If the Agit Reader used taglines like “best new music,” Born Again Funk, the second volume of the impeccable Numero Group’s Good God! series, would surely deserve it. Though like its predecessor, A Gospel Funk Hymnal, the album is not comprised of newly recorded music, but rather unearthed gems released in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, the majority of these cuts will be unfamiliar and “new” to most ears.
Of course, Numero has developed a reputation for such compilations of archeological-like musical finds (and we’ve written about many of them), but this album, Numero Group number 30, is one of its finest. Unlike other releases, which have mostly focused on specific labels, Born Again Funk, again like its predecessor, spans the decades as well as many regional labels of varying sizes, coalescing into a selection of songs bound by just an aesthetic and an adherence to the gospel vernacular. As it is, our curators have put together a record that is less of a story and more a straight shot of unbridled grooves. And make no mistake, these are not leftovers from the first Good God! volume, but 18 choice cuts of heavenly funk.
Like with any genre, there’s both good and bad gospel, but for those raised on secular music, it’s been hard to know where to look. Numero went digging in its backyard, finding the good stuff on the gospel imprints that many of Chicago’s R&B labels also ran in the ’60s. As it turned out, this was true of labels across the country, as there was a large audience in want of soulful sounds not divorced from the church. TL Barrett, a pastor at the Mt. Zion Baptist Church on Chicago’s south side, leads off the album with “Like a Ship,” the title track from an album he recorded in 1971 with the church’s Youth for Christ Choir, while the Golden Echoes, who contribute the chicken-scratched “Packing a Grip,” hailed from New Jersey. Similarly, the album cuts across the later half of the 20th century, from Victory Travelers’ early-70s side “I Know I’ve Been Changed” to “Peter and John,” a 1985 recording by Andrew Wartts & the Gospel Storytellers.
The best tracks on the record know no bounds, cutting a divine groove as visceral as anything found on Motown, Stax or elsewhere. The Gospel Comforters’ “Yes God Is Real” meshes together a couple of great guitar riffs with top-notch testifying. The Gospel Soul Revivals’ “If Jesus Came Today” is cut from a similar cloth, adding a punchy bassline to the formula. And the same can be said of the Sacred Four’s “Somebody’s Watching You,” a mix of proselytizing and swarthy funk. Unlike some of Numero’s label-based releases, each song here is worthy of exaltation. This is the kind of album that will have you thanking god, whether you believe in one or not.