Funk music has been around for years. A lot of great musicians have contributed to the immense popularity of this genre of music.
George Clinton, Rick James, Miles Davis, and James Brown are only some of the names that one thinks of if they think about funk music. What are the classic albums that you need to listen to if you want to get down to funk?
Today, we will be discussing the power of funk music through the classic and contemporary funky tracks and records you have to know. If you are new to funk music, stick around and learn more about the genre as we do a countdown of the best funk albums of all time!
What is Funk Music Exactly?
Funk is a music genre that first appeared in the 1960s. The first funk musicians were mainly African-Americans because the genre started in African-American communities. Within a short period, it became quite popular because of the upbeat melodies that made people want to dance.
Funk is a mixture of soul music with a bit of jazz and even some rhythm and blues. The groovy beats are accompanied by various instruments and powerful vocals. This makes funk a bit more complex than dance music, but just as enjoyable!
Over the years, funk developed and divided into several sub-genres like g-funk, Avant-garde, Avant-funk, boogie, and so on. There are a ton of great albums within each sub-genre, but it would be impossible to talk about all of them in depth.
We decided to focus only on the best of the best ten funk albums everyone needs to know about. To learn which albums made the cut, keep on reading!
Best Funk Albums – Top 10 Albums You Have To Know
The best funk album depends on the listener’s taste in music, when they were listening, and their influences. The truth is that there are so many great funk recordings out there that it is difficult to choose just ten to talk about.
As hard as it may be, we will attempt to give a countdown of our favorite 10 funk albums and share a bit of information on each of them. Let’s allow the power of funk to get into our lives and get us in a groovy mood. With that, let us get right into the countdown:
1. James Brown – The Payback
James Brown is a name that is recognizable by many. Over time, this amazing musician created quite a name for himself with his many studio albums, live albums, and compilations. The groovy beats prevail in his music. His albums are filled with hot singles that people love listening to even now, years after they originally came out.
While his discography is quite a rich one, there is no doubt that The Payback is one of his most widely recognized funk records. The album first came out in 1973 and was Brown’s 73rd studio album. It contains 8 tracks and is around 70 minutes in total, so anyone would be able to listen to it within one sitting.
There are two singles from this album: The Payback, the record’s namesake, and Stoned to the Bone. These two tracks, as well as the majority of tracks on this record, have quite dense funk beats with a lot of blues, jazz, and soul elements. Brown was at his best when he recorded this album. If you want to spend time enjoying some heavy funky beats, you should look into it!
2. Earth, Wind & Fire – Gratitude
Gratitude is a triple platinum-certified album by Earth, Wind & Fire. It is deemed one of their greatest accomplishments by fans worldwide.
This record was released in 1975 as a double live album. It is a little over an hour long and divided into 14 different songs. The reissue from 1999 contains three more songs than the original record.
There are two singles from this album: Sing a Song and Can’t Hide Love. All tracks, including the singles, are full of energetic beats with a bit of a faster tempo. The sax solos are out of this world. They give the entire record a very groovy vibe with rock undertones.
The beat and the instrumentals are not the only things that wow those listening to this album. Many people have said that they love this album because of the wonderful lyrics as well as the vocals. Whether you are into the beats, instruments, or vocals, you are bound to love listening to this album from beginning to end.
3. Stevie Wonder – Hotter than July
Stevie Wonder has undoubtedly created quite a few hits, some of which come from his record titled Hotter than July. This record was published in 1980, just a year after his Journey Through The Secret Life of Plants which was not as successful as expected. He recorded Hotter than July, put the record out, and enjoyed shooting back to the top of the charts.
The entire record is 45 minutes long and has a total of ten tracks. Surprisingly, this ten track record has five singles: Master Blaster (Jammin’), I Ain’t Gonna Stand For It, Happy Birthday, Lately, and Did I Hear You Say You Love Me.
As is the case with most of his albums, Wonder graces the cover of the record that contains songs dedicated to a few famous faces. The record as a whole is dedicated to the great Martin Luther King Jr., whereas Master Blaster (Jammin’) is dedicated to Bob Marley. This means that you can expect to hear a bit of reggae in addition to the classic funk beats.
4. Parliament Funkadelic – Mothership Connection
George Clinton’s Parliament Funkadelic is best known for their Mothership Connection, a record that came out in 1975, about 20 years after Clinton started making music with the original Parliament. Probably one of the best things about the record is that besides the funky tunes, there are two horn players that make the record so unique. Their sound may be familiar to you if you have ever listened to James Brown’s J.B.’s.
This record contains a total of 7 songs that stand just under 40 minutes. It has three singles titled P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up), Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk), and the title track Star Child (Mothership Connection). Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrel are some of the co-authors of the title track as well as some of the others.
Clinton and his co-authors created some timeless tunes for this record, helping it reach platinum certification after its release. Considering that Clinton wrote several tunes for artists like The Jackson 5 and Diana Ross, you can assume that he has the skills it takes to write a hit song.
Once you hear Mothership Connection, we do not doubt that you will see what we are talking about. This record is undoubtedly the perfect combination of funk, horns, and some nonsensical jargon in the form of rap.
