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A wave of "golden oldie' funk is not golden for all

(ran TP edition)

With the resurgence of old-school music, R&B bands that led the funk'n'groove charge in the late '70s are finding themselves back in demand on the touring circuit. However, their concert appeal among consumers doesn't always translate into profits at retail.

The market is saturated with vintage funk, in the form of rap samples, soundtracks, compilations and reissues. Recently, a new wave of funk band productions has entered the retail pipeline.

On July 9, Warner Archives released The Right Stuff, a compilation of the band Stuff. As part of its Funk Essentials series, Mercury released The Best Of Cameo Volume 2, The Best Of Con Funk Shun Volume 2, and The Best Of Bar-Kays Volume 2 on May 21.

Rhino Records will release The Best Of Mass Production in October and will reissue Slave's 1977 self-titled debut set in November. In March 1997, the label plans to drop The Best Of B.T. Express.

"Some of my hottest-selling product is from those old funk bands," says Sam Fuston, owner of Midnight Music in Los Angeles. "On days when nothing else is selling, I can always count on old-school music. It walks out the door almost by itself, and I don't mean through shoplifting."

In contrast to labels, which are riding the nostalgia wave all the way to the bank, the bands themselves haven't reaped major financial benefits from album sales.

"The "best of' sets don't really put much food on the table," says Michael Cooper of Con Funk Shun. "But it gives radio a convenient way of playing our older music, which can translate into possible tour dates, if the music catches on and the album charts."

At radio, it's the station's programing direction that ultimately determines if old-school music gets on the airwaves.

In an effort to carve its own market niche, Atlanta-based Intersound is issuing a series of greatest-hits sets recorded in concert by vintage funk acts. Each of the albums was recorded within the past year, with some sets featuring original material that was recorded onstage or in the studio.

On March 26, Intersound released Old School by the Ohio Players, which was followed with Live & Well, by the Gap Band on June 25. Nasty by Cameo came out Tuesday, and Live For Ya A by Con Funk Shun will hit stores on Aug. 20.

"There's a certain energy that you get from a live performance, and we wanted to capture that on these projects," says Intersound urban music director Ron Patterson.

Until recently, many of the '70s-era funk bands had not released new product in years. Nevertheless, these acts have been able to earn a living playing across the country.