VARIOUS: ‘The Craig Charles Funk & Soul Club 3’ (Freestyle)

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Fondly remembered for his role in the cult ’80s/’90s sci-fi comedy, ‘Red Dwarf,’ these days actor Craig Charles is a regular member of the cast of ITV’s long-running soap drama, ‘Coronation Street.’ He’s also carved out a creditable parallel career as a taste-making funk and soul DJ with his own show on BBC Radio 6. While Charles girds his loins to prepare for a plethora of unpleasant challenges that await him in the Australian jungle – he’s just signed up to be on the new series of ‘I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here,’ which airs this Sunday, November 16th – he’s left behind a third instalment of carefully-selected choice cuts that should appeal to funk and soul connoisseurs.

The 19-track set kicks off with the uproarious rough and tumble instrumental bluesy funk of ‘Do Your Thing’ by 6ix Toys, quickly followed by the equally infectious, ‘Let It Go,’ a groovy slice of retro soul-jazz from Andre Espeut’s Quintet. The feel-good funk factor never abates as track after track confirms that Charles possesses a discerning funk and soul palate. Raw, roughneck grooves – such as Cookin’ On 3 Burners’ ‘Losin’ Streak’ – sits alongside slick cinematic dancers (Skeewiff & Stephen Gray’s ‘Scissors Paper Stone’) and stylish retro-soul sides (Sophia Bastian’s Amy Winehouse-tinged ‘Breaking’).  There are also tight-knit, brassy jazz-funk blowouts (Brownout with ‘Flaximus’), sinuous Latin head-nodders (Sunlight Square’s ‘Vamanos Pal Monte’ and ‘El Ritmo De Nueva York’ by Ray Lugo & The Boogaloo Destroyers) and even contemporary neo-soul, courtesy of chanteuse Harleighblu (‘Play Me’) and Omar (‘The Man’).

The inclusion of the Afro-beat-inspired ‘Accra City People’ by Sena Dagadu underscores the international flavour of a compilation that presents soul and funk in all its varied hues. It’s a truly kaleidoscopic collection, then, and one whose euphoric, upbeat vibe is crystallised by the inclusion of Speedometer’s delightfully groovy instrumental take on Pharrell Williams’ global blockbuster ‘Happy.’ So whether you’re a soul and funk aficionado heading for the dance floor armed with talcum powder or just content to be an armchair listener, this collection will hit certainly the spot.

(CW) 4/5