1. We Ain't Free - Boscoe
The south side of Chicago produced many soul / funk superstars but is also known in funk circles as one of the beating hearts of American funk in the early-to-mid 1970s. The golden era of funk music was born out of the... need for a rougher, tougher sound evolving out of the popular soul music of the early 1960s and into the angry, violent mood in America, especially in low-income African-American communities beginning around 1967. Coming straight out of the south side, the self-titled album by Boscoe, discovered and re-released by the always reliable Numero Group in 2008, is a slice of virulently political funk that explicitly skewers American policy, while pushing through tremendously infectious funk grooves and melodies. "We Ain't Free" is the best example of the band's fearlessness, starting off with a dissonant blast on the Star-Spangled Banner then morphing into a delicious groove with the protest-worthy "Can't you see / We ain't free" chanted in sparkling harmonies throughout.
2. Black Enuff - The Pharaohs
Before Maurice White formed the pop-funk behemoth known as Earth Wind and Fire, he was a session drummer from Chicago working for the legendary Chess records, having recorded tracks with the likes of legendary artists ...like Etta James. But before EWF, White put together an 11 (!) piece ensemble band with a percussion section led by White and Derf Reklaw, who would go on to become one of the most respected names in the world jazz genre. Their first album "Awakening", which Allmusic called "absolutely one of the finest funk albums of the early 70s, and one of the most unfairly neglected" is an impressively mounted LP that lays down complex horn arrangements on top of gritty afro-funk rhythms and a rowdy, free-flowing lyricism in tune with black protest rhetoric of the early 1970s. Easy to see early elements of EWF in this cut, called "Black Enuff".
3. Help Somebody - Earth Wind & Fire
Probably the most successful funk group ever, Earth Wind And Fire is founder Maurice White's crowning achievement and the truest expression of the Chicago funk sound. Formed in 1971 by White, their first, self-titled... album stood out in the increasingly crowded pantheon of funk groups of the 1970s with a decidedly eclectic sound employing afro-funk style grooves, heavy use of African percussion, White's complex horn arrangements (honed his time with The Pharaohs), and progressive, positive lyrics. EWF would go on to record seven top-10 albums, influence more popular musicians than appropriate to name and play for President Obama at his administration's first social event. "Help Somebody" is the first cut off their debut LP.