George Clinton is a genius and released an incredible amount of awesome music in the 70s. There’s great stuff on nearly every release by both his major bands, PARLIAMENT and FUNKADELIC. And then he put out a whole lot of side projects, many of which are up to the same high standards of the signature records. Due in part to the theatricality and George’s slight over-exposure in the 90s (which painted him as a wacky old has-been), P-Funk has been slotted beneath people like Sly Stone and Prince in the “ultra-creative funk/R&B legend” category. But the truth is – they are every bit the equals of those artists, and sometimes even BETTER.
Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow
America Eats Its Young *
Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On *
Let’s Take It To The Stage
Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic
Hardcore Jollies *
One Nation Under A Groove
Uncle Jam Wants You *
The Electric Spanking Of War Babies
Up For The Down Stroke
Chocolate City *
Mothership Connection *
The Clones Of Dr. Funkenstein
Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome *
Live: P-Funk Earth Tour
Motor Booty Affair
Gloryhallastoopid (Or Pin The Tale On The Funky)
BOOTSY’S RUBBER BAND:
Stretchin’ Out In Rubber Band
Ahh…The Name Of Is Bootsy, Baby!
Bootsy? Player Of The Year *
This Boot Is Made For Fonk’n
The One Giveth, The Count Taketh Away
GEORGE CLINTON (Solo):
Computer Games *
You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish
Some Of My Best Jokes Are Friends
R&B Skeletons In The Closet
The Cinderella Theory
SIDE-PROJECTS AND SOLO ALBUMS:
Urban Dancefloor Guerrillas (P-Funk All-Stars)
Funk Or Walk (Brides Of Funkenstein)
Never Buy Texas From a Cowboy (Brides Of Funkenstein) *
Pleasure Principle (Parlet)
Invasion Of The Booty Snatchers (Parlet)
Play Me Or Trade Me (Parlet)
All The Woo In The World (Bernie Worrell)
A Blow For Me, A Toot For You (Fred Wesley And The Horny Horns)
Say Blow By Blow Backwards (Fred Wesley And The Horny Horns)
Games, Dames, & Guitar Thangs (Eddie Hazel)
The debut of the George Clinton juggernaut is a decidedly unassuming little funk album. It’s mostly just lengthy psych grooves. There’s a bit of Hendrix mixed with a bit of Sly and whole lot of what I’m assuming are psychedelic drugs. There are basically no songs to speak of on this record – the recording is rough and amateurish – the playing is sloppy and obviously live-in-studio. I’m guessing the band was incredibly high throughout, though who knows? Some of the grooves are cool, and the record definitely creates a unique atmosphere. Everything is slow and swampy and things go on SUPER long. The best cuts are the near-songs: “I Bet You” and “Good Old Music.” Yet even both of those tunes are saddled with extended boring jams for finales. “Qualify & Satisfy” is a generic and very dull blues song. The guitars sound pretty awesome throughout this record!!!! But it really just sounds like the primitive beginnings – so much better was to come.
FREE YOUR MIND AND YOUR ASS WILL FOLLOW (1970)
This is a little bit of a step up, but it’s still not much of a record. There are some great moments, and the freak-outs are really strange and fascinating. But the album is barely over 30 minutes long and 13 of those minutes are dedicated to totally acid-fried jamming. Legend has it that Clinton and the gang took a lot of LSD and recorded this album super quickly, to “see what it would be like to record a whole while album high on LSD.” Based on the amount of subsequent albums recorded similarly, by a wide variety of artists, I’m sure you can come up with an approximation of the results. Of course, the actual compositions on here are stronger and more polished than on the first album, so I imagine LSD was involved in both records, and the band was just getting better at both record-making and dealing with their highs! The title track is basically just the band freaking out while repeating the title over and over again (with the added phrase, “The kingdom of heaven is within”). It’s pretty Krautrock-y, with the little funky jam going on in the background and all the heavily drugged spoken word stuff and the mix totally off-putting and “wrong.” It’s a curiosity, and a certain kind of fun to listen to, but ultimately a pretty useless 10 minute track. Then there are two awesome shorter songs: “Friday Night , August 14th” and “Funky Dollar Bill.” Definitely the two catchiest and best performed Funkadelic songs so far. The other two songs are good too, just not as memorable, and the album ends with a 3 and half minute spoken word over backwards tape loop effects. So we’re getting better, but the true brilliance was still to come…
MAGGOT BRAIN (1971)
This is occasionally cited as the best Funkadelic album, or at least the best of the early albums. It’s a valid argument, although I think the record has become a bit overrated. The opening track is a very famous 10 minute guitar solo by Eddie Hazel – Clinton told him to play the first half like his mother died, and the second like she was being reborn or something. It’s a super passionate and FX heavy and Hendrix-y solo, and a bit Zappa-esque too, and certainly required listening for guitar lovers. But it’s not much more than a great guitar solo over some minor chord arpeggios with a very soft-in-the-mix back-beat. It gets old, in other words. Luckily, the album switches gears and spends most of the rest of its running time with the tightest and best compositions yet on a Funkadelic album. The insanely grooving and catchy “Can I Get To That” is almost certainly a top 10 P-Funk song for me. It sounds pretty much like vintage Sly, but has enough of that Clinton personality to make it unique. “You And Your Folks…” is also awesome, with the crazily processed drums and slamming groove. “Super Stupid” is a sweet heavy fuzz rocker. All these short songs are pretty great. “Back In Our Minds” utilizes percussion ideas that move us a bit further into the realm of “these guys are completely warped and weird space aliens.” The album ends with a 9 minute funky jam, “Wars of Armageddon” – it layers sound FX and spoken word parts on top of a really great and well-performed funk groove. Again, I’m not crazy about the funk jams on some of these records, as I’m much more of a composition and song lover than an instrumental jam lover, but I guess it comes with the territory here and Funkadelic does as good a job with ’em as anybody from this era (and probably a better job). So yes, a solid and sometimes even amazing record, but unfortunately too uneven to be considered a total classic.
AMERICA EATS ITS YOUNG (1972)
This is the most underrated record in the Funkadelic canon. I’ve seen some people write it off as one of their worst. That’s crazy! This is a huge step up from the previous three Funkadelic albums – the production, playing, writing, and singing is much stronger, and the sheer variety of ideas and styles makes for an almost entirely joyful and entertaining double album. There’s very little “filler” on here, and even though some of the tunes are recycled old Parliament songs, I’d still call this early Clinton’s ultimate statement. The album opens with the totally awesome “You Hit The Nail On The Head,” which moves through its various sections with an unparalleled amount of energy and enthusiasm. There are beautiful lush ballads like “We Hurt Too” and “Everybody Is Going To Make It This Time.” There’s the funky jams – “Loose Booty” and “Wake Up.” There’s a weird experiment in the title track. “A Joyful Process” is a killer Bernie Worrell-filled instrumental. Basically, the whole album works. It’s probably a bit stronger in it’s first half though, and there isn’t one ultimate classic single like on many of the upcoming Parliament albums. But this is still a huge highlight and one of the most consistent P-Funk records overall (which is saying a lot, since it’s a double album and even many of the other shorter records can be pretty uneven).
