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Isley Brothers, Kool and the Gang, the Gap Band and Morris Day and the Time

Friday, Aug. 13; Riverport

The Golden Age of Funk lasted about 12 years, running from 1971 or thereabouts to maybe 1983. That was when rhythm & blues music was dominated by popping bass lines, slamming on-the-one snare drums, chicken-scratched guitar chords, snappy horn parts and catchy, seemingly offhanded vocals. Since the end of the Golden Age, much of this great music has been sampled or regurgitated (cf. Jamiroquai), but it hasn't been improved.

Proof awaits you at the upcoming "Funky Friday" concert at Riverport. Four of the masters of the funk will be laying down the goods in what promises to be a serious occasion for booty-shakin'.

The Isley Brothers have existed in one lineup of extended family members or another for close to 40 years. They had hits long before there was funk, and long after, but the down-and-dirty stuff came out in the early '70s, when a dual generation of Isleys sang it smooth and sultry in "That Lady" or "Summer Breeze" and then got downright nasty with the likes of "Fight the Power" and "It's Your Thing."

Kool and the Gang were one of the toughest and most sophisticated of all funk outfits in the mid-'70s, with such classics as "Jungle Boogie" and "Hollywood Swinging." Yeah, they calmed down a bit later, but admit it — songs like "Celebrate" and "Joanna" are great ways to start a party, if not to end it. The Gap Band put down some of the hardest rhythm tracks in history with their early-'80s smash hits "Burn Rubber (Why You Wanna Hurt Me)" and "Early in the Morning." Possibly even better, they did the best P-Funk imitation ever attempted with "I Don't Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops Up Side Your Head)." It was pure nonsense, and it was sublime.

The Time got in as Prince protégés at the end of the Golden Age, but they came close to saving it. Led by Morris Day and fueled by the genius of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, the Time combined the synthesizer sounds dominating their era with the classic incentive to slam home the rhythm. And they did it with a sense of humor.

 
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