Reviewed on this page:
Funkadelic - Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow -
Self Portrait - Maggotbrain - I Am What I Am -
Live - Meadowbrook, Rochester, Michigan, 12th
September 1971 - America Eats
Its Young - Cosmic Slop - Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On - Let's Take It To The Stage - Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic - Music For Your Mother: The Westbound Years - Hardcore Jollies - One Nation Under A Groove - Uncle Jam Wants You - The Electric Spanking Of War Babies - Connections & Disconnections -
By Way Of The Drum
If you didn't come here from our main P-Funk
page, you should probably go take a look.
Apart from the records listed below, Funkadelic's also featured on Greatest Hits Live, a compilation released in 1993, and on all five volumes of the George Clinton Family Series.
Much of this record sounds like other psychedelic groups of the
time (remember Rare Earth?), distinguished only by George Clinton's
"funky Rabelais" sense of humor ("What Is Soul?," "Mommy What's A
Funkadelic?"). The single "I'll Bet You" is a knockout, Motown plus
heavy guitars, outdoing the Temptations'
concurrent efforts in that direction. (DBW)
Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow (1970)
Groundbreaking psychedelia on the ten-minute
title track and the single "I Wanna Know If It's Good To You,"
guitar-driven social commentary on "Funky Dollar Bill," pure
freakout on "Friday Night, August 14th" and "Eulogy and Light"
(spoken over a backwards tape of the B-side "Open Our Eyes").
Self Portrait (Ruth Copeland: 1971)
Funkadelic's alter ego, Parliament, was signed to Holland-Dozier-Holland's Invictus
label in the early 1970s, and in addition to backing the vocalists on one LP (Osmium)
Funkadelic collaborated with British singer/songwriter Ruth Copeland, who also happened to be married to Motown producer
Jeffrey Bowen. Copeland's first solo disc is an outlandish mix of self-accompanied
acoustic guitar ballads ("Child Of The North") and ear-splitting psychedelic funk courtesy of Clinton's gang ("Your Love Been So Good To
Me"). Her plaintive, rather thin voice reminds me of Grace Slick, and many of her lyrics
are interesting ("Thanks For The Birthday Card," "No Commitment"). But the folky numbers are dull, and this disc - recently reissued on a twofer CD with
I Am What I Am - is of interest mainly to early-period Funkadelic fans, who will get off on squalid, rough-hewn
riff tunes like "I Got A Thing For You Daddy"."
Okay, it's Hendrix-derived, but it's
pretty damn good anyway: the proto-heavy metal of "Super Stupid,"
Motown-on-acid ("Hit It And Quit It") and the wild tenderness of
the extended, instrumental title track (still a concert staple) are the salient elements here.
The weaker material includes "Wars Of Armageddon" - extended sound effects and weirdness, like a slightly
funkier "Revolution No. 9" - (DBW)
I Am What I Am (Ruth Copeland: 1971)
Copeland's second album is more of the same, but it's padded out with two lengthy Rolling Stones
covers - "Play With Fire" and "Gimme Shelter" - that lack drive and intensity. The opening anti-war funk opus - "The
Medal" - seems like an attempt to steal Norman Whitfield's thunder, but the sprawling tune
doesn't measure up to the dramatic performance. There is some solidly enjoyable funkadelia, though: "Suburban Family
Lament" written by Copeland and Hazel; "Don't You Wish You Had (What You Had When You Had It)" - a classic Clinton
title if ever I've heard one. Copeland left Invictus soon after the commercial failure of this disc (there's
rumored to be a third LP that was never released), put out a 1976 record on RCA (Take Me To Baltimore) and
vanished off the face of the Earth, as far as I can tell. (DBW)
Live - Meadowbrook, Rochester, Michigan, 12th September 1971 (recorded 1971, released 1996)
The earliest existing full-length tape documenting a Parliafunkadelicment performance, and for that reason it's of clear
historical interest. I wish I could say it was of equal musical
interest... the band was breaking in two new members that evening (guitarist
Harold Beane and drummer Tyrone Lampkin), and the disorganization and
rambling go way past the engaging stage. Some of the jamming works ("I
Got A Thing"), but much of it doesn't ("Pussy," far inferior to the
America version), and the hard rockers in particular suffer from the
sloppiness ("Alice In My Fantasies"). The only true finds are the
fifteen-minute version of "All Your Goodies Are Gone" with several
simultaneous vocal lines, and an enjoyable take on "Maggotbrain"; Bernie
Worrell adds interest and amusement value throughout, throwing in
commercial jingles and jazzy solos almost at random. Halfway through
"You And Your Folks," Bernie signals the band to abandon ship, and the
show is brought to a premature close. None too soon, if you ask me.
America Eats Its Young (1972)
The greatest album cover in rock history; Clinton decided to
produce a lush rock/funk/pop/country album kind of like Parliament's Osmium, and
he doesn't quite have the chops to pull it off yet. He's also
suddenly acquired a tendency (mercifully short-lived) to moralize
("If You Don't Like The Effects Don't Produce The Cause"), but
there are a lot of good songs here. "Pussy" is full of sped-up
guitars and dramatic tempo shifts, radically different from the
version on Osmium; the instrumental title track is chilling;
"Miss Lucifer's Love" is a slow, nasty rocker; Bernie Worrell shows
off on his instrumental "A Joyful Process." Bootsy shows up for a James Brown-influenced horn-fest ("Philmore").
