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Mothership Connection – Parliament-Funkadelic

HELPFUL TIP: If you don’t already have this album, get it. Buy it, steal it, stream it, do whatever you have to do.

From the beginning of Parliament’s 1975 seminal album Mothership Connection, you know you’re in for a different experience. Some critics call this Funk’s breakout album; some call it the most important black album released since James Brown’s Live at the Apollo. All I know is that it’s the premier Funk album ever released. It singlehandedly launched the P-Funk mythology, introducing characters such as The Lollypop Man and the ever present Starchild, Funk’s ultimate protagonist, a divine alien being brought to Earth by the Mothership to bring Funk to the masses. Subsequent P-Funk albums would elaborate on this theme of Afro-Centrism and Funkiness, decrying how Funk will unite the people and cure all our ills. This story had to start somewhere, and that beginning was Mothership Connection.

Honestly, I can’t elaborate on how influential and flawless this album is. Not only is it the introduction of P-Funk’s Horny Horn section, but also the first appearance of virtuosos Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley to the group. It was Bernie Worrell’s keyboard magnum opus, Bootsy Collins’ huge break, and the culmination of George Clinton’s stylistic endeavors. This is truly P-Funk in its prime. Bolstered by the three singles “P. Funk (Who Wants to Get Funked Up)”, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” and “Mothership Connection (Star Child)”, this album was P-Funk’s first to reach Gold, then Platinum status. It was voted the 55th greatest album of all time by VH1, rated 5 out of 5 by Rolling Stone, and included in the 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. It is, from cover to cover, one of my top three favorite albums.

The album starts out introducing you to W-E-F-U-N-K, a fictitious radio station dedicated to Funk, and all its disciples. Throughout the sultry horns provided by the Horny Horns and the soothing vocals of George, P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up) throws you into the world of the Funk masters. Following that is Mothership Connection (Star Child), an uptempo construction featuring a dirty bassline and equally seductive keyboard line. The album is already begging you to start dancing and leave the worries of the world behind. “Unfunky UFO” is perhaps P-Funk’s most underrated song, a sci-fi Funk journey that takes you to places previously unknown, by means of orchestrated horns and rhythm sections with a descending breakdown worthy of all sorts of praise. Later on “Handcuffs” shows P-Funk’s vocal prowess, while “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker) gives the dance crowd exactly what they want. The album is nearly flawless, with even the throwaway tracks less filler and more killer. It blends outrageous Funk with Gospel, R&B, Jazz, and Motown genres with sex, drugs, rock and roll and science-fiction overtures that absolutely work on every level. It is the strongest album, by the strongest Funk band of all time.

 
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Posted by on May 29, 2012 in Funk, Groovin' Funk, Music, Nasty Funk

 

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Z is for Zapp

I’ve been waiting for “Z” since I started the A to Z Blogging Challenge, and here it is! Last, but definitely not least is one of my favorite Funk groups, Zapp. Another incredible group hailing from Dayton, Ohio (I sense a future post coming up…), Zapp was formed in 1978 by brothers Larry, Roger, Lester and Terry Troutman with Bobby Glover and Gregory Jackson. They set the standard of early 1980s dance and electro-Funk, and their sound persists today in the ever-present G-Funk and gangster rap genres. I saw them live last year, and they absolutely still got the venue moving!!

Roger Troutman was the group’s frontman, and was close friends with P-Funk bassist Bootsy Collins (he seems to be everywhere!). Bootsy and Roger made a pact during childhood that whoever became famous first would help the other one make it. Keeping to his pact, Bootsy recruited Roger and the Human Body to tour with Parliament during their Motor Booty Affair tour. Troutman secured a record deal, a few more members and new songs, and thus Zapp was born! Their debut album Zapp went Gold on the basis of the hit “More Bounce to the Ounce”. Roger played nearly every instrument, including his trademark vocoder/”talk box”, and Bootsy played guitar. The song has been countlessly sampled in the hip-hop genre.

In 1982, Zapp released Zapp II, the followup to their breakout debut. These two albums are perhaps the best debut albums of any Funk band I’ve come across. Zapp II includes the absolute monster hit “Dance Floor” and the unconsciously catchy “Doo Wa Ditty (Blow That Thing)”. Zapp III, released in 1983 was a commercial letdown, as the group continued with their same (previously successful) formula. Also around this time, Roger Troutman released a few solo albums, taking his focus away. The New Zapp IV U spawned the popular “Computer Love”, but not much else.

Roger had a few more solo hits like “I Wanna be Your Man”, but the group’s popularity ultimately was done. In the mid-1990s, Roger and his signature talk box was featured on Dr. Dre and Tupac’s “California Love”, from his he reached a minor resurgence. Sadly Roger was killed by his brother Larry in an apparent murder-suicide in Dayton in 1999. Although Roger and Larry are gone, their legacy lives on in the music they made and their brothers’ continued touring.

 

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Y is for “You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish”

Released in 1983, George Clinton’s You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish was his second solo studio album. It was released the same week as Urban Dancefloor Guerillas by the P-Funk All-Stars, a collective of members of Parliament and Funkadelic after they were disbanded in 1981. Although You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish had George as the artist officially, it was in actuality a Parliament-Funkadelic album; it was the last recording featuring the full P-Funk lineup. It was critically well received, but a commercial dud.

This album is dance-driven, largely abandoning the nastier Funk; the lyrics are overwhelmingly silly, and don’t take themselves too seriously. Of note is George’s first attempt at rapping, with the opening track “Nubian Nut”, a downright silly (and operationally impressive) rap by Clinton. The album has some fairly catchy dance-Funk tunes, but no real standout hit. “Stingy” is one of the album highlights, as well as “Silly Millameter”. Blackbyrd McKnight really sounds like the best musician on the album; it’s of note that Bootsy plays the drums for this record in addition to his more familiar bass.

This album is a tight, thematically consistent dance-Funk record, that remains remarkably underwhelming at the end. The synthesizer, rhythm and guitar play are the highlights, but overall aren’t enough substance to make this a classic. This would become a theme for George’s solo works throughout the late 1980s through the present day.

 

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X is for Xavier

Again, apologies for the delay… it was next to impossible to find an “X” Funk band, but I give you Xavier. It was tough to find much information about Xavier, but I have found that they were started in the late 1970s in Hartford, Connecticut. It was an eight member Funk band, with Xavier Smith (guitar, bass), Ayanna Little (vocals) and Ralph Hunt Jr. (bass) among others. I’ve only discovered one Xavier album, 1982′s Point of Pleasure; it spawned solid electro-Funk songs “What Goes Around”, “Love is on the One”, and the Bootsy and George Clinton collaborations “Work That Sucker to Death” and “Do it to the Max”.

Xavier’s sound profile is somewhat limited, with only one album to judge. What I can tell is an upbeat Funk tempo with truly 1980′s pop grooves; they utilize a lot of Funky rhythm guitar, as well as a fair amount of synthesizer – completely common for the early 1980s. I love Ayanna Little’s lead vocals, it’s refreshing to hear a talented woman leading some solid grooves. “Work That Sucker to Death” has so much P-Funk influence and sounds (with Bootsy and George) that it seems a little out of place on Point of Pleasure. Xavier still seems to be a solid electro-Funk band, who should’ve made more than one album.

 

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