Unsure what are the best vinyl records to own for jazz and funk? Let Mitch Abdo, multi-instrumentalist and vinyl collector, show you the way.
Follow us on a journey of jazz and funk masterpieces – all available on vinyl.
Mitch Abdo, one funky musician, DJ and entrepreneur
Mitch Abdo, a cultivated and worldly artist from Lebanon, gives us a lesson on the best vinyl records.
Mitch is a multi-instrumentalist producer and talented live act running a music school. Based out of Beirut, Lebanon he travels frequently throughout Europe and the Middle East. The last time we met was in Iraqi Kurdistan when he was helping me discover the local music scene of Erbil.
His years of playing music, teaching musicality and running music-based institutions make him highly qualified in the art of music selection.
Mitch Abdo is particularly active this summer spinning and playing instruments over DJ sets during Lebanon’s high season under the alias Mixologue.
However, before we get into Mitch’s selection, we must first define what is a “good” record collection.
What are the best vinyl records to own?
There is a massive amount of music you can listen to on vinyl. The best way to go about vinyl collecting is to have a nice mix of new and old music along with a wide selection of genres.
Even the most diehard fan of underground music can appreciate the classics. Jazz and funk releases from back in the day were the roots of new generations of music leading up to today’s productions. So, which ones should you bring home with you?
What makes a good vinyl record to listen to?
While music is inherently subjective, you should ideally own a vinyl with music that you enjoy from start to finish.
With each side of a vinyl lasting on average 15-22 minutes, consider that you should be able to listen to one or both sides without having the urge to skip a track.
1. Average White Band – AWB, Funk your way through life
You can absolutely play this one all the way through.
Play this record to open a portal to 1974 in a time of soul and funk. Before you know it, you’ve blazed through the first two tracks and land on ‘Pick up the Pieces’.
Average White Band, stylized as AWB, were a band of Scots who really embraced funk. The success of the album was tempered after drummer Robbie McIntosh overdosed on heroin the same year.
While McIntosh’s death is tragic, he contributed to arguably one of the best vinyl records of AWB.
2. CHIC – C’est Chic, one of the best vinyl records for disco and funk
Here Mitch Abdo has chosen one powerhouse of a vinyl record.
Aside from the iconic ‘Le Freak’ from CHIC’s C’est Chic album, there is a beautiful track list to discover taking you through different energies. Spend some time on this one, there’s a fantastic summer feeling to be found in there.
Fun fact: at one point time CHIC had changed their musical direction towards new wave, briefly performing as Allah & the Knife Wielding Punks. In the end, they settled for dance music and changed from their original name Big Apple Band to CHIC.
3. Curtis Mayfield – Curtis, soulful on every track
Every track on this record is soulful. Bassline, guitar, violins and powerful words that hold true from 1970 until today. While Curtis Mayfield was a funk pioneer, he introduced hard hitting urban commentary into soul.
In the words of commenting YouTuber: “Don’t let the groove distract you from the message. Nothing but truth from a legend.”
You will recognize ‘Move On Up’ on this record – let Curtis take you there.
4. Earth, Wind & Fire – Earth, Wind & Fire, uplifting origin funk
Perhaps known better for their later singles ‘September’ and Boogie ‘Wonderland’ this is one of Earth, Wind and Fire’s first albums released in 1971. This was a tougher sounding record before they really hit their stride.
It’s funky, soulful and psychedelic. The album starts off strong with ‘Help Somebody’ and then becomes more tender with ‘Love is Life’. Definitely a must have if you like their more popular work. Plus, awesome album artwork.
5. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain, mind-melting psychedelic funk
This is Maggot Brain by Funkadelic, an album that starts with a guitar solo that speaks for itself.
We thank Mitch for including psychedelic funk from ’71. Funkadelic was a funk rock group that pursued heavier, psychedelic rock music inspired by Jimi Hendrix, Sly Stone and MC5. Think echoing, distorted guitar riffs, taking you to another place and time entirely. A transportive album to say the least.
Fun fact: According to legend, 10-minute first track was recorded on the first take after George Clinton, high on acid, told guitarist Eddie Hazel to play like he had been told his mother was dead.
If you like psychedelic rock, you’ll be all over this.
6. Guru – Jazzmatazz Volume: 1, one of the best vinyl records for acid jazz
The first track explains exactly what you are getting – hip hop with jazz. Smart, intelligent tunes with smooth, mellow lyrics. This is an easy listening album to put on morning afternoon or evening.
Our favorite song from this album is ‘No Time To Play’.
7. Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki and Tatsuro Yamashita – Pacific, exotica and electronic go to the beach
For an interesting blend of exotica and electronic music, Pacific does the trick.
Composed by Haruomi Hosono, Shigeru Suzuki and Tatsuro Yamashita, the classic tropical nostalgia album from 1978 touches on the genres of smooth jazz, lounge, funk, disco, Latin fusion and even synth pop.
This album is truly a gift to the world. For a unique feeling of being by the beach, buy the record here on Amazon.
8. Herbie Hancock – Head Hunters, funk-fusion goes mainstream
Another 70’s recommendation from Mitch – this time an example of how funk-fusion hit the mainstream. While it reached the top 13 of the Billboard 200, it also hit second place on Billboard’s US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.
It’s got a joyfulness to it, with simply catchy grooves that were accessible to everyone. It is considered one of the bestselling jazz albums.
9. Idris Muhammad – Turn This Mutha Out, funk in his veins
From the very get go, you hear that recognizable track that was sampled by The xx. Turn This Mutha Out is a jazz and funk gem to have on wax.
A self-taught prodigy from New Orleans, Idris Muhammad had a gargantuan career as a drummer on over 36 recordings including his own. He considered himself a funk drummer and Turn This Mutha Out released in 1977 is a testament to this.
