VOICES Notes and news on Collector's Corner releases
13 DEC 11 CHRIS SLAWECKI
R&B entrepreneur Rufus Thomas was not only the father of Carla Thomas, he was the godfather of the Memphis funk that helped put Stax Records on the musical map. There's no better sampling of Thomas' singular thick and nasty grooves than Funkiest Man Alive: The Stax Funk Sessions 1967-1975, a double-barrel 2003 Stax compilation which proves that Papa Rufus really was the funkiest man alive.
Thomas was famous for simple, repetitive dance tunes, and the seven on this set include every single one except for his famous fried "Funky Chicken." But those songs were for the pop charts -- the real funk action is in these other tunes. The rocking horse simplicity of "Give Me The Green Light Baby" and the bountiful "Funky Hot Grits" set your head bob on automatic, while rhythm guitar and bass scrape "Funky Mississippi" into a gritty blues about Thomas' backwater hometown, whose good folks still get funky just the same.
New tracks include "I'm Getting Better," Thomas' reflection on a life lived in love with music, and an update of his 1967 single "Memphis Train '75" that chugs with all the rhythmic power of a funk locomotive while Rufus delivers one of his most playful and versatile vocals on this entire collection.
Thomas' hearty Stax catalog includes Stax Profiles (2006); the inflammatory Rufus Thomas Live! (1994), recorded at a small Hollywood club in 1970; and the newly refurbished Do The Funky Chicken in the Stax Remasters series (2011).