Various Artists 

Flying Funk; Flying Grooves (Bluebird)

There are more reasons to listen to Flying Funk than the two tracks by the late, great Nina Simone. But her contributions are a good place to start. She kicks off the compilation with a cover of Aretha Franklin's "Save Me," delivering a vocal performance that sends shivers up the spine. Her "Funkier Than a Mosquito's Tweeter" is just that: a conga-drum-infused uptempo romp with nasty yet righteous lyrics.

The rest of Flying Funk is a slam-dunk of jazz, funk, and soul vibrations upside the noggin. The compilation's 16 expertly picked selections, culled from the Flying Dutchman, Bluebird, and RCA catalogs, all fit the definition of "rare groove." Many have been sampled by the likes of A Tribe Called Quest, Gang Starr, Stetsasonic, and the Large Professor, and are highly sought-after by breakbeat fiends. The Nite-Liters' "Afro-Strut" bridges the gap between boogaloo and funk, Weldon Irvine's "We Getting Down" and the New Birth's "Got to Get a Knutt" serve up sexy dance-floor jazz, and the incomparable Simone renders all other R&B divas irrelevant. Though most of these songs emerged in the late '60s and early '70s, Lonnie Liston Smith's "A Chance for Peace," for one, rings with surprisingly topical urgency, reminding listeners that past generations survived times of war by making joyous, life-affirming music.

More by Eric K. Arnold


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