Interest in vintage Indianapolis funk and soul music grows every year. Beat-heads and record collectors around the world respect our city's legacy as a once-blossoming hotbed of funky musical activity. That reputation was bolstered earlier this year with the release of two crucial reissue LPs by important local funk acts: The Rhythm Machine and Circle City Band.
These releases round out an impressive library of soulful Indianapolis grooves currently available on the reissue market. This wasn't always the case. When I started collecting records in the early '90s, the only way to hear this music was to source out the rare and expensive originals. Not an easy task, as some of the best Indianapolis funk records change hands for hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars.
The digital music era has now made this music easily accessible to all. So there's no excuse not to dive into this important slice of Indy's cultural history. The following list presents some of the best titles to surface from the relatively recent crop of Indy funk reissues. Styles range from psychedelic funk to soulful jazz and most are available in the full spectrum of formats - vinyl, CD and digital.
Circle City Band - Circle City Band
The Circle City Band's reputation rests solely on three 12-inch releases recorded between 1983 and 1985. Ubiquity's reissue collects those singles adding previously unreleased materiel into the mix. Circle City Band are best known for their boogie classic "Magic," an effervescent bit of post-disco funk. The song became known as the theme for the BET cable channel and remains popular with roller-boogie skaters to this day. If you've been bumping Daft Punk's disco throwback "Get Lucky," you need to give this locally produced classic a spin.
The Rhythm Machine - - Rhythm Machine
The Rhythm Machine's impossibly rare 1976 LP regularly sells around the $1,000 mark, making it completely inaccessible to the average music fan. Fortunately this Now-Again reissue corrects that, adding previously unreleased tracks and rare photos to the package. The best work here recalls classic Kool and The Gang while the grooving ballad "Put A Smile On Time" will win the heart of any spiritual soul music fan.
Turner Bros. - Act 1
The Turner Bros. recorded a couple R&B sides for Atlantic Records in the 1960s, but returned to central Indiana to independently record and release this 1974 masterpiece. A legendary LP full of stunning music that stands up well against the best soul acts of the era.
Wooden Glass - The Wooden Glass Recorded Live (P-Vine)
Vibraphonist Billy Wooten is probably best known for his tenure with Blue Note jazz guitarist Grant Green. But for his fans, this collection of funky, blunted-out jazz instrumentals stands as his best work. A remarkable cover of the Dramatics' "In the Rain" is the highlight here. The track has been extensively sampled by Madlib, driving up demand for original copies which routinely fetch over a $1,000.
Billy Wooten - Lost Tapes (P-Vine)
Japanese label P-Vine has issued a series of unreleased archive recordings from Wooten. This collection is the best, featuring the same funky sound that made Wooden Glass a cult classic.
Ebony Rhythm Band - Soul Heart Transplant: The Lamp Sessions
Essential for the inclusion of "Drugs Ain't Cool" a mind-bending psychedelic funk nugget recorded a full year prior to the debut release of George Clinton's Funkadelic.
Amnesty - Free Your Mind: The 700 West Sessions
Some of the heaviest and deepest funk grooves to come out of Indianapolis.
Uncle Funkenstein - Together Again
This ambitious 1983 two-disc set from local jazz artist Russell Webster is probably most known for its outrageous price tag. A copy sold at auction for nearly $4,000, making it the most valuable Indiana LP ever. Musically the album is sought after for the two-part, 29-minute jam "Uncle Funkenstein" featuring some of Indy's greatest jazz legends going head to head.
Various artists - The Funky 16 Corners
Released in 2001, this double LP was important in spreading awareness of the rich Indianapolis funk scene. For most of us, this was our first opportunity to hear obscure local classics from artists like Spider Harrison, Revolution Compared to What, Billy Ball & The Upsetters and most importantly the title track as performed by the legendary Highlighters.
Each edition of A Cultural Manifesto features a mix from Kyle Long, spotlighting music from around the globe. This week's selection features classic Indianapolis funk and jazz.
1. Larry Ridley - Well You Needn't
2. Freddie Hubbard - Little Sunflower
3. Wooden Glass - In the Rain
4. Turner Bros. - Running in the Rain
5. Rhythm Machine - Put A Smile On Time
6. Circle City Band - Magic
7. Hamilton Movement - Love Circuit
8. Amnesty - Mister President
9. Rhythm Machine - The Kick
10. Highlighters - Funky 16 Corners
11. Ebony Rhythm Band - Soul Heart Transplant
12. Funk Inc. - Kool is Back
13. Wes Montgomery - Bumpin' On Time
14. Billy Wooten - Chicango (Chicago Land)