COSMIC SLOP (1973)
This sounds more like a collection of loose-ends to me than a full-fledged new album. It’s too short and lacking a collective identity to render it a great record, but there’s no doubting the awesome quality of about half of these tunes. The album opens with two classic jams – “Nappy Dugout” and my personal favorite “You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure.” The latter has some incredible vocal hooks, and the band sounds great. The title track is a weird repetitive one which is essentially just one awesome riff repeated over and over. It works PERFECTLY though, and the arrangement remains interesting throughout. Closer “Can’t Stand The Strain” is a good soulful pop number. The rest of the album is strong but not quite Grade-A P-Funk – “No Compute” is a funny spoken word sex-story, “Let’s Make It Last” a chugging rocker with some good hooks, and “This Broken Heart,” a pretty soul cover. “Trash A-Go-Go” is the only real piece of filler – an unmemorable little funk thing. That leaves us with the most bizarre track on the record – “March To The Witch’s Castle” a pitch-shifted Clinton spoken word war parable recited over an almost proggy instrumental track with a march rhythm and typically goofy guitar melody. It’s an interesting experiment, but not quite a keeper. In any case, this is a solid record (as are almost all of these albums), well worth hearing even for a casual fan, but just not in the upper echelons of Clinton productions.
STANDING ON THE VERGE OF GETTING IT ON (1974)
This is one of the best P-Funk records, let down only by it’s ending track (more on that in a moment). Eddie Hazel co-wrote every song on here, and it’s definitely the most guitar-heavy and rock-oriented Funkadelic album thus far. The record opens with a re-make of “Red Hot Mama,” which simply destroys the original and kicks ass. “Alice in My Fantasies” is a short but scorching guitar-fest, perhaps the most hard rocking song in the entire P-Funk canon. “I’ll Stay” is a beautiful moody soul song, that maintains interest and atmosphere throughout it’s 7 minutes. The title track is a grooving classic, and “Jimmy’s Got a Little Bit of Bitch In Him” a really funny song with an awesome arrangement and some super memorable keyboard parts. That leaves the forgettable but fun “Sexy Ways,” and the final 12 minute “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” which is essentially Maggot Brain Part 2. It’s a Hazel hazy guitar solo, with a very quiet and processed drum part hanging out somewhere back in the mix, and lots of guitar FX. There’s a spoken word part woven in there towards the end too. It’s a hypnotic and moving track, but simply goes on too long and pads out an already too short record. If there were two more powerful pop/funk songs in it’s stead, and the solo was reduced to a quarter of it’s length, this would be a classic record. It’s still a damn good one though.
LET’S TAKE IT TO THE STAGE (1975)
Another solid and mostly consistent Funkadelic record, with some awesome moments and some more questionable ones. But it’s not taking the sound in any new directions, and much of the the material isn’t necessarily among the best P-Funk has to offer. The biggest problem is instrumental closer “Atmosphere” which is over 7 minutes of Bernie Worrell…carnival music. Or something. It’s a keyboard drenched instrumental, and it’s interesting to hear once or twice, but not the kind of thing I want on my classic albums. Actually, most of final 3rd of this album is pretty unforgettable: “Stuffs & Things” and “The Song Is Familiar” are both well-executed and nice, but also a bit underwritten. Luckily, there are some GREAT moments earlier on. Opener “Good To Your Earhole” is a total classic, and the title track might just be one too. “No Head No Backstage Pass” is a scorching rocker with some Zappa-esque sex lyrics. “Get Off Your Ass And Jam” is an energetic little number which packs a lot of punch into 2 minutes, and “Baby I Owe You Something Good” is a bluesy rocker dripping with atmosphere and attitude. The other songs are pretty good too – but in general, this is where Funkadelic albums start to sound more like rag-tag compilations rather than real albums. They start to lack identity – the material is usually great, the production powerful, the attitude kick-ass. But they’re not really great ALBUMS, and I’m pretty sure Funkadelic only really delivered one arguably classic platter (coming up…) Which isn’t to say they’re not all well-worth your time – because they ARE!!!
TALES OF KIDD FUNKADELIC (1976)
Apparently these were leftover tracks from the “Hardcore Jollies” sessions, scrapped together for the band’s final release on their original label. That certainly explains the totally erratic nature of the album – this is definitely no concept album, and does indeed feel like a group of “extra” songs. But we’re dealing with prime-era George Clinton here, and these “extra” songs are mostly awesome. There are a couple near-classics on here: “Let’s Take It To The People” is a short but sweet pop-funk tune with great hooks and keyboard parts, and “Take Your Dead Ass Home!” is a killer extended jam. The opener “Butt-To-Buttresuscitation” introduces the scatological humor soon to blossom on “One Nation Under A Groove” – it’s adecent but not essential P-Funk, and Worrell’s synths are clearly supposed to sound like farts. That last statement has no real point of view, I realize – I’ll leave it up to you to decide whether or not synth farts are a positive or negative quality in a record. “I’m Never Gonna Tell It” and “How So Yeaw View You?” are both solid shorter songs with good arrangements and melodies. That leaves the two problem spots on the record – “Undisco Kidd” is an unmemorable and overlong rip on disco. It’s OK in spots, but I still think it’s one of the worst Funkadelic tunes from this era. They re-use the “Girl is bad” hook on too many later recordings! And then there’s the 13 minute synth-fest title track, which starts off with a bunch of wanky Worrell stuff minus a back-beat. It eventually breaks into a bongo-driven psychedelic “Funky Woman” chant with weird group vocal chants and funny pitch-shifted voices probably meant to be the Kidd himself. It’s cool in parts, and atmospheric, but do you want 13 minute synth-fests in your funk? Whoa! W-E-F-U-N-K.
HARDCORE JOLLIES (1976)
A damn good and wonderfully heavy funk record. This is really consistent, and a bit grittier than usual. There’s just as much guitar rock on here as on “Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On,” and it may be even more kick-ass in total, lacking as it does a long psychedelic guitar solo or weirdo throwaway tracks. So that makes it one of the best Funkadelic records! It opens with a killer version of “Comin’ Round The Mountain,” which sounds silly but actually rules. There’s an new ballsy edginess to the recording, and the guitar work is amazing. The album includes a live version of “Cosmic Slop” which may be even better than the older studio version. The title track is a guitar-athon instrumental – very intense and awesome. And my other favorite is definitely “You Scared The Lovin’ Out Of Me,” which is lengthy and repetitive but full of incredible guitar moments and a cool vocal arrangement. The rest of the album is quite good as well, with no obvious duffer moments. The intricate funk of “If You Got Funk, You Got Style” sounds so unique and accomplished – no other band could pull that kind of arrangement off this perfectly. Definitely one of the key Funkadelic records, and much better than it’s somewhat middling reputation would lead you to believe.
ONE NATION UNDER A GROOVE (1978)
Holy Mother of Funk, is this record overrated! Some people might have you believe it’s one of the two or three best products the Mothership has to offer. These people are CRAZY! Well, maybe not entirely crazy. Because this is a very deceptive record. The first two tracks (which are lengthy jams and therefore make up a significant part of the entire album) are both holy grails of funk music, and represent perhaps the best opening two-fer on any of these records except “Mothership Connection.” The title track is just an unbelievable dance-pop classic, with loads of hooks and awesome grooves and ideas. The production is amazing. Then comes “Grooveallegience,” which is one of the most unique and intricate numbers in the catalog. It’s really really great, with an incredible vocal arrangement and phenomenal atmospheric grooves. But then comes the rest of the album. And the rest of the album represents some of the WORST Funkadelic music yet. The US of Funkadelica concept disappears entirely, and we’re left with a slate of what sound to me like random outtakes. The most offensive of these is the 10 minute diarrhea-fest (literally), “Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The DooDoo Chasers).” The song involves a semi-interesting slow funk guitar driven groove played over and over and over again, while Clinton and others talk metaphorically about all things poop. It’s WAY too long, and not even very good in its early moments. It’s the kind of track that gives this project a bad name, and leads people to believe Clinton and his top collaborators were too crazy and self-indulgent to be taken as serious 70s pop geniuses (which they undoubtedly were). The other three songs are pretty under-par as well: “Into You” and “Cholly” close of the album with sounds too poppy for Funkadelic and too generic for P-Funk in general. That leaves the overlong “Who Says A Funk Band Can’t Play Rock,” which is the best of the weak songs with it’s super fuzzed out guitars and memorable refrain. But it’s not that great, and doesn’t really go anywhere all that special. The other problem with this record is that it doesn’t really sound like Funkadelic – there’s no awesome heaviness, or scuzzy funk, and there’s not a whole lot of nasty guitars either (except on the “Funk Band Can’t Play Rock” track, where the guitars seem almost too obvious). The album still gets a good grade for it’s absolutely stunning first 15 minutes – but as an album in total, it’s definitely one of the weaker Funkadelic releases.
