The best purchase I’ve made recently was a cheap but functional record player. I had one years ago when I was in my undergraduate program (and even before that in high school) but that was nearly a decade ago. Cratedigging is a series of blog posts based on vinyl records that I have either discovered or rediscovered since getting back into the vinyl game and digging through crates.
I spent a lot of time trying to fully understand the funk genre and its specific distinctions from jazz and disco, but ultimately it comes down to the vibe. Not only can you hear, but you can feel funk in a track or album. So after scouring dozens of articles about the best funk albums of all time, listening to many of them on repeat, and reading several (lengthy) articles about the origins and history of the genre I’ve decided to fall back on that least scientific of definitions: you just gotta feel it. I’ve never been a real stickler for genre, so this was an easy compromise to make. These aren’t necessarily the best funk albums, but they are the three that I have most enjoyed listening to (and been able to find on vinyl).
Curtis Mayfield: Super Fly (1972)
A veritable classic, not much more to say about it other than that. All 9 tracks on this are absolute classics, especially “Pusher Man,” “Freddie’s Dead,” and “Give Me Your Love.” I’ve still never seen the film, but this is one I loved long before I ever heard it on vinyl and this format only adds to it’s overall effect.
Parliament: Mothership Connection (1975)
A George Clinton album is a must-include on any funk list or retrospective. Maggot Brain by Funkadelic (Clinton’s other funk collective) is the go-to album for this slot, but overall I find Mothership Connection more fun, and I much prefer to look at this album cover on my wall. The alternate mix of “Maggot Brain” (recorded in 1971 but not formally released until 2005) remains my favourite George Clinton composition of all time, but Mothership Connection is a wild ride from start to finish.
Herbie Hancock: Head Hunters (1973)
Sure, it’s only four tracks, but each one of them is out of this world (and over ten minutes long, on average). This is by far my favourite funk album and I’m embarrassed to admit that I had never heard it until I started digging through funk recommendations. “Watermelon Man” is a classic, but as far as I’m concerned it’s the worst track on the album (I would still rate it a 9 or 9.5 out of 10 though). “Chameleon” and “Sly” are two of my favourite tracks of all time and this whole album is a must-listen.