Tonight, modern day diva Sharon Jones will hit the stage at Denver Botanic Gardens. For years now, she’s been bringing back the funk with the help of the Brooklyn-based Dap-Kings. Jones and the group mix it up with tight, JB-style funk, gritty soul and deep, heartfelt ballads that highlight her hefty vocal chops. It’s not “retro” or some kind of gimmick. There’s no hipster irony. It’s genuine soul and first-class funk. And it’s moving stuff, literally and figuratively.
That’s why we present to you: 11 ladies, including Jones, who know that funk -– real funk — does a body good. Why 11? Because Reverb is one louder than the rest.
So, get on the good foot and check them out:
11. Betty Davis, “If I’m In Luck, I Might Get Picked Up.” This is downright nasty and damn proud of it. Check out this grinder of a track from the 1973 self-titled debut by the ex-Mrs. Miles Davis. And prepare to move your hips – one way or another.
10. Macy Gray, “Every Now and Then.” This is a perfect locked-in groove from Macy Gray and band from her LP “The Trouble With Being Myself.” Bass, keys and horns keep things rock steady and Gray’s assured vocals fit snugly into the tight, tight mix.
9. Marlena Shaw, “Liberation Conversation.” Here’s a short, but sweet blast of funk from 1969. Shaw only needs one real lyric, “…blues ain’t nothin but a good woman gone bad…” some fatback drums and a solid bass line to get her funky feminine message across.
8. Teena Marie, “Behind The Groove.” Dance floor funk from Motown and Teena Marie’s 1980 booty shaker “Lady T.” Propelled by a bass line as elastic as a rubber band, the late, lamented singer gets listeners not only behind the groove, but into it as well.
7. Sharon Jones, “My Man Is A Mean Man.” Backed up by a hard JB’s-styled groove from the Dap Kings, Ms. Jones turns her lament into the best medicine: an up-tempo ass-shaking, foot-stomping piece of revenge. Frenetic and funky.
6. Erykah Badu, “Penitentiary Philosphy.” The opening shot from Badu’s excellent “Mama’s Gun” LP. This is a stone cold groove that is driven by ?uestlove’s (from the Roots) razor sharp drum work, but its real fuel comes from Badu’s mad-as-hell-and-ain’t-gonna-take-it-no-more lyric and other worldly vocals.
5. Lauryn Hill, “Every Ghetto, Every City.” An education on city living from Hill’s 1998 “Miseducation.” This tasty ’70s flashback is highlighted by an ultra funky Stevie Wonder-styled clavinet electric piano/bass line combo that makes learning fun.
4. Aretha Franklin, “Rock Steady.” The queen of soul gets downright funky with this 1971 track from her “Young, Gifted & Black” LP. A dance song in the most danceable sense, it is virtually impossible not to move when you hear this. And dig that cowbell!
3. Lyn Collins, “Think About It.” Co-written by James Brown, featuring his band the JBs and released on his record label. Collins steps up and keeps things nice and groovy, more than earning the funk seal of approval. Also, try and count the number of times this jams breaks have been sampled.
2. Tina Turner, “Baby (What You Want Me To Do).” A 1971 gem from Ike and Tina that boasts a bass line as slinky as the leggy Ms. Turner’s best short skirts. Ike’s wah guitars and frequent horn blasts keep things moving but it’s Tina’s vox that send the whole track over the top.
1. Chaka Khan, “I’m A Woman (I’m A Backbone).” From her 1974 debut recorded with Rufus, this is a funk/rock rallying cry for empowered women. Khan’s anthemic vocals soar overtop as the band builds a P-funk styled groove underneath. I feel for you if you can’t feel this.
Michael Behrenhausen is a Denver-based writer, musician and regular Reverb contributor. The worst crime he ever did was play some rock ‘n’ roll.