UNCLE JAM WANTS YOU (1979)
Now, THIS should be considered the late-period Funkadelic masterpiece. It’s also my choice for the best Funkadelic record in general. It’s just a way better record than “One Nation.” The album is dominated by it’s two lengthy tracks, both of which are definitely at the very top of the heap of Clinton productions. “(Not Just) Knee Deep” is a 15 minute masterpiece – more people know it today as the song De La Soul sampled (a bit too directly if you ask me) for their big single “Me Myself and I.” It’s a nonstop barrage of amazing grooves, hooks, and ideas. The 10 minute title track is almost as good – and absolutely jam packed with hooks. There are at least 5 great melodic ideas in the song, and the military metaphors are hilarious. Those 25 minutes alone would make this one of the top Funkadelic records. But then you get the catchy opener, “Freak of the Week,” and the awesome Zappa-esque instrumental “Field Maneuvers.” The last 8 minutes of the album are what keep it from pushing past some of the Parliament classics. There’s the weird novelty ballad “Holly Wants To Go To California,” which is actually pretty funny and engaging at first, but should have been a 2 minute interlude as opposed to a 4 and a half minute major track. It just doesn’t really go anywhere all that great after it’s themes are presented. Then the album ends with the interesting and more experimental thematic song “Foot Soldiers (Star Spangled Funky).” Both the closers are nice on their own, but together they seem a bit redundant and drop the album’s insanely exuberant energy level way too far down. Nonetheless, the first 4 tracks make this is a fantastic record, and the last two don’t hurt it TOO badly.
THE ELECTRIC SPANKING OF WAR BABIES (1981)
I’m not quite sure how to feel about this final Funkadelic album. It’s basically an entirely new group of players, with old mainstays Bootsy and Eddie Hazel and Garry Shider making very minor appearances here and there. We’ve also got the addition of the legendary Sly Stone on one track – it sounds like an amazing idea, but so much of Clinton’s work is already so strongly influenced by Stone’s that you can barely notice the difference when Sly himself is onboard. This is a very consistent album with some very strong tracks, but somehow it never manages to feel like a REAL P-Funk album. The title track is great – it’s runs through a series of good hooks before settling on the super catchy title groove which carries most of the song. The way the band syncopates the melody of the title works splendidly. A huge part of the album is taken up by the two parts of “Funk Gets Stronger.” It’s a well written and executed extended funk jam, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the old classics. Sly appears on the second part of the song – he apparently plays Synth, Rhythm Guitar, and Drums, in addition to his vocals! The rest of the album is a bit forgettable – “Electro-Cuties” is a dense and energetic dance track, solid but not exceptional. The reggae pastiche “Shockwaves” has its moments, and I like the harmonized female chorus, but it’s too underwritten and Clinton doesn’t seem particularly moved by reggae rhythms. “Oh, I” is a corny and indistinct soul-funk song, and “Brettino’s Bounce” a filler-ish instrumental. Which leaves closer “Icka Prick,” a decent song with a unique arrangement for P-Funk – no real rhythm section! Besides the title track, nothing on here is truly essential – but this is certainly not bad way to go out, and at least Funkadelic’s name never got associated with the bad 80s production soon to ruin Clinton’s solo releases.
The first Parliament record was recorded in 1970, 4 years before “Up For The Down Stroke.” Clinton hadn’t really formalized his sound yet, and this doesn’t seem to have much to do with the patented big bass, synth-heavy funk still to come. But it’s a totally entertaining and sometimes really great album – though it suffers from inconsistency and occasional sloppiness. 2nd song “Put Love In Your Life” is a very unique track in the P-Funk catalog – with it’s suite structure and theatrical vocal delivery, it sounds like it comes right out of a rock opera. “Little Ole Country Boy” is a hilarious and bizarre and very charming soul-country song. “Moonshine Heather” ends up as perhaps the most successful overall recording on here, with it’s deep funky groove and “taking care of business” hook. I really enjoy the endearing “My Automobile,” which opens with a little sketch where the band is brainstorming and writing the song, before the track breaks into the finished product. This album shows off Clinton’s range – there are all sorts of songs on here, such as the final track “The Silent Boatman,” a spiritual anthem with falsetto singing, harps, and a bagpipe part!. Every song has a hook. Things are a bit more ragged than they’d become, and more 60s-sounding. But this is a solid record, and very underrated. There are also some killer bonus tracks on my edition – singles from the period – such as “Fantasy Is Reality” and “Come In Out Of The Rain.”
UP FOR THE DOWN STROKE (1974)
The first REAL Parliament album – which starts immediately to differentiate itself from Funkadelic by adding beefier bass, horns, and pledging a stricter allegiance to funk and soul and dance jams. But this is an interesting album – after the first two super funky jams, there’s actually not much upbeat stuff on here at all. The title track is a total classic – with amazing bass work, an instantly catchy hook, great production, and killer playing by everybody. The next track “Testify” is a re-working of an older song, and while not on the level of the title track, it’s still a very engaging track, especially that Bernie Worrell low keyboard part! Then comes the 9 minute “The Goose,” which manages to be almost formless yet remain hypnotizing and grooving and interesting throughout. Things get moody on the album’s 2nd half, with the unique “All Your Goodies Are Gone” (a track that didn’t gel with me at first, but then totally grew on me until I realized it was a classic) and similarly odd and slowly paced “I Just Got Back…” These tracks show off the insane versatility of P-Funk music – it certainly wasn’t always hot funk jams and special effects. “Whatever Makes Baby Feel Good” is a powerful and engaging bluesy soul number. The other tracks are fun on here too – as a whole, this isn’t quite up to the quality of some of the best Parliament records, but it’s definitely no slouch.