10. John Coltrane – A Love Supreme, one of the best vinyl records for spiritual jazz
We thank Mitch Abdo for including this masterpiece.
A Love Supreme was recorded by John Coltrane in one session in 1965 featuring a quartet of musicians including MCoy Tyner (piano), Jimmy Garrison (bass) and Elvin Jones (drums). Coltrane’s tenor sax is present audibly and spiritually on all tracks.
This album consistently ranks high on top album lists of all time and influenced countless musicians from its release onwards.
John Coltrane’s legacy deserves to be preserved in the highest quality sound available. And one way to enjoy jazz at home is one vinyl – copies available at your nearest record store. Or if you live in the sticks grab it on Amazon.
11. K.C. & The Sunshine Band – Do It Good, a more underground side of this legendary band
Pure funk from the getgo – leave it to KC & the Sunshine Band to get you moving.
It was their debut album in 1974 and other than ‘Sound Your Funky Horn’ and ‘Queen of Clubs’ it never made a huge mainstream impact. In today’s world, it’s a more obscure LP of this legendary funk group from the 70s.
One of the best vinyl records when you need a soul and funk pick me up. Find it on Amazon.
12. Michael Jackson – Ben, a slice of sunshine from a younger Michael
Ben is the second studio album from Michael Jackson on Motown Records, recorded when he was turning into a teen idol, but before his voice started deepening. The year was 1972 and he was still a member of the Jackson 5 at the time.
This is a must if you’re into Motown and pure gold if you’re into soul music. Michael Jackson’s solo records on Motown are often overlooked – people forget there’s a lot of fantastic material there.
Our favorites are ‘We’ve Got a Good Thing Going’ and his cover of ‘My Girl’.
13. Miles Davis – Kind Of Blue, one of best vinyl records in jazz music
Released in 1959 by Miles Davis, Kind of Blue is a luscious jazz record to have handy at home. Unsheathe this blue colored vinyl and disappear into Mile’s world.
Miles Davis played with a sextet featuring saxophonists John Coltrane and Julian “Cannonball” Adderley on sax, Bill Evans on piano, Paul Chambers on bass, and Jimmy Cobb on drums, with Wynton Kelly appearing on ‘Freddie Freeloader’ – on piano instead of Evans. Talk about a team.
Gentle at the start, it’s catchy, relaxing, classy all at the same time. Even for those with a penchant for more underground music, you’ve got to appreciate the roots, the origins and the basis of great music. Kind of Blue is one of those albums you’ve got to have.
14. Prince – The Black Album, a f*** you to the music industry
The Black Album released in 1987 by Prince represents a middle finger to the music industry. It signals the start of the feud between Prince and Warner Brothers.
Instead of producing another ‘Purple Rain’ like requested, he recorded an album that contained no suitable material for a hit single. He also insisted that the album be solid black on both sides, with no mention of his name or the album title.
To aggravate the label further, days before the release of the album, Prince called and demanded them to pull the album. Warner Brothers reluctantly agreed and destroyed most of the LPs. Prince’s explanation was that he had a religious revelation and God told him the album was evil.
Recording industry drama aside, there is some quality funk on here. The album is considered a rarity and for diehards and funk purists, a must have.
15. Slave – Slave, pure, timeless funk
Funk is serious business on Slave’s self-titled 1977 album. The first track ‘Slide’ starts nice and funky and devolves into a rock solo. If you play any live instrument this will make you want to jam we are certain.
As put by a YouTube user, “this kind of pure funk is timeless.”
16. Stevie Wonder – Songs In The Key Of Life, one of the best vinyl records for funk, disco and soul
If you grew up in the 90’s you might not know that Coolio’s ‘Gangsta’s Paradise’ is actually originally from Stevie Wonder’s ‘Pastime Paradise’ found on his 1976 album Songs In The Key Of Life.
This record is undoubtably one of Stevie Wonder’s masterpieces. Just one listen to ‘Sir Duke’ will turn any dark day into a sunshiny moment. There’s a huge power behind Stevie Wonder’s composition, his lyrics and of course, his voice.
17. Tower Of Power – East Bay Grease, the catchiest funk record out there
They’ve got a lot of music out there. But if you’re going to own one this, is it. This is the band at their peak, a true gem from the 70’s.
Mitch nailed this as a key jazz and funk album to own. It starts off with funky rhythms and hard-biting horn lines and then continues into jazzy soul-filled wonder.
18. Vulfpeck – The Beautiful Game, solid instrumental funk
Vulfpeck is a mostly instrumental, Los Angeles-based band inspired by classic R&B rhythms.
It’s a great choice by Mitch Abdo to include this contemporary band to complement your funk collection, for this creative team of geniuses plays innovative funk very well.
19. Wes Montgomery – The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery, life changing jazz
It’s amazing what Wes Montgomery can do with a guitar. No guitar effects here, just picking. And never is it more evident than on The Incredible Jazz Guitar of Wes Montgomery released in 1960.
Consider this jazz and hard bop. It starts energetic, is clean cut and incredible to think that this was produced with only four musicians. Once Wes slows it down on the second track, so will your heart rate. Kick back and enjoy these honestly relaxing sounds.
20. Jungle – Volcano (To be released on 11 Aug 2023) is one of Mitch Abdo’s favorite acts right now
Mitch Abdo is onto something here. This is the fourth album of Jungle and it comes with a motion picture to accompany it. The movie will be “pushing the boundaries of storytelling through dance and the continuation of Jungle’s iconic & avant-garde choreographed cinematic universe.”
Jungle is an electronic project from the UK producing neo funk, funk and nu disco. The few singles that have been released already from the album are truly a tease – prepare yourself for a big landing in August.
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