Tuesday, March 21, 2006

the Bar-Kays' Best Of...

There's no shortage of praise I can heap onto Issac Haye's Hot Buttered Soul - it's clearly one of my favorite albums of all time. Backing Issac Hayes on that album was the Bar-Kays, who had miraculously survived despite having most of its founding members pass away in the same plane crash that claimed Otis Redding (the Bar-Kays had since replace Booker T and the MG's as Redding's backing band, becoming the second rung house band for Stax Recrds). For whatever reason, though, I didn't pick up on the Bar-Kays until much later, and, to be honest, I haven't listened to this compilation in any substantial way until this past week.

This is mostly because I had a severe avoidance for late 70's, early 80's funk/rnb when I had bought this compilation, decidedly concentrating solely on late 60's, early 70's funk ala the JB's and the like. This compilation, comprised of the Bar-Kays output on Mercury Records, is '76 onward (thus ensuring the absence of "Soulfinger," the Bar-Kays only unabashed hit).

It wasn't until a little while back that I'd really come to appreciate funk/rnb from that time (eg Zapp & Roger, Lowrell, Heatwave, etc) as anything other from novelty, and thus I've only just begun to give this Bar-Kays comp a fair shake. For the most part, they're not as way-out as Funkadelic/Parliament or as West Coast synth as Zapp & Roger were, and mostly reflect the post-disco funk that the Isley Brothers and Rick James were putting out around the same time. It's solid stuff, but still somewhat unremarkable, and thus most of the tracks side with the glut of the output from that period of time. There's a few gems ("Hit and Run," "Shake Your Rump to the Funk," etc), but nothing so earth-shattering so as to make any of the material essential...much like the Isley Brothers etc output from the same period. It's perhaps telling, then, that funk really didn't progress beyond this or past Prince.

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