CHOCOLATE CITY (1975)
This album opens with a REALLY awesome three song sequence. The title track is an unbelievable and totally unique recording – it’s bizarre ebb and flow, the endearing and hilarious narration, the keyboard part, the chorus hook, the sparseness and lack of any real rhythmic thrust though-out long passages – it’s a genius single. Then comes another amazing funk track – “Ride On,” which sports one of the craziest and most bad-ass bass tones and lines EVER! “Together,” the third track, may not be QUITE the equal of the first two, but it’s still a great one, with those bizarre and totally grooving key-change shifts to the chorus and more amazing bass playing. This is where the Parliament creativity really starts to flower – these aren’t just your average funk jams – they’re multi-faceted recordings overflowing with ideas and hooks and awesome playing. Clinton and co. start doing things on their records that simply SHOULDN’T work, would seem way too ridiculous or boring or even unmusical to another band…and yet they work so incredibly well, and seem so controlled, the guys essentially end up forging a whole new genre. The rest of the album isn’t as good – but there are still some fun tracks. “Side Effects” and “What Comes Funky” are engaging while playing, but suffer in the shadow of the opening singles. “Let Me Be” is a weird extended piece based around a mock-classical piano figure – it’s interesting but forgettable. The album ends with some stronger pieces – “If It Don’t Fit (Don’t Force It)” is a good funk jam, “I Misjudged You” a pretty ballad, and “Big Footin'” probably the fourth best song overall, with it’s very funny and catchy nursery rhyme-esque hook. Better things were right around the corner, but this definitely points the way…
MOTHERSHIP CONNECTION (1975)
This is pretty much the best P-Funk album, one of the best albums of the 70s, and perhaps the best funk record of all time. It’s just a total jam the whole way through. It’s weird, wild, catchy as hell, groovy as fuck, totally innovative, sounds amazing, the playing and singing rules, the songs are great, it’s hilarious, it influenced billions of people and almost single-handedly created hip hop. It’s where it all comes together for Clinton – the first REALLY cohesive record he’d produced. Every track is great. But most important to the P-Funk legend are the BIG THREE! First comes the opener, which is sort of the “Declaration of P-Funk,” during which Clinton raps about the “outer space funk” concept, and other things funky. The “make my funk the P-Funk” hook is a total classic. Then comes the title track, with an unbelievably awesome groove and vocals hooks galore. Later on is “Give Up The Funk,” likely the most famous P-Funk song of all – to this day it remains one of the ultimate party anthems. But the rest of the album is also amazing: “Unfunky UFO” is one of my favorite songs in the catalog. The band just destroys on that one, and the arrangement is glorious. The other three are great as well, especially closer “Night of the Tumpasorus.” This is just a pop masterwork, and a must listen for anyone remotely interested in soul, funk, dance music or even just music in general!
THE CLONES OF DR. FUNKENSTEIN (1976)
I don’t know about this one. It’s obviously a major step down from “Mothership,” but what wouldn’t be? The problem is that it’s also a step down from everything else coming out of Clinton’s factory at the same time. As far as I’m concerned, there’s only one great track on here: “Do That Stuff,” which is an amazing single. The groove is hilarious and catchy, the vocal hooks infectious…it’s just a classic jam. And of course THAT song is a pretty well known funk classic, sure to end up on any Parliament compilation worth its salt, so it’s not exactly a reason to hear this album in its entirety. The title character’s title track is funny and weird, but goes on a bit too long and doesn’t have enough musical substance to put it on par with similar and better tunes in the catalog. The concept on this album is pretty unconvincing – I’m not sure it even remains in operation after the first four songs. Things also generally sound a bit too commercial and neat for P-Funk – “Gettin’ To Know You” is a very well played and produced soul song, with a nice groove, but it’s not very distinct. “Children of Productions” is too conceptual and not very memorable, and “Funkin’ For Fun” is a sub-par and dumb funk jam. “Gamin’ On Ya!” has some awesome horn parts, but the main vocal hook is a total steal from their own “Chocolate City” chorus hook. The worst offender is “I’ve Been Watching You,” 6 minutes of generic and boring “atmospheric” soul. That leaves “Everything Is On The One,” which sports too safe and obvious a hook for my tastes, but it IS rather catchy. This is quite possibly the worst P-Funk album yet – it’s easier to listen to than the early Funkadelic albums, but then those weren’t meant to be easy listening. This is just a rare misstep from the generally mighty 70s Clinton team.
FUNKENTELECHY VS. THE PLACEBO SYNDROME (1977)
That previous dud was obviously just a palate cleanser. This is the BOMB. An incredible weirdo-funk record, it’s a tie with “Mothership Connection” for the best overall P-Funk album. It’s probably the most consistent P-Funk album. Every track is great! The album opens with the amazing “Bop Gun,” a classic Parliament single. The opening guitar line is amazing, the groove rules, the atmosphere is hilarious and weird – it’s a timeless jam, pure and simple. It does go on a bit too long, and the song’s extended outro is possibly the album’s weakest moment overall. Next comes the 10 minute introduction of the ultimate Funk Villain – “Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk” – an unfunky cretin who refuses to dance, and later to swim, and who wishes to destroy funk forever. This is probably the most narrative-based and “mythologized” song in the catalog, and also one of the funniest. The hooks are great on this one, with nursery rhymes and warnings and plot descriptions weaving in and out of each other on top of an awesome “evil” funk groove. Next is the short and sweet soul-pop-doo wop number, “Wizard of Finance,” which is super Zappa-esque and quite wonderful! Then comes my personal favorite on the record, the monstrously fantastic 11 minute “Funkentelechy.” A multi-part epic, with hooks galore and incredible production, it’s one of the ultimate highlights in P-Funk. “The Placebo Syndrome” is another shorter and slower song, also a winner – that lengthy main melody is so infectious! Finally, as the best icing ever on an already classic cake, the album ends with the immortal “Flash Light.” Probably P-Funk’s most beloved song, it’s a Bernie Worrell-driven funk masterpiece, and has my vote for the best synth-bassline ever laid down. It’s a testament to that song’s quality that pretty much every fan of funk music calls it one of the best funk songs of all time, if not THE best. This album rules!!!!
LIVE: P-FUNK EARTH TOUR (1977)
The only official 70s live P-Funk album is not very highly regarded by many. And the reason is obvious upon listening to it: the group’s theatrical show didn’t translate to record, relying heavily as it did on audience participation and visuals. Large portions of this album are devoted to boring band vamps with spoken audience interaction. It sounds like it would have been an absolute BALL to have attended these shows – but it’s not very much fun to listen to them. Additionally, the recordings aren’t good enough to bring out the interplay, and the grooves don’t sound deep. These songs are very reliant on their production – the way things POP, the way the bass gets in your face and the synths squiggle around the stereo spectrum – and these live recordings don’t do any of the material justice. PLUS there’s a super dull 15 minute version of what I consider one of the dopiest and least interesting P-Funk “classics”: “Dr. Funkenstein.” The live show was obviously a huge part of this groups’ legacy – but this was unfortunately not a worthy document. It’s really weak.
MOTOR BOOTY AFFAIR (1978)
This is where Parliament starts to falter. The mediocre “The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein” was an anomaly, sandwiched as it was between two absolute classics. But “Funkentelechy” must have been the explosive final masterwork for this ensemble, a clearing house of awesomeness – for their last three records are only enjoyable in parts. This one gets a lot of respect from fans and critics, and most people consider it part of peak-era Parliament. But I just don’t hear it. Granted, it’s way better than the next album, and it has some great moments. The theme is also really fun – funk had gone previously to outer space, and now it’s underwater! Everybody’s dancing to the P-Funk, including the fishes! But nothing on here FLOORS (or ocean FLOORS) me the way most of the previous record does. The album opens with “Mr. Wiggles,” which is very similar to the “Chocolate City” song and the opening tracks of “Mothership Connection.” We get Clinton pretending to be a DJ worm underwater, introducing the proceedings and broadcasting from “beautiful downtown Atlantis.” There are lots of references to things aquatic, with Mr. Wiggles rapping over a cyclic jazzy bass groove and interrupted by a chanted chorus hook. It’s a funny and engaging track, almost like it comes from a children’s album. “Rumpofsteelskin” was a big single, but I think it’s one of the worst major P-Funk creations. I find the groove ugly, and the hooks boring. The other single is WAY better – “Aqua Boogie,” with it’s wacky bird calls, and Sir Nose hilariously being forced to swim, and the main hook with it’s hand claps and synth bass. It’s not quite as good as other Clinton singles, but it’s at the top of the second tier. The other songs are mostly solid – “Water Sign” is an atmospheric soul ballad, “Liquid Sunshine” has a fun bouncy hook and sounds a bit like Stevie Wonder, and the title track has a a drop-dead-gorgeous bass line. I don’t really like the cheesy “One of Those Funk Things.” In general, I think George goes a bit overboard with some of the vocal production here – things can sound really messy on some of these tracks due to too many competing chanting voices. The most obvious example of this is on the 9 minute closing jam “Deep.” The track has some genius moments – the guitar and horn parts are incredible, the groove pretty great – but the vocals are so all-over-the-place, the song never really finds much focus for me. It often sounds like there are three disparate group vocal tracks playing at once! I’s an ALMOST classic song – maybe somebody should do a re-mix. And that’s the story for the whole record – almost up to par, but missing a lot of the old spark.
