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10 Best Funk Albums to Own on Vinyl

Get down and funk it up with these classics.

Now and then, the lines may blur between funk, R&B and (gasp) disco, but it’s a genre that’s guaranteed to get the party started and/or keep it going into the wee hours of the morning.

If you’re ready to get down and funk it up, here are 10 classic vinyl albums you’ll want to have close to your turntable.

1. Computer Games – George Clinton

There is no funk without George Clinton and his band, Parliament/Funkadelic. Clinton’s first solo album features a lot of help from ex-P-Funk members and spawns a couple of his biggest hits: “Atomic Dog” and “Loopzilla.” With the necessary beats on hand, this record goes down a different path with some incredible synth riffs. Like a great film, Computer Games is so densely packed, you’ll need to spin it a few times just to catch all of the tidbits. You only need to revisit some of your favorite hip-hop tracks to see how heavily this record has been sampled over the years.

2. The Payback – James Brown

Many called James Brown the hardest working man in the music business, but was there truly anyone funkier? This two-record, 73-minute set is full of so much funkiness, you might not be able to take it all in in one listening session. The Godfather of Soul transitions effortlessly from jazz to R&B and back to hardcore funk, making some of these tracks sound almost like a Grateful Dead jam session. “Payback” may just be the most essential funk recording ever. Huuuuuuh!

3. Greatest Hits – Sly and the Family Stone

There are so many great Sly and the Family Stone albums, and Greatest Hits has all the top tracks, plus it was recently remastered and re-issued on vinyl. It’s a terrific party record, sure to inspire a lot of singalong and hands in the air, and the track “Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin)” is by far one of the funkiest tunes ever put on wax.

4. Blam! – The Brothers Johnson

Blam! may be the perfect funk record in that it incorporates all the elements of the genre for the beginning enthusiast, yet has enough punch for the aficionado. Produced by Quincy Jones (four years before Thriller), this one doesn’t stop, from the first track to the last. And if there was ever a great reason for physical media, the album artwork is definitely something to be savored.

5. Word Up! – Cameo

In constant rotation on MTV during the summer of ’86, this album still sounds fresh today, especially when listened to on vinyl. The opening bass line will instantly burrow into your consciousness — what a riff! — as will the track (and hit single) “Candy.” An alltime favorite, to be sure.

6. AWB – Average White Band

Other than the remake of the Isley Brothers’ “Work to Do,” the rest of the songs on this self-titled first record from the iconic Scottish funk outfit are all original. Full of catchy hooks, great beats and killer horns reminiscent of Tower of Power, AWB even crossed over to the R&B chart with their number one single “Cut the Cake.”

7. Rags to Rufus – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan

Chaka Khan and Rufus teamed up for this vinyl classic that includes a cover of Stevie Wonder’s “Tell Me Something Good,” which features one of the heaviest, dripping wet bass lines you’ll ever hear (in case you haven’t noticed yet, funk is BIG on bass), matched perfectly by Khan’s soulful voice. Bathe in the funkiness that is present here.

8. Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Bootsy Collins

This one’s a little off the beaten path, but if you dig into the album notes (if you can stop dancing long enough to pick the album cover up, that is), you’ll see that many of the accompanying players on this record (which includes Maceo Parker and Bernie Worrell) went on to funk and R&B greatness, and you’ll discover that this masterpiece was produced by none other than George Clinton. Clearly, Bootsy’s time with James Brown and Parliament/Funkadelic was well spent.

9. Headhunters – Herbie Hancock

This timeless record is usually thought of as being Herbie Hancock’s initial foray into fusion jazz, yet it still tops most “best funk record” lists. The 15:45 opening track, “Chameleon” may be the reason why — it’s a funk symphony, not to be missed. If you ever watch Herbie Hancock being interviewed, notice his big smile whenever Headhunters is mentioned.

10. An Evening With Silk Sonic – Silk Sonic

So far, all the choices here have been albums from the ’70s and ’80s, but funk is alive and well today. Anderson, Paak and Bruno Mars fully embody the sprit, the sound and even the look of the classic funk masters with this record. The production may be a little smoother, but the grooves are as heavy as anything back in the day.


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