FUNKY FRIDAY: Rhino's PHAT TRAX [1994,1997]

Promo items for Rhino's Phat Trax series included a 4 song vinyl 12" and a puffy, satin covered CD sampler

From the inside cover of the promo CD sampler:
Rhino drops da bomb and unleashes PHAT TRAX: The Best Of Old School. This slammin' 50-track 5-volume set includes some of the phattest artists from the Old School such as George Clinton, Funkadelic, Fatback, Mass Production, One Way, and Faze-O. Phat Trax also features classic cuts by Otis & Carla, Lyn Collins, The JB's, and The Meters. Rhino's Phat bonus to you is the long and unedited versions of most of these tracks. 
Picking up where Rhino's In Yo' Face series left off - no, wait, scratch that - Phat Trax actually has some of the same funk already anthologized on In Yo' Face but makes every effort to include full length album cuts and extended versions of songs while In Yo' Face often opted for radio friendly single versions. Each of the five volumes released in August 1994 features 10 tracks with many of them making not just the R&B charts but also the Dance charts as well.  Another differentiating aspect between the two series is Phat Trax is not chronological.

Volume 1 gets things started off oh so right and tight with Funkadelic's classic from 1979, "(Not Just) Knee Deep" which is not yet available within Spotify.  HERC's favorite track on the album is Tom Browne's jazz-funk landmark "Funkin' For Jamaica" from 1980 features vocals from Toni Smith.

Volume 2 kicks off with another Funkadelic smash: the almost eleven minute extended version of "One Nation Under A Groove" from 1978. Together with the second track, the sub-bass workout by Fatback known as "Backstrokin'", Volume 2 gets off on the good foot although the rest of the tracks are kind of lightweight for HERC's taste.

HERC is a fan of no less than six tracks on Volume 3: One Way's "Cutie Pie"; The System's "You Are In My System"; (Calvin) Yarbrough & (Alisha) Peoples and their hypnotic plea "Don't Stop The Music"; The Time's epic "777-9311"; Jesse Johnson's extended non-album B-side to "Can You Help Me", "Free World" and finally George Clinton's Special Atomic Mix of "Atomic Dog" that runs just under ten minutes long.

The only high points for HERC on Volume 4 are Carl Carlton's wonderfully titled "She's A Bad Mama Jama (She's Built, She's Stacked)" and the Brit funk of Junior's "Mama Used To Say". The Bomb Squad sampled the opening horn squeal from "The Grunt" for use in Public Enemy's "Rebel Without A Pause". Actually, keen-eared rap fans can spot many samples used in their favorite songs on both this collection and the In Yo' Face series that preceded it.

Like several other volumes in the Phat Trax series, Volume 5 starts off top-heavy, with the albums longest song being the first one in the track listing.  In this case, it is the over 13 minute long Disco Version of The Gap Band's "You Dropped A Bomb On Me" complete with air sirens.  The funk keeps coming with the disc's second track, an extended mix of Heatwave's "The Groove Line".  Those two workouts are followed in quick succession by Cheryl Lynn's "Got To Be Real" and The Emotions' "Best Of My Love" and before you know it you've been shakin' your groove thang for a full half hour after just the first four songs.  Two more of HERC's favorites on this disc are G.Q.'s funky smooth "Disco Nights (Rock Freak)" and Foxy's roller-skating jam "Get Off".  Song for song, it's a dead heat for HERC between Volumes 3 and 5 as to which disc is his favorite in the series.

Now, if you've read this far and you're looking at the copies of the Phat Trax discs in your collection and scratching your head because they don't look the same, you're absolutely right.  In 1997, Rhino revisited the Phat Trax series, including all new artwork for the first five volumes as well as introducing two new volumes into the collection.

As part of the renewed promotional push, a comic book and postcards were sent out.  The comic  (above) stars The Phat Trax Band, all of whom grace the new artwork on the CDs, in the story "Preservation Of The Funk" while the postcards (below) feature the cover art of the new volumes [6 + 7] on the front and the track listings on the reverse side.  [If anyone can let HERC know what the characters names are, please drop him a line.]

Before we review the new volumes in the series, here's the 1997 artwork that graces the covers of Volumes 1-5 that you probably have in your collection:

Volume 6's track list really didn't appeal to HERC so he didn't buy it, fighting his obsessive need to complete every set of discs he owns.  On the plus side, the disc has 12 songs instead of 10.  Are there any songs on this disc that rock your world?

After the disappointing Volume 6, Volume 7 closes out the series on a high note with no less than four HERC approved dance floor favorites. The second song on the album is the ten minute plus Special Disco Version of McFadden & Whitehead's positivity anthem "Ain't No Stoppin' Us Now" and it's followed by Brick's "Ain't Gonna Hurt Nobody" which was memorably sampled in a song of the same title by Kid N Play. One man studio band Peter Brown is up next with the nine minute burning question "Do You Wanna Get Funky With Me?" which itself is followed by the magnificent nine and a half minute journey to "Boogie Wonderland" with Earth Wind & Fire and The Emotions.


  1. Good stuff Herc. I have and love the whoe series myself.

  2. The Shadow knows his funk.