GLORYHALLASTOOPID (OR PIN THE TALE ON THE FUNKY) (1979)
This is probably the worst Parliament album of ’em all! Which isn’t to say it’s a total wash – there are some decent tracks on here. But none of the songs are even close to the quality of past classics, and some of them are simply dreadful. The worst offender is definitely the 10 minute “Party People,” an ugly, hook-less, repetitive, and overly commercial piece of dance-pop dung. The vocal melody doesn’t even sound like it was written for the backing track during portions of this overlong disaster. And what’s worse: it’s the 2nd song of the record (not including a short spoken-word introductory track). So it paints the whole remaining album in a bad light – it was clearly meant to be listened to as one of the key tracks, and it fails to produce any magic whatsoever. The other lengthy track, “The Freeze,” is a bit better, but still way under par for P-Funk epics. Had it been cut down in length, it would have been an OK track – the vocal hook is decent, and there are some interesting rhythmic ideas. But it’s WAY too long, and far too repetitive. So that’s almost 20 minutes of dead time already! Luckily, the rest of the album is better. The best track is pretty obviously “Theme From The Black Hole,” also the most famous song on here, with it’s infectious “Toast To The Boogie” hook. The end of the song has Sir Nose winning the funk war, I believe – and I guess it makes sense considering the giant quality drop this album represents. It’s not a totally amazing P-Funk single, but it stands out here like a pearl in a shit-oyster. The other moderate winner is the long near-instrumental, “The Big Bang Theory,” which has a great synth hook. I’m also fan of the closer, “May We Bang You?” It’s not particularly memorable, but it’s very enjoyable while playing, with some nice vocal hooks. That leaves the title track – pretty generic P-Funk sorta thing, and it sounds a bit lifeless too. There’s also “Colour Me Funky,” which seems like a mess to my ears – a very unattractive production on that one. Clinton had already made SO many amazing recordings by this point, and it’s not surprising that the gas eventually out for this group. Of course, “Uncle Jam Wants You” came out the same year with Funkadelic, and that’s one of the absolute best P-Funk albums! So never doubt the Mothership…
First of all, let me just say that “Agony of Defeet” is possibly my favorite track on the previous three Parliament records. So even though this record is almost unanimously slammed as a failure, and I agree that it’s a very mediocre release, the power of that single REALLY helps it rise above the murk. And even considering the rest of the tracks, I still think this is a minor improvement over “Gloryhallastoopid.” It just sounds incredibly scattered – almost like an odds and sods collection of leftover tracks. The album opens with an absurd amount of Sir Nose monologues – the first two tracks are basically just platforms for goofy pitch-shifted voices to chat at us. Both of these openers are way too underwritten and messy to be taken as actual jams, and they were probably just leftover grooves overdubbed with thematic wackiness. Then comes the very sold “Long Way Around,” which is a disco-tinged R&B tune with a memorable refrain and some cool changes. It’s a bit dated sounding, and a tad corny, but it works pretty well and the arrangement is fluid and interesting. Next is the awesome foot-themed single described above, without a doubt the album’s uber-highlight. Side 2 is pretty weak – “New Doo Review” is one of the most random sounding P-Funk cuts. There are some interesting themes in it, but it sounds so haphazardly constructed, I’m not even sure what to make of it (much like the opening tracks). It’s basically just a mess. “Let’s Play House” is a decent little jam that has a strong Prince-vibe – it’s the highlight of this side. The last two extended tracks are almost throwaways – “Body Language” has a very unattractive hook, but the unique arrangement keeps me listening while it’s playing. And the 7 minute closer, “Peek-A-Groove” —- well — it sucks! Too repetitive and normal-sounding, a very uninspired track that should have gone on a Parlet album or something. So as a whole, this is definitely worth hearing for fans, but it’s not essential at all and it very clearly represents the natural (and inevitable) ebb of magic in this once truly inspired ensemble.
BOOTY’S RUBBER BAND
STRECHIN’ OUT IN BOOTSY’S RUBBER BAND (1976)
Bootsy’s solo project was produced by Clinton, and basically sounds like a more bass-heavy and groove-oriented version of Parliament. And of course, things are focused mainly on the bassist’s totally bizarre and hilarious vocal stylings and oddball self-mythologizing. So there’s not much here in the way of actual songs – these are either funk jams with chants and spoken word parts, or repetitive slinky love-themed soul songs. As a whole, this a lot more like background music than the best of P-Funk – it sounds great, the arrangements are usually awesome, Bootsy is an insanely great player…but nothing on here really sticks. The title track is the best of the funk jams, with it’s incredible bass playing and utterly wacky “My Name Is Caspar…with a friendly Booooo” rants. The other two are way less memorable, although “Another Point of View” has some strong moments. Side B is devoted to the love songs, and the best of these is BY FAR “I’d Rather Be With You,” which is perhaps the greatest track on the whole record. It’s a very catchy and seductive soul-funk-pop tune, and an obvious single choice. The other slow grooves aren’t very distinct, though they’re nice to listen to and Clinton couldn’t produce something totally uninteresting at this point if he tried. But too much of this record is under-whelming, especially in comparison to some of the other P-Funk albums around the same time. Worth hearing, but not at all a classic as some Clinton and Bootsy fans claim.
AHH…THE NAME IS BOOTSY, BABY (1977)
More wacky funk and slow sex jams from the weirdest member of the team. This might be a BIT better than the debut, but it’s still not exactly my cup of tea. The funk seems too goofy and slight on these Rubber Band records…the hooks are not as strong, and Bootsy’s personality can get a little grating. The playing, however, is always stunning – the bass-work in particular of course – and the arrangements usually pretty interesting. It’s just that the song-writing is too indistinct, and this record just doesn’t make a huge impression on me in the end. There is one classic on here though: “The Pinocchio Theory.” It’s a killer funk jam with some great hooks (“These Good Old Days…THESE DAYS!”). And the concept of the song is hilarious (your nose grows if you fake the funk), and led to the creation of the infamous villain of P-Funk, Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk. The band sounds amazing on that track, and it just never lets up with its insanely tight groove. The rest of the tracks range from pretty good to mediocre. I don’t really like the title track, which layers distracting crowd noises and spoken word parts on top of an odd and deceptively simple groove. The bass REALLY sounds like it’s meant to represent Bootsy’s penis in this song. It could have been a better tune with a less chaotic arrangement and some actual hooks. The other funk jam “Rubber Duckie” is very unmemorable. Side Two presents us with more “sexual chocolate” type songs. I like “What’s A Telephone Bill” a lot – it sports a very cool R&B groove, and some great singing. The long slow burn of “Munchies For Your Love” seems to be major fan favorite – I respect the song for its dynamics, but I also think it’s too underwritten to sustain it’s power. It’s an impressive performance though. That leaves “Can’t Stay Away,” another well executed but boring song that doesn’t stick with me at all. So barring “Pinocchio,” this is a pretty inessential effort.
