BY FRED MILLS
If the notion of a German combo operating knee-deep in Parliament/Funkadelic, James Brown and Meters territory seems improbable, then consider how African bands—comparatively speaking, with far less direct access to those sounds than European musicians, who could just browse the import bins in their local stores—took all that and ran with it to great acclaim. It’s just that we rarely think of Germany, with its Krautrock, electronic and disco traditions, as a hotbed of steaming funk and soul.
Introduce yourself, then, to the Poets of Rhythm, who as the title to this album suggests were extant for about a decade, operating under the Poets name as well as several pseudonyms, in the process winning over such fans as DJ Shadow, Keb Darge and Daptone’s Gabe Roth, not to mention scores of crate diggers all over the world. Anthology traces the group’s career chronologically, from a pair of 1992/93 singles issued on the Hotpie & Candy label (the perfectly-titled “Funky Train” and the unlikely-titled—for Germans—but ultimately steamyswampycool “South Carolina”) through several sides cut for Shadow’s Quannum Projects label (in particular, “Ham Gallery,” from the 2001 album Discern/Define, a jazz-funk instro workout that could’ve been a classic opening-concert vamp).
At their best, the Poets displayed a deep, deep understanding of the sonic possibilities of hypnotic grooves married to sinewy guitars and jabbing horns, not to mention the vocal lessons of the mighty J.B. My suggestion? With the holiday season approaching, cue up track #8, “Santa’s Got A Bag Of Soul,” from ’94, and watch the asses around you start to shimmy and shake. Ain’t no getting around it: these dudes knew their stuff.
DOWNLOAD: “South Carolina,” “Santa’s Got A Bag Of Soul,” “The Donkey,” “Discern/Define”