11:02 AM on August 17, 2009

Don't forget Go-go! Especially the Godfather himself, Chuck Brown.
posted by General Malaise at 11:20 AM on August 17, 2009

Daptone Records has a great sampler of modern funk bands.
posted by hoppytoad at 11:43 AM on August 17, 2009

Stevie Wonder- "Superstition", "Higher Ground".
posted by canoehead at 12:21 PM on August 17, 2009

The Soul Searchers - Salt of the Earth
Herbie Hancock - Manchild
posted by rhizome at 12:23 PM on August 17, 2009

The Temptations: Though mostly R&B, I think we can add a few hits, including the great Papa was a Rolling Stone.
posted by artdrectr at 12:38 PM on August 17, 2009

2nding Curtis Mayfield.
posted by artdrectr at 12:42 PM on August 17, 2009

See also this.
posted by Pollomacho at 1:22 PM on August 17, 2009

Check out a band called Cold Blood. They make some raw and pretty awesomely dissonant funk, and the lead singer sounds a lot like Betty Davis, mentioned above.

If you haven't come across it, Herbie Hancock's Head Hunters is a great album with one of the most famous Minimoog bass lines in history. The last two tracks might not be your thing, but the other half of it is I think totally up your alley.

Oh, and I have to say, stay far, far away from Tower of Power. They're pretty much everything you sound like you're trying to stay away from.
posted by invitapriore at 3:01 PM on August 17, 2009

Also...I hate to crap on other people's suggestions, but as much as I love him, I think that Curtis Mayfield is pretty glitzy in a way you're probably not interested in.
posted by invitapriore at 3:04 PM on August 17, 2009

Ugh, not to spam, but I forgot to add another YES for Fela Kuti. Afrobeat and funk are distinct but mutually appreciable.
posted by invitapriore at 3:08 PM on August 17, 2009

Gang of Four.
posted by pxe2000 at 4:10 PM on August 17, 2009

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