BOOTSY? PLAYER OF THE YEAR (1978)
DEFINITELY the best of the Rubber Band albums. It’s an obvious improvement to my ears, and I have no clue why this has a reputation as being even a bit WORSE than the previous record. The band seems even tigher here, and the writing and production sounds more in sync with Bootsy’s vision. The album opens with easily my favorite Bootsy track – “What’s The Name Of This Town.” Man oh man is that an amazing bass-line and drum groove. This song sounds to me like a major improvement on the idea of the title track of the previous album – it has the crowds cheering for Bootsy, and the simple but awesome groove – and yet the hooks are better, the crowd is used sparingly, there’s a great orchestral interlude, and the whole thing just sounds amazing. A highlight of P-Funk in general. My other favorite is “Roto-Rooter,” which is almost as good as the opener! Bootsy’s fast recitation of the hook is hilarious and unique, and super catchy. The three slow jams are woven into the record this time, rather than placed together on Side 2. They’re all pretty good – “Very Yes” is a bit overlong, but has some incredible moments, and “As In (I Love You)” is atmospheric and unusually melodic for the Rubber Band. The other two funk jams, though, are both CRAZY! Mostly in a good way. “Bootzilla” has, perhaps, the most insane and absurd vocal performance I’ve ever heard. Bootsy’s “Wiiiiind Me Up” and “Yabba Dabba Doobubby” exclamations are just unbelievably nuts, and must be played to be believed. The song as a whole is pretty fun, with it’s description of title character as a wind up musical doll…but the recording is completely dominated by the wacky vocals. And then there’s the grittier show-biz funk of “Hollywood Squares,” which seemed a bit scattered to me at first, but grew on me a lot. That song REALLY strikes me as a big hip-hop precursor – mainly because of Bootsy’s braggart energy and the “hanging out in LA” subject matter and the laid back groove. Overall, this is the Bootsy album worth hearing for the more casual P-Funk fan, and holds its own with the big boys in the Parliament and Funkadelic catalogs.
I’M GOING TO GIVE CURSORY LISTENS TO A FEW MORE BOOTSY RECORDS...SO NO GRADES.
THIS BOOT IS MADE FOR FONK-N (1979)
This is pretty much just more of the same, but less memorable. “Player Of The Year,” showed a real progression from the first two Rubber Band albums, and I was expecting to like this follow-up way more than I did on first listen. There’s only one lengthy love jam this time (the decent “Oh Boy Gorl” which has a pretty interesting arrangement) – the rest of the album is all just “Bootzilla” style funk jams with spoken word parts and occasional melodic hooks (but not very many of those). The opener “Under The Influence Of A Groove” is pretty solid, and could hold it’s own with some of the better Rubber Band tracks. There’s too much synth bass on the track though – I want to hear Bootsy’s bass GUITAR on a Bootsy record! But the hooks are good. All the other funk jams are pretty boring to me at this point – they’re professional but lacking oomph in either the grooves or the vocal hooks. They just sound like funk noodling. And Bootsy’s persona is also getting a bit stale – though it’s nice to hear his goofy character voices take a back-seat on this album, in favor of more actual singing from him. Ultimately, there’s just too much of this kind of material in P-Funk catalog, and most of it is more exciting than the stuff here. So this isn’t really essential listening in any way.
There’s a fine line between weird/great and weird/bad – sometimes it’s hard to know where you’re at. And this record puts me in such a situation – it’s definitely weird, and often tune-less, and the songs go on too long without much content. It’s less formulaic than the previous record, but I can’t say I enjoyed it as much. The first half is way better than the second – I have very little to say about the final three extended numbers except that “Fat Cat” and “Sound Crack” were very boring on first listen, and that “Sacred Flower” seems like the kind of love-soul jam that Bootsy has done way better before. But the first half has some interesting stuff – “Is That My Song?” definitely stood out, and the opener “Mug Push” is strikingly bizarre. This record is very off-putting: it sounds like standard P-Funk, but as if the hook-writing machine was replaced by a device that produces intentionally unattractive arrangements and melodies. I’d have to listen to it again to truly condemn it – but I’m pretty sure this is not a good album…
THE ONE GIVETH, THE COUNT TAKETH AWAY (1982)
A big improvement over “Ultra-Wave,” but still stuck in a rut of stale “Bootsy-isms.” I can’t really remember much of this album, but it was entertaining while it played. The opening track, “Shine-O-Myte” is one of the highlights. “Landshark” is a funny track based on the SNL sketch – which should give you a sense of what kind of record we’re dealing with here. I also enjoyed “So Nice You Name Him Twice” quite a bit – it has a nifty synth part. “Music To Smile By” is a nice slower R&B song with some cool arrangement ideas. The best track, though, is probably the (almost) closing energetic synth dance number “Take A Lickin’ And Keep On Kickin'” Bootsy is a great musician, and everything on here is pulled off with skill. But it’s just not very distinct, and doesn’t move the Bootsy persona into new enough territory.
GEORGE CLINTON (SOLO)
COMPUTER GAMES (1982)
Clinton’s debut solo record is generally regarded as his finest, and some even call it one of the key P-Funk records. Well, I certainly agree that it’s his finest solo record – as a matter of fact, it’s a BILLION times better than every other solo record he made combined. As far top-grade P-Funk…well, I’m not in that camp. It’s a solid record for sure – and more consistent than many of the 70s classics. But that consistency remains at a level of “pretty good,” as opposed to some of the older records with their orgasmically awesome peaks and “pretty good” valleys. This record is most well known for the hit single “Atomic Dog,” which younger listeners may know as the tune Snoop Dogg appropriated for his theme song (and lots of other rappers sampled as well). To be honest, I don’t really get the appeal of the song. It’s too linear to make a big impression on me, and I don’t find it’s barely repeated hooks all that great to begin with. (BTW – There’s only ONE appearance of title hook that Snoop borrowed for his main theme). The minimal production on that song and the album as a whole doesn’t do it for me either – it’s too sterile and 80s sounding (though not nearly as bad as on later records). But there are some awesome tunes: “Man’s Best Friend” is an even better song than the more famous dog song. The synths and melodies on that one are definitely on par with great P-funk. Unfortunately, that song is the first half of an extended dual track, with the remaining 8 or so minutes belonging to “Loopzilla,” the album’s other big single. “Loopzilla” is not a favorite of mine, but at least it’s honest in its titling – it’s one simple synth groove repeated ad vomitum, with snippets of old soul and P-Funk tunes weaving in and out on top of the beat. It’s overlong, and dated, but has an “old-school” charm to it as well. This tune initiates a bad trend on Clinton’s solo records of referencing his better older material. Moving on…the title track is a damn good one, with a deep funky new wave-y groove.”Pot Sharing Tots” is a weird novelty number with a jazzy vibe – pretty neat, not much more “Free Alterations” is a decent soul-pop song. Perhaps my favorite track is closer “One Fun At A Time” which has an endearing uplifting melody. This album is worthwhile, if a bit overrated. It’s certainly the only Clinton solo record anybody needs to care about.
I’M ONLY GONNA LISTEN ONCE TO A HANDFUL MORE OF GEORGE’S SOLO ALBUMS…SO NO GRADES.
YOU SHOULDN’T-NUF BIT FISH (1982)
YUCK! This album stinks! First of all, there are only six “songs” on here, and each one is an extended barely written jam. This shit has even worse ugly 80s production than George’s previous solo effort, which was able to overcome its sonic deficiencies with some top-notch material. Here, we get drivel instead of material. “Nubian Nut” is the only somewhat fun track, with a very early rap from George. “Quickie” approaches mediocre as well, though it’s too long and not very catchy. The rest of the album is just plain dull. The tracks are all (barely) written by a slew of outside composers, the arrangements are lacking personality, and the tones are way too mechanical for my tastes. Not to mention the melodies suck, and the grooves are mostly forgettable. A huge drop-off from the “debut,” and definitely my least favorite P-Funk product so far. But then — this is barely P-Funk: even though George is the band-leader here, this sounds very little like his 70s music.
