[5 February 2012]
Everybody loves funk these days. The music no longer carries that frisson of sex and danger it once conveyed. You can here renditions of James Brown classics everywhere, from high school marching bands during halftime shows, to the elevators of an office building. The people at Cultures of Soul want listeners to remember the nasty edge of funk. The record label has compiled what it considers the funkiest covers from around the world throughout time in a variety of styles. This means the inclusion of non-funk numbers such as Bob Marley’s “Rat Race”, done here by Antibalas; The Doors’ “Light My Fire” by the Ebony Rhythm Band; and Spoon’s “I Turn My Camera On” covered by the Williamsburg Salsa Orchestra. Among the highlights are the two Motown covers by internationally famous artists, Ray Baretto’s salsa version of Stevie Wonder’s “Pastime Paradise” and Mongo Santamaria’s beat-heavy take on The Temptations’ “Cloud Nine” . These covers may be relatively unknown, but once one recognizes the source material, it’s extra fun to see what the musicians have done to the songs. Every song on World’s Funkiest Covers is eminently danceable.