Cosmic Slop (1973)
The best of the early Funkadelic records, funk and roll with great
riffs and lyrics to match, including a moving tribute to Vietnam
vets ("March To The Witch's Castle") and a brutally honest portrait
of inner-city family life on the title track. There are a number of
tributes to old-time soul and Motown, including "Can't Stand The
Strain" and "You Can't Miss What You Can't Measure," plus crunching
guitars and spoken word on "Trash A-Go-Go" and the shaggy dog story
"No Compute." (DBW)
Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On (1974)
Doo-wop is abandoned here in favor of straight ahead rock and roll.
The best tunes - title track, the instrumental "Alice In My
Fantasies," a scorching remake of "Red Hot Mama" - are amazing.
Unfortunately there are also some long slow numbers that miss the
mark ("I'll Stay," "Sexy Ways," "Good Thoughts Bad Thoughts").
Almost everything here was written by Eddie Hazel, so if you think
he's a genius you will probably love this album a lot more than I
Toys (rec. 1970-4, rel. 2009)
An outtakes collection, leaning heavily on instrumentals from the 1970-1971 period. Several of the cuts are alternate or early versions of released songs ("Wars Of Armageddon") and others are jams ("Slide On In"), so there's not much as far as new compositions (the straight-up gospel "Talk To Jesus" is one).
Worrell and Hazel are featured prominently ("Vampy Funky Bernie"); "Magnififunk" sets up a bossa nova backdrop for phenomenal Worrell soloing.
Let's Take It To The Stage (1975)
Excellent start to finish, mostly hard rock and funk ("Good To Your
Earhole," the Phryg-fest "No Head, No Backstage Pass") with a lengthy but gripping
Bernie Worrellathon ("Atmosphere") and the eternal dancefloor call
to arms "Get Off Your Ass And Jam." The title track is so funky it
hurts; there's also beautiful stream-of-silliness from Bootsy on
"Be My Beach," and a remake of an old single, "I Owe You Something
Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic (1976)
Plenty of great songs here ("Butt-to-Butt Resuscitation," "Take
Your Dead Ass Home," "The Undisco Kidd"), although the record is
dragged down by the endless (and pointless) title track, mostly
heavy breathing and Bernie at his least interesting. I've heard
that this is a collection of outtakes; I have my doubts, though
it's interesting that "Let's Take It To The People" repeats the
concept (and tagline) of Let's Take It To The Stage.
Music For Your Mother: The Westbound Years (recorded 1969-1976, released 1992)
Compilation of all Funkadelic's singles through 1976 gets an A+ for
packaging (great liner notes) and completeness, but the new
material here - a handful of B-sides - isn't very good ("A Whole Lot Of BS"). Start
with the albums. (DBW)
Hardcore Jollies (1976)
Though it's usually condemned by critics, there's a lot to like on
this record, from the funky nursery rhyme "Comin' Round The
Mountain" to the frightening love song "Smokey" to the magical
Michael Hampton guitar solo on the instrumental title track.
There's also a live version of "Cosmic Slop" which has great guitar
work, but you can hardly hear the vocals. (DBW)
One Nation Under A Groove (1978)
That this record became a hit shows how far the mainstream had
moved, not how far mainstream Funkadelic had moved. Although a
departure from the psychedelic formula, it's out there, from the
scatological focus of the 11-minute "Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis
Enema Squad" to the twisted reggae of "Funkadelica." Also contains
the anthemic title track, the high-voltage "Who Says A Funk Band
Can't Play Rock?," and more goodies on the bonus EP, including a
live version of "Maggotbrain" with Kidd Funkadelic Mike Hampton
doing lead guitar duty in Eddie Hazel's place. (I guess I'm behind
the times: the CD version doesn't come with an EP, it's all slopped
together on one disc.) (DBW)
Uncle Jam Wants You (1979)
The hilarious, extended "Uncle Jam" is as perfect a funk jam as Clinton ever oversaw;
"Field Maneuvers" is a terrific guitar instrumental (music borrowed from Clinton's 60s-era "Can't Shake It Loose"). "(not just)
Knee Deep" was a big hit, and is widely considered a funk classic,
but it's too repetitive for my taste. The rest of the album is good
("Freak Of The Week"), it just doesn't live up to the lofty
standards of its predecessor. (DBW)
The Electric Spanking Of War Babies (1981)
The title track continues George's one-of-a-kind commentary on the
world's ills, over a freaky groove courtesy of Junie. The rest of
the album is surprisingly dull: a collaboration with Sly Stone doesn't create excitement ("Funk Gets
Stonger"), and the rest sounds like outtakes from other Clinton
projects. Given that the year after this Clinton produced his own
excellent solo album, I'm at a loss to understand what went wrong
Connections & Disconnections (1981)
Watch out for this one: it's three of Parliament's original
singers, without any help from the rest of the Funk Mob, and it's
awful. Not to be confused with the real Funkadelic; it's been
rereleased under the name Who's A Funkadelic?. (DBW)
By Way Of The Drum (rec. 1989, rel. 2007)
This attempted comeback was canned by the record company; only the title track (a painfully repetitive electronic percussion workout)
came out at the time, and the full project saw release almost two decades later.
Generally it's drab, pointless electro-funk with lame catchphrases, from the opening "Nose Bleed" to the closing "Primal Instinct."
Blackbyrd's solo cover of "Sunshine Of Your Love," previously released on George Clinton Family Series Vol. 1, and recycled on "Some Fresh Delic" (not) is representative of the lack of both imagination and raw thrills.
There's one perfectly good track, though: "Jugular" sounds like Cameo meets Stevie Ray Vaughan, or maybe Rick James in a rockin' mood.
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