SOME OF MY BEST JOKES ARE FRIENDS (1985)
These 80s George Clinton records are getting pretty depressing. They’re just not very good. It’s completely unrealistic to expect peak-era P-Funk from George at this point. But I can at least expect some decent hooks and grooves right? I mean, Bootsy is all over this record (not that you’d figure that out from listening to it – I’m just reading the credits). But except for some minor moments, I don’t even understand how this album can be attributed to any of the P-Funkers at all – it hardly sounds like them, and certainly misses their eccentric genius. This is mostly just faceless 80s dance crap, with avant-garde touches here and there. The album starts off with three TERRIBLE songs, the third of which is a 7 minute pile of bile called “Pleasures of Exhaustion.” It’s the first track of George’s career that sounds unmistakably BAD to me. And the corny 80s production isn’t helping matters either. After that initial run of tunes, I was prepared to call this an absolute disaster. Luckily, the record picks up in the second half, and ends up even a little better than the previous stink-fest. We get the decent (and more importantly SHORT) “Bodyguards,” as well as the welcomely weird “Bangladesh” and “Thrashin.” Then there’s the title track, which isn’t great but has some interesting moments and at least a bit of character. George’s personality is almost non-existent throughout a lot of this record, so it’s nice to hear him crop up again on that final track. Overall though, this is pretty worthless material – not worth even a big P-Funk fan’s time.
R&B SKELETONS IN THE CLOSET (1986)
Thank the Lord Clinton produced so much incredible material in the 70s – those records serve as an inviolable shield for his legacy, a shield which no mere awful run of 80s albums can possibly puncture. Because we’re not getting any better here, folks – this is another ugly DOA fart of an album, with the occasional interesting idea swimming in a pool of utter crap. Nothing defines the crap better than “Do Fries Go With That Shake,” a terrible dance/hip-hop type song with lame 80s cacophonous bullshit lathered all over it. So if you want to know what bullshit-lathered-crap sounds like, look no further. The opener, “Hey Good Lookin'” ain’t any better. The title track is a stupid and not catchy admonition for listeners to remember the ORIGINAL awesome funk masters like James Brown and…Funkadelic! Yes, P-Funkers likes to brag, much like their future hip hop heirs. “Mix-Master Suite” is the most interesting thing on here – it mixes atrocious sounding 80s production elements with some cool melodic turns and a Dixieland horn section! At least it’s unique. The other OK song is “Cool Joe,” which has a decent arrangement and a narrative lyric and cuts through the 80s grime a bit. The others songs were too indistinct for me to discuss. Just about all the legends went sour in the 80s – no use continuing to pick on poor George – so I’ll refrain from further eviscerating this crappy record.
THE CINDERELLA THEORY (1989)
That’s it for me, George. I’ve given your solo career too many chances at this point – it’s clear to me your vision disintegrated with the original Mothership . I will cherish your absurdly genius 70s work forever – and avoid your awful 80s work like the plague. This album came after a longer than usual break, and it was released on Prince’s vanity label. Apparently Prince (who owes a large chunk of his entire career to P-Funk) paid off Clinton’s debts and enabled him to record again. You’d think George would feel inspired and refreshened, but unfortunately this is just as stale and boring as the last couple records. The opening track here, “Airbound,” is actually pretty decent, and led me to expect a huge step up. The tune has a nice hook, and though the production is ugly and cold, it’s not as bad as the abysmal production of the last two albums. But it’s downhill from the top, and there aren’t any other real gems on here – and some of the songs are absolutely terrible. The title track is strangely a re-write of the mediocre Funkadelic track “Oh I.” It’s not good. “Tweakin'” is probably the 2nd best song (and also the 2nd song), and features Public Enemy with some guest rapping. It’s a bad song, but tracks like “French Kiss” and “Kredit Kard” are REALLY bad songs. There’s another stupid and dated “dog” jam in ‘Why Should I Dog U Out?” Everything on here sounds very 1989. The absolute WORST offender is the cover of “The Banana Boat Song” – it’s a recording so tragic, so hideous in both concept and execution, that I think I’m going to go barf right now. George followed this one up with an album called “Hey Man, Smell My Finger.” And I will not be listening to it.
THERE ARE TON OF ADDITIONAL P-FUNK RELATED RELEASES FROM THE MID-TO-LATE 70s…I’M GOING TO LISTEN TO A HANDFUL OF ‘EM ONCE APIECE, AND LIST MY THOUGHTS. SO THESE AREN’T FULL REVIEWS…MORE LIKE MY INITIAL IMPRESSIONS AFTER FIRST LISTENS.
P-FUNK ALL STARS
URBAN DANCEFLOOR GUERILLAS (1983)
It’s hard to pin down exactly where this album falls in the catalog – it’s not really a continuation of the 70s sound, and it’s a bit too 70s and full of old P-Funk members to really qualify as a George Clinton solo album. It’s sonically way closer to the latter, as many of these dance grooves showcase “modern” technology and we’re miles away from the eccentricities and playing styles on the classic records. This album starts off strongly – opener and single “Generator Pop” is definitely the best thing on here – but it gradually loses my interest. Nothing else stood out to me: “One of Those Summers” is a too obvious old-school doo-wop type thing (albeit with a synth bass), “Catch A Keeper” has some cool ideas but it’s hooks don’t really stick, and “Pumpin’ It Up” is a too long deep grooving jam with a decent synth bass-line. The rest are even less distinct. But it’s very confident and obviously intended as a dance record (so more groove-than-song based), which means a lot less to me in 1983 than it did in the 70s. There are too many quotes of old tunes (“Copy Cat” is almost a re-make of “Atomic Dog,” but considerably worse than the hit). Myriad flaws aside, this is still leagues beyond some of the concurrent Clinton solo records. There’s a bit of the old energy pumping through its veins. But don’t worry about this one until you’ve digested all the classics and want some minor deserts.
BRIDES OF FUNKENSTEIN
FUNK OR WALK (1978)
One of the best P-Funk spin-off records I’ve heard yet! This is very consistent and entertaining, and every track contains either a solid set of hooks, or a weird and creative arrangement. It’s not up to the level of classic Funkadelic of Parliament – not even close – but it’s very fun listening nonetheless. This is one of Clinton’s girl-group bands – so you get similar vocal arrangements to P-Funk proper, but sung entirely by ladies instead. The backing tracks are pretty standard Clinton-fare however, albeit more commercial than usual. There are some real jams on here: “Nappy” has a great early-Funkadelic-esque hook, and “Amorous” is a corker. The opener “Disco To Go” is catchy and full of energy (of course, most P-Funk is full of energy)! The extended ballad “Just Like You” is one of the more engaging and successful slow jams in the catalog, helped out immensely by having strong female vocalists as opposed to less believable wacky funk men singing lead. “War Ship Touchante” is more bizarre than the other tracks, and didn’t quite seem to gel for me on first listen – but the arrangement was definitely interesting and perhaps it could grow on me. A solid record – one of the better P-Funk side-projects.
NEVER BUY TEXAS FROM A COWBOY (1979)
The 15 minute title track that opens this second “Brides of Funkenstein” record is DEFINITELY my favorite “spin-off” band P-Funk track. It’s a great song with a fucking perfect hook that could have been a highlight on any of the classic records (though it does work REALLY well with the girl vocals). The album is worth hearing for that track alone, and I can’t imagine any serious George Clinton fan not cherishing that tune. Side 2 has all the shorter songs, and none of them come close to the title track. “Mother May I” is the best of the bunch, and it’s a really good one. “Smoke Signals” has a pretty dense and deep groove with some awesome bass playing (which sounds a LOT like Bootsy, so I’m just gonna assume it’s him). The rest are OK, but nothing stands out. As a full album, “Funk or Walk” is probably the “Brides” record to hear – but it would be a sin to miss out on the title track of this one!
