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Roll Back by Peter Aaron

Various ArtistsCarolina Funk (Jazzman/Now-Again Records)
Various ArtistsSoul Messages from Dimona (The Numero Group)
Iceberg SlimReflections (Uproar Entertainment)

If you happen to be one of the tasteful folks who jumped on Florida Funk after it was reviewed in the November/ December 2007 installment of Roll Back, you best get yo’ booty in line for the follow-up, Carolina Funk. The party may have moved a little farther up the coast, to South and North Carolina this time, but little else has changed: rare and raw, thrift store-dug funk gems that benefit from the low-rent production of the tiny local labels that released them between 1968 and 1977; yards and yards of psychedelic wah-wah guitar; grunts that pass as vocals; and the occasional blast of P-Funk-esque horns. Titles, artists? Try “Funky Soul Brother” by the Soul Drifters, “Funky Mind” by Donnie Brown, “Funky Party Time” by the J.D.’s. Don’t those spell it out? So whatcha waitin’ for?

The Numero Group is another fine soul/funk reissue label, and for rare groove collectors its Soul Messages from Dimona should definitely qualify as a left-field affair. Recorded in the late ‘70s by bands comprised of members of a black Hebrew sect that relocated from Chicago’s South Side to Israel, the 16 cuts here extol the virtues of their beliefs among torrid tempos and melodies swiped from hits by the Jackson 5 and the like. The accompanying booklet tells the story of the cult and is packed with photos of the mysterious robed and turbaned musicians that made up the Soul Messengers, Sons of the Kingdom, and other bands, adding generously to the overall surrealism. If only all faiths were this funky.

Also hailing from Chicago, Iceberg Slim was anything but virtuous in the years leading up to his classic Reflections. An ex-convict, Slim authored the best-selling autobiography Pimp and the similarly sobering novels Trick Baby, Airtight Willie & Me, Mama Black Widow, and Long White Con, and his sordid tales of urban reality are the stuff of street legend. Originally released in 1976, Reflections was reissued once before, in the ‘90s on Henry Rollins and Rick Rubin’s Infinite Zero label, but has been woefully scarce until now. In a faux-erudite accent over ultra-sleazy blues-funk backings, Slim iambically orates his uproarious, off-color tales of ghetto grit in rhyming couplets. It’s no wonder that subsequent artists Ice-T and Ice Cube cite the ’Berg as the inspiration for their very names and tag him as a proto-rap godfather. Down-and-dirty inner-city blues, the kind that really do make you wanna holler.

Carolina Funk:
Soul Messages from Dimona:

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