5. Kool & the Gang – Wild and Peaceful
When anyone mentions Kool & the Gang, it is safe to assume that a lot of people think about Get Down On It – a classic hit that has transcended through the years. When it comes to their Wild and Peaceful record, there is another hit song that comes to the center of attention: the equally playful and groovy Jungle Boogie!
Jungle Boogie is one of three singles that were recorded for the 1973 classic album Wild and Peaceful. The other two singles are the album opener Funky Stuff and then Hollywood Swinging. There are a total of 8 songs on the record, all of which make you want to dance around for the entirety of the album, which is 37 minutes.
The general consensus is that this is the group’s most commercially successful album. During their earlier years, they were more focused on jazz than funk and that can easily be felt throughout this record too.
Still, Kool & the Gang has a great way of mixing funk with soul and jazz, making everything sound absolutely amazing. If you are in the mood for music that will lift your spirits, you must look into Wild and Peaceful.
6. Sly & The Family Stone – There’s a Riot Goin’ On
Sly Stone worked together with Ike Turner and Bobby Womack to produce this amazing record that is considered one of the best funk records of all time. Even though it is wildly pessimistic and apathetic,There’s a Riot Goin’ On perfectly captures the time in which it was created. That is probably why the record is still considered a great edgy but dark funk album.
The record was released in 1971. It features 12 tracks that last about 50 minutes in total, with three singles: Family Affair, Runnin’ Away, and (You Caught Me) Smilin’. There are two prevalent storylines throughout the songs included on the record. The first is tne is about the hardships that African American people faced even after the Civil Rights Movement, and the second is Sly’s hardships and his battle with drugs.
Some of the tunes like Family Affair and Runnin’ Away feature tumultuous stories, but the band also included a bit of positivity in all that was negative at the time with songs like (You Caught Me) Smilin’. It is the music combined with the stories that turned this into one of the most influential records of all time.
7. The Isley Brothers – 3+3
A group of five brothers and one in-law, the Isley Brothers produced many great hits over the years. 3+3 is widely regarded as their most popular album. It contains 9 tracks and lasts around 40 minutes in total. To this day, the tracks from this album have been sampled and referenced in many other contemporary hip-hop and R’n’B tracks.
While the vocals on the record are amazing, the guitar makes everything come together. They do not only give a funky vibe, but also a soul and rock vibe that makes this record suitable for people who like music with intermingled genres. If you want to hear something like that, you should get started with the 3+3 album.
8. Rick James – Street Songs
Rick James showed a lot of promise from the release of this debut album, but no one expected him to reach the heights that he did when he released his 1981 record Street Songs. This album bears the hit Super Freak, which is undoubtedly one of the songs that marked that decade. It was even sampled in MC Hammer’s super popular U Can’t Touch This.
Aside from Super Freak, this record has three other singles: Give It to Me Baby, Ghetto Life, and Fire and Desire. Even though many of the tracks from the record seem to have somewhat simple melodies, James showed off his music skills by combining the simple melodies with amazing vocals, sax solos, and even got The Temptations to do the backup vocals for the tracks.
Even though he sounds great on his upbeat funk tracks, James has confessed that he enjoys working on ballads more. He also spent a lot of time working as a songwriter and producer for many famous people including the Temptations.
9. Prince – 1999
One cannot talk about musical geniuses without mentioning Prince Rogers Nelson. The man could sing, dance, and play any instrument he was handed. It comes as no surprise that his music is brilliant as he can turn every idea into realization.
Throughout the years, Prince shifted from a rock star to a pop star to a star that could play funky, sexy music anyone would want to dance to. His fifth studio album is no exception to that. iTtled 1999, it was released in 1982 and is the perfect mix of funk, pop, R’n’B, and dance music.
With a modern, purple album cover, this album contains famous hit songs like the singles 1999, Delirious, Automatic, Little Red Corvette, and Let’s Pretend We’re Married. The original record contains 11 tracks but there are remastered versions of it that contain other songs as well. No matter which version of the record you have, you can bet that Prince wrote all of the songs.
This album has gold and platinum certifications, while it is 4 times platinum certified in the US. If that tells you anything, it is that the record is magnificent no matter how you put it.
10. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain
From all the countless classics that we can use for this list, we want to finish it off with Funkadelic’s 1971 record Maggot Brain. It contains the singles Hit It and Quit It, You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks, and Can You Get to That. The record is somewhat short since it is 36 minutes in total, but the groovy hits will make you want to keep it on repeat for hours.
The producer of the album, George Clinton, is the great musician that we also mentioned at the beginning of the list. His influence can be felt in the instrumental part of the album, although everything on the album sounds like him and his Parliaments. Still, in some tracks on this album, one can notice stories about Clinton and his diminishing inspiration.
Nevertheless, this record is psychedelic funk at its best. So, if you think that could be your jam, we recommend that you look into it more.
How Did You Like Our Selection of Funk Albums?
Thank you for sticking with us through this countdown of some of the best funky tracks and records. No matter if you are more into the classic groovy tunes or the more contemporary ones, we do not doubt that any funk tune can make you want to hit the dance floor as soon as possible!
We hope that you liked the records that were included in this article. We would love to know some of the other records you would have liked to have seen on the list. If you can think of any, please mention them in the comments below. We will keep them in mind the next time we do a countdown of the best funk albums of all time!