Collection features a mix of familiar favourites and lesser-known gems
Some 15 years after it closed its doors, legendary London club The Wag is celebrated in this four-CD boxset, the first of two volumes.
Raw funk and soul with a smattering of disco are the order of the day on the first two discs. There's perhaps a slight over-reliance on well-known tracks here: seriously, does anyone who's ever bought a funk album not own Aaron Neville's Hercules, Cymande's Bra or Brass Construction's Movin' already? But to be fair to the compilers, a few big names/familiar faves are probably necessary to tempt more casual buyers, and the good news here is that there are also plenty of more obscure nuggets on offer – see, for instance, Doris Duke's version of Woman Of The Ghetto or Brother To Brother's take on The Bottle. With cuts from the likes of War, Mandrill, Slave and EW&F, funkateers will find plenty to enjoy here, with special mention going to Esther Phillips' harrowing Home Is Where The Hatred Is.
By the time we get to CD3, the mood has changed, with Latin and jazz flavours predominating. This reviewer isn't much one for Latin vibes, in all honesty, but if you are then tracks from the likes of Snowboy, Charlie Palmieri and Ray Barretto should satisfy, while standouts for yours truly include Benny Golson's campy, vampy The New Killer Joe (new to these ears) and Coming Home Baby by veteran big band jazzman Mel Tormé, AKA the least likely Mod club anthem in the world. As for CD4, this can be considered the 'Miscellaneous' pile, blending as it does disco and boogie classics from Dinosaur L, Atmosfear, Cerrone and Linda Clifford with electro and hip-hop cuts from Herbie Hancock, Digital Underground and The Junkyard Band. But it has to be said this is the weakest of the four discs - not because of the lack of genre focus, but simply because of the slightly over-obvious track selection.
This remains, however, a very checkable collection: not for the 'greatest hits' tracks but for the hidden goodies that lurk in-between.
Words: Russell Deeks
Release date: 10 June
Review Score: 8
Tags: Harmless, The Wag, Herbie Hancock, Digital Underground, Dinosaur L, Atmosfear, Cerrone, Linda Clifford, Snowboy, Charlie Palmieri, War, Mandrill, Slave, Earth Wind & Fire, Aaron Neville, Cymande, Brass Construction, funk, Latin, jazz, hip-hop, soul, disco, boogie