Rare groove is soul or jazz music that is very hard to source or relatively obscure. Rare groove is primarily associated with funk, jazz and pop, but is also connected to subgenres including jazz fusion, reggae, Latin jazz, soul, R&B, northern soul, and disco. Vinyl records that fall into this category generally have high re-sale prices. Rare groove records have been sought by not only collectors and lovers of this type of music, but also by hip-hop artists and producers. Online music retailers sell a wide selection of rare groove at more affordable prices, offering fast downloads in digital format. This availability and ease of access has brought about a resurgence of the genre in recent years.
History and development
The term 'Rare groove', was originally coined by the British DJ Norman Jay, after his The Original Rare Groove Show on pirate radio station Kiss 94 FM (the progenitor of Kiss 100 London). While Norman Jay was actually a witness to, and participant in, the 1970s underground sub-culture of American obscure import music; the person who actually gave rise to the genre (some even credit him with the revival of James Brown's career), although there was no name for it at the time, was underground DJ Barrie Sharpe and Lascelles Gordon (previously with The Brand New Heavies). Both played that brand of obscure American import records, 7" and albums ("looking back retrospectively"), that they had in their collection. These were bought from such specialist import record shops such as Moondogs in East Ham, and Contempo record shop at 42 Hanway Street in the West end of London, owned by John Abbey, founder of Blues & Soul magazine. The magazine also had their own record label (also called Contempo), releasing music from the 1970s which, starting in 1984, played at a club previously known as Whisky-A-Go-Go, founded by Rene Gelston in Wardour Street, Soho (which would later become known as The Wag).
Norman Jay's show was a collaboration with DJ Judge Jules and featured a mainly urban soundtrack from the 1970s and 1980s mixed with early house music. Tracks similar to "rare grooves" had begun to see a following in the 1970s northern soul movement, which curated a collection of rare and obscure soul records for play in dance clubs. The rare groove scene began when DJs presented an eclectic mix of music, that placed a particular emphasis on politically articulate dance-funk recordings, connected to the Black Power movement. Pirate radio stations and DJs participated in a "recovery, repackaging and retrieval" of obscure music that reflected, related to or translated inequalities of race and gender and the struggles of the civil rights movement. Music that had failed to gain acceptance in a previous time was given a "new lease on life" by DJs on pirate radio stations. Rare groove also provided a musical space where the "symbolic capital" of the music became very important.
The longest-running rare groove radio show in the United States is Soul Power on WWOZ 90.7 FM (New Orleans) and wwoz.org, and is hosted by DJ Soul Sister, who is cited as the "queen of rare groove". The show began in 1996.
Rare groove was written about by former LWR pirate DJ and NME writer Paul Wellings, in his 2004 book, I'm A Journalist...Get Me Out Of Here!: 20 Years of Hacking Through the Media and Music Jungle (Progressive Press).
Sampling is one of the biggest aspects of hip hop and rap, and these types of records provide breaks for artists to use in their songs. Examples of rare groove samples, such as Eazy-E's "Eazy Duz It" (which samples The Detroit Emeralds, Bootsy Collins, Funkadelic, Isley Brothers, Sly & the Family Stone, The Temptations and even Richard Pryor), can be found in modern hip hop (notably G-funk's heavy sampling of Funkadelic) and drum and bass (notably the Amen break). After the collapse of Jazz and funk-influenced disco, many musicians who had made a name for themselves under the genre of disco's mainstream success had the spotlight taken away from them (it effectively ruined and ended their careers). Many of these artists have had their songs remixed and remastered by house music artists. Much of the obscure music "rediscovered" as samples in newer house or hip-hop tracks is labeled "rare groove" retroactively.
Northern Soul is a part of the rare groove scene since the term was first given by Dave Godin from the record shop Soul City in Covent Garden, London. The scene has many record collectors and DJs who pay large sums of money for rare songs from the 1960s/1970s/1980s/1990s that are original copies.
Selected rare groove
- Do It To It Jimmy Owens
- New York City Miroslav Vitous
- Far Out Crown Heights Affair
- Jaws Lalo Schifrin
- Got To Get Your Own Reuben Wilson
- OHIO Ohio Players
- Feel The Spirit 76 Leroy Hutson
- Inside America Juggy Murray Jones
- Porcupine by Nature Zone
- Kill That Roach by Miami
- Energy Level B T Express
- Changing Brass Construction
- Its My Life That I'm Fighting For Leon Thomas
- Super Trick by NCCU
- Hard Work John Handy
- Zone Rhythm Makers
- Life On Mars Dexter Wansel
- It's Just Begun by Jimmy Castor Bunch
- Apache by Incredible Bongo Band
- Scorpio by Dennis Coffey
- Seven Minutes of Funk by Whole Darn Family
- God Make Me Funky by The Head Hunters
- Impeach the President by Roy C & The Honey Drippers
- Heartbeat by Taana Gardner
- Let Me Love You by Michael Henderson
- Instant Love by Leon Ware
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- Huffpost, Barrie Sharpe: The Man Behind 'The Masterplan'
- The Daily Telegraph, "Whatever happened to Duffer of St George?"
- Red Bull Music Academy Daily The Dancers: In Their Own Words An oral history of the forgotten dancers that set London on fire in the late 1970s
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- Bakare-Yusuf, Bibi, "Raregrooves and Raregroovers – a matter of taste, difference and identity", in Heidi Safia Mirza (ed.), Black British Feminism: A Reader, Routledge, 1982, Chapter 10.
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