PLEASURE PRINCIPLE (1978)
Clinton’s other all-girls spin-off group is not nearly as strong as “Brides of Funkenstein.” This album is actually pretty generic, and often doesn’t really sound much like P-Funk at all. The singing isn’t very exciting, the tunes are weak, and much of the record is very forgettable. The two side opening tracks are the best: the title one is the closest thing on here to a total winner. It has an interesting jazz-disco vibe, and it’s main scat-vocal is the only really good hook on the record. “Misunderstanding” opens side 2 – it’s a slower and moodier soul number, and has some nice moments and a good build. The rest of the album made little impression on me, though “Cookie Jar” is the best of the rest.
INVASION OF THE BOOTY SNATCHERS (1979)
This may be even worse than the debut, and I’m just not sure this spin-off group was worth the effort. There’s a pretty big focus on disco here, and while the production and playing is super professional, the material is generally lacking. I like the opener, “Ridin’ High,” which at times sounds like generic late 70s disco, and sometimes sounds like awesome creative P-Funk. It’s got some great ideas though, and ’tis definitely the best thing on here. “No Rump To Bump” utilizes the melody of that bragging children’s anthem “Na na na na na na,” which probably originally comes from someplace more specific. It was also on the title track of “Trombipulation” as a keyboard riff – it’s a pretty stupid idea! Not a very good song, that one. “Don’t Ever Stop” is a generic disco-soul ballad. “Booty Snatchers” is a terrible disco song. I don’t remember anything about “You’re Leaving.” The closer “Huff-N-Puff” uses imagery from “Three Little Pigs” – it feels a bit forced, but it’s not a too-bad song and at least has a little “real” energy (as opposed to the phony disco-isms of some of these other tracks). Overall, though, this recor is one to skip.
PLAY ME OR TRADE ME (1980)
More generic late-disco soul and funk from the least interesting P-Funk spin-off project. This may be a bit more consistent overall than the previous record, but it doesn’t have the relative high points of “Ridin’ High” and “Huff-N-Puff.” Not that those songs were particularly good either. This one just sort of does it’s groovy thing, without much creativity or weirdness, and then it’s over. I’m not sure I hear much of Clinton’s presence at all on here – it’s very well-played and professionally produced, so maybe this was Clinton’s big attempt at a commercial band. And I guess this might have been a decent party record for the tiny window in which it wasn’t completely dated and overwhelmed by way better records of its era and ilk. But as far as essential P-Funk, or even essential 70s dance music – this doesn’t cut the mustard at all. The opening run of songs is the best – “Watch Me Do My Thang” and “Wolf Tickets” stood out a smidge. The title track has some nice moments. But this is just too faceless to really matter much to me in the context of the Mothership.
ALL THE WOO IN THE WORLD (1978)
Bernie’s keyboards are so predominant a factor in George Clinton’s productions – you’d wonder how they could be highlighted even FURTHER on his own record. And they’re not really – this just sounds like standard Parliament-fare, albeit more generic and with not as good material. What makes it unique is Bernie is singing most of the time! But this is ultimately a mediocre record that is flawlessly executed by the musicians, sung with enthusiasm but not a terrible amount of pinache, and lacking memorable songs. P-Funk fans seem to pinpoint the lengthy album closer, “Insurance Man For Funk,” as a huge highlight, but it sounds to me like just a formulaic and repetitive version of better jams on better Clinton productions. The concept of the song is pretty funny, though (which is exactly what you’d gather from the title). And the main hook is fun and cute. Bootsy makes some very obvious appearances on the left side of the stereo spectrum during that number. The opening track, “Woo Together,” is the only other song approaching keeper status. Everything else is very nice and well put together, but also boring and underwritten. Most of these P-Funk side projects REALLY sound like side projects – there’s not enough to differentiate them from the main attractions, and they’re pretty clearly scrap-piles of secondary material. So if you absolutely love everything about George and the gang, this album is certainly worth a listen. But like Eddie Hazel’s record…it’s a throwaway.
FRED WESLEY & THE HORNY HORNS
A BLOW FOR ME, A TOOT TO YOU (1977)
This is a mostly instrumental funk record from the Parliament horn section. And though there is more focus than usual on the horns, this really just sounds like a standard Parliament album (albeit mostly instrumental and not very poppy). It opens with a 9 minute re-vamp of “Up For The Down Stroke,” which starts out great but then gets WAY too repetitive and overlong. The title track is a nice extended funk work-out. “Between the Sheets” makes references to Caspar The Funky Ghost, so Bootsy must be involved somehow! The closing track is a very pretty slower tune with a cool horn arrangement. These cuts can get a bit tedious and overlong – I think my favorite on first listen was the short and super funky “When In Doubt: Vamp.” But none of this seems like essential P-Funk to my ears – you can pretty much get more interesting versions of what’s going on here by listening to the best Parliament/Funkadelic records.
SAY BLOW BY BLOW BACKWARDS (1979)
An improvement on the first album, if only for the awesome “Half A Man,” which is nearly 10 minutes of high quality P-Funk. That jam could have easily fit on any of the classic records. The playing and energy is great, and there are some nice compositional moments. The opener, “We Came To Funk Ya” is an entertaining and in-your-face groove-monster, sporting more propulsion than anything else on the rest of the record. The title track closes out the first side with a solid and well-played instrumental. This album puts even MORE focus on the horns, which is why you’d want to hear a Horny Horns album to begin with right? Side 2, unfortunately, lets things down quite a bit. It consists of three unmemorable instrumentals, the first of which (“Mr. Melody Man”) is downright corny and dated. The closer “Circular Motion” is the best of the bunch, with some neat arrangement ideas. Overall, this is the Horny Horns album to hear – but neither of these are essential in the grand P-Funk of things.
GAMES, DAMES, & GUITAR THANGS (1977)
This record from the early Funkadelic guitarist, and “Maggot Brain” soloist, comes perilously close to flat out sucking. It’s mostly just instrumental jamming, with lengthy virtuoso guitar solos. Hazel is an awesome player, for sure, but he doesn’t really pull out too many sonic tricks here. His tone throughout is generally less like Hendrix and more like any old classic rock session player. So the playing gets boring quickly, and it’s hardly supported by any worthwhile material. This short record consists of two lengthy covers – “California Dreamin'” and “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” – neither of which works very well. The first of the two is turned into a funk jam – the atmosphere and intent of the original song is totally discarded in favor of a pretty standard soul-funk backing track, and R & B style vocalizations. Since the original is so simple to begin with, they might as well have just written another song with the same chords and changed the lyrics a bit. It’s not a bad track, necessarily – just a throwaway. The Beatles cover is pretty bad though. There’s none of the menace and anger in the original – it’s turned into a boring bluesy vamp with long guitar solos. The shorter songs are better – “Frantic Moment” is probably the best track on here, with it’s girl-sung haunting melody and interesting arrangement. “So Goes The Story” is OK, but sounds like an outtake from a random Funkadelic record. There’s an instrumental version of the not-very-good-to-begin-with Bootsy track “Physical Love,” and a forgettable but decent strutting instrumental called “What About It?” This record is completely useless as far as I can tell – barely worth hearing for fans of P-Funk, though probably worth hearing for huge Hazel fans. But they’re certainly not going to find very much “Maggot Brain”-like playing on here!