07.11.19

Words by: Felicity Martin

The 10 Best Rare Groove Tracks, according to Norman Jay

"A personal favourite!"

One of Britain’s most accomplished and celebrated selectors, Norman Jay MBE is something of a national treasure. Approaching a 40-year career, he rose to prominence through DJing regularly at clubs including Shake ‘n’ Fingerpop in the ’80s, became a regular fixture at Notting Hill Carnival with his Good Times system and helped establish Kiss FM as a pirate radio station. There he presented the first live show on the channel, a Saturday afternoon slot named ‘The Original Rare Groove show’. This phrase, ‘rare groove’, was coined by others to describe the style of old-skool funk, soul and disco that he pioneered through the show.

Jay has since described the phrase as a bit of an in-joke, telling Red Bull last year that “most of the black kids already knew those records – it was white England discovering those records. The whole rare groove thing was a misnomer – I just used it as a convenient label, a tag. It was the media that turned it into something.” Despite this, the genre category persists: an indication of Jay’s influence as a selector. Ahead of an appearance alongside Craig Charles at Funk The Dam in Amsterdam this weekend, the veteran soul, funk and house DJ talks us through his ten finest ‘rare groove’ gems.

1. James Brown – ‘Funky Drummer’

“The DNA of hip-hop and R&B, one of the most-sampled pieces of music!”

2. James Mason – ‘Sweet Power Your Embrace’

“For me, it’s the greatest post-war jazz tune, produced in 1977!”

3. Loleatta Holloway – ‘Runaway’

“The most-sampled female in dance music history. A personal favourite!”

4. The UMC’s – ‘One To Grow On’

“One of my favourite middle school hip-hop tunes, from the ’88-’93 period!”

5. Aretha Franklin – ‘Say A Little Prayer’

“I’m not religious but this tune makes me want to go to church.”

6. Lost Generation – ‘This Is The Lost Generation’

“Absolutely brilliant… Smouldering, low-down funk!”

7. Jackson Sisters – ‘I Believe In Miracles’

“An out-and-out rare groove track, one from the warehouse party days!”

8. Eddie Harris – ‘It’s All Right Now’

“Funk-jazz at its best!”

9. Roy Ayers – ‘We Live In Brooklyn’

“I had to include a reggae rare groove track!”

10. Johnny Osbourne – ‘Truth And Rights’

“Studio One at its finest… original Studio One!”

Norman Jay MBE plays Funk The Dam this weekend – find tickets here.