What It Is!
"Funky Soul and Rare Grooves"
Rhino Records
by Bob Putignano

Rhino continues to unearth rare tracks on this magnificent 4-CD box-set "What It Is! Funky Soul and Rare Groove's" as they pull outstanding rarities from their rich vaults from Atlantic, Atco, Cotillion, Curtom, and WB. Many of these singles/album tracks are so hard to find, that it would probably cost more to purchase 3-4 tracks on the open market, than this entire compilation suggested retail price.

Many of my soul/funk heroes make appearances; Jack McDuff, Rufus Thomas, The Bar-Kays, Eddie Harris, Wayne Hendersonĺ─˘s Freedom Sounds, Clarence Carter, Cyril Neville, Curtis Mayfield, Junior Mance, The Commodores, Don Covay, Shirley Scott, Mongo Santamaria, The Memphis Horns, Wilson Pickett, Earth, Wind & Fire, Aretha, King Curtis, Malo, Little Richard, The Young-Holt Unlimited, Allen Toussaint, Howard Tate, Cold Blood, Fred Wesley, Seatrain, The Meters, Dr. John, Cornell Dupree, Oscar Brown Jr., Herbie Mann, and many others. It is such a diverse group of recording stars, but it all works, and it is great to hear many of these rarities again- in one package.

The stars included are well documented, but some of the more obscure tracks are what really makes this package so alluring Junior Mance's cover of "Don't You Hear Me Callin To You" is explosive, and this Atlantic track is taken from one of my favorite Junior Mance recordings titled "With A Lotta Help From My Friends" that being Billy Cobham, Chuck Rainey, and a unusually rocking Eric Gale, this CD is still currently available on the Collectables label and is highly recommended, its produced by the one and only Joel Dorn, and was originally released on Atlantic. This collection also turned me on to drummer Grassella Oliphant who covers Allen Toussaint's "Get Out My Life Woman" produced by Arif Mardin with the great Grant Green on guitar, Grassella's CD is also available on Collectables "The Grass Roots/The Grass is Greener."Another fine rarity is Wayne Hendersonĺ─˘s Freedom Sounds (of the Crusaders) whoĺ─˘s title track "Soul Sound System" is just tantalizing, this Atlantic LP is long out of print, so its cool that it makes its reappearance on this very fine compilation. Also well worth mentioning are the Curtis Mayfield authored and produced "Hard Times" performed by Huey & the Baby Sitters, plus two 1970's tracks written and produced by Sly Stone; Little Sister's "Stanga" and the 6ix's I'm Just Like You,' which are both out of print Atlantic recordings that Sly did for Atlantic when he needed to finance his LA mansion as well as his sky rocketing costs for his "There's a Riot Goin' On" recording over at Columbia. Additionally, there is an alternate/previously unreleased version of Aretha's "Rock Steady" which is powerfully backed by King Curtis & the Kingpins, and it's produced by the all star trio of; Tom Dowd, Jerry Wexler and Arif Mardin. And speaking of Dowd, Wexler & Mardin, they also produce Lulu, yes that Lulu from the UK, and you have to hear her nail Dave Mason's "Feelin'Alright" which was recorded in Muscle Shoals, and features Duane Allman's guitar work, a bizarre combination, but it really works perfectly.

I could go on and on, but one thing is certain Rhino producers Matt Abels & Mason Williams really dug down and got very dirty, having assembled one of the best compilation box-sets of 2006, which is beautifully boxed, includes a very cool eighty-four page booklet, with track by track narrationĺ─˘s with original release info, plus occasional tidbit notes from those who were involved with the original recordings, additionally there are many of the original artwork LP covers, and other classic artist photos which are fun to review all in all, this is one very classy package.

Which brings me to this conclusion: That I think you will whole-heartedly dig a lot of the funky soul and rare grooves contained in Rhino's "What It Is!" Happy listening!

Bob Putignano www.SoundsofBlue.com

Bob Putignano
Radio Host WFDU's "Sounds of Blue"
President of the NY Blues and Jazz Society