Among the many irons in his fire, Craig Charles has been rocking his Funk & Soul Show on BBC Radio 6 now for a decade – in recent years taking it on tour around the UK and beyond as ‘The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club’ with dj sets and guest support from live bands. And those nights are flames – I should know, I’ve been to enough of them. What this release does, in a nutshell, is see Freestyle Records decide they want some of that action and invite our Craig along to put together a set of his favourites from the contemporary funk and soul scene from the last couple of years with a pair of contemporary reggae cuts and a brace of classic funk-soul numbers for variety.
Among the results of CC’s cherry picking, you can expect to find some very big numbers including The Apples’ cover of Killing In The Name and The Bamboos cover of Amen Brother. There’s also Nostalgia 77 & Alice Russell’s cover of Seven Nation Army and The Mighty Showstoppers’ Shaft In Africa. Clearly our Craig likes his cover records. How much he likes them becomes clearer with a more focussed perusal of the track list. It’s a lot. I counted eight out of nineteen tracks without even trying very hard. Not that that’s a problem – half the funk and soul from back in the day were covers. As if to illustrate this point, one of the two vintage cuts here is a cover too – The Incredible Bongo Band’s version of Satisfaction – the other being Al Wilson’s northern soul classic original The Snake.
It’s particularly good to see some monkeyboxing favourites getting some love too. The Excitements are the first of these with their version of Wait A Minute (a Barbara Stephens cover) showcasing the voice of singer Koko-Jean Davis (the best on the scene – don’t argue) and the other is MB’s long-time Texan funk crew homies T Bird & The Breaks, who get some well-deserved big name recognition at last with The Clap Hands Song – a.k.a. their ‘almost’ cover of a Shirley Ellis classic. I like to think of the latter choice as an object lesson in how great minds think alike since it also appeared on monkey boxing comp. Filthy Rhythm, Dirty Soul Vol. 2 at the start of the year.
The reggae bangers include Prince Fatty’s Insane In The Brain (you may recognise this as a cover) which in my experience never fails on the dancefloor – and The Stiff Naked Fools’ Rocket Man which contrary to expectations is not an Elton John cover. Though it is an excellent choice. If you want more original action there’s material from Smoove & Turrell (contemporary northern coa- er- soul), Frootful (rnb, sixties style), and Federation Of The Disco Pimp (mixing up disco with psychedelic jazz-funk), among others.
In short, The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club provides a great snapshot of the contemporary funk and soul scene through the eyes of a key mover and shaker. It’s got big hitters and up-and-comers, singles and rarities and of course originals and covers. Sadly no Deep Street Soul, The Grits, The New Mastersounds or Big Boss Man though. But then that’s the thing see. This is CC’s compilation. Not mine.
(Out 26 November on Freestyle Records)