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.