Music Discoveries P-Funk, part 2 (1975-1978)


This second post in the series covers a period where Parliament-Funkadelic is exploding, releasing some of the bands’ most popular albums and singles, touring with an increasingly elaborate stage show, and branching off to form new bands and solo projects (although those bands and artists were frequently backed up by the same stable of P-Funk musicians).  Unlike part 1 where I was in awe of the music produced by Parliament and Funkadelic, I’m finding myself with mixed feelings about the music from this period.  The highs are higher but the lows are lower, and I think they may have spread themselves thin with the sheer prolificness of their output.  Nevertheless, there is a lot of fantastic music to feast your ears upon here.

Band: Parliament
AlbumMothership Connection
Date: 15 December 1975
Favorite Tracks: “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” “Mothership Connection (Star Child),” and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)”
Lyrics of Note:

You’ve got all that is really needed
To save a dying world from its funkless hell – from “Unfunky UFO”

Gaga googa ga ga googa
Ga ga goo ga ga
(x33) – from “Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples”

Thoughts: This brilliant concept album establishes the Mothership and the Afro-Futurist themes of black people in space.  The songs are party anthems and protest songs against radio’s refusal to play funk and discrimination against the black community in general.  Pretty much a must-have of the P-Funk catalog with three of the collective’s most important tracks, although you’ll probably want to skip over the misogynist “Handcuffs.”
Rating: ****


Band: Bootsy’s Rubber Band
AlbumStretchin’ Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Date: 30 January 1976
Favorite Tracks: “Stretchin’ Out (In a Rubber Band),” “Psychoticbumpschool,” and  “Another Point of View”
Thoughts: Bootsy Collins, the break out start of Parliament-Funkadelic, gets his own band and album although Clinton and a lot of the P-Funk lineup are involved so it really sounds like a continuation of Mothership Connection musically.  Lyrically, the album is more focused on romance and sexy times, and with the troubled sexual politics it can be hit or miss.

Rating: **1/2


Band: Parliament
AlbumThe Clones of Dr. Funkenstein
Date: September 1976
Favorite Tracks: “Do That Stuff,” “Getten’ to Know You,” and “Funkin’ for Fun”
Lyrics of Note:

When you see my mother
Tell her I’m all right
I’m just funkin’ around
For fun – from “Funkin’ for Fun”

Thoughts: May I frighten you? The utterly weird Parliament album expands deeper into the P-Funk mythology and it’s fun if it doesn’t make much sense.  I kind of get the sense that the prolific nature of Parliament-Funkadelic caught up with them as there seems nothing new here.  It’s entertaining, but it’s also disposable.  By the way, am I the only one who hears “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in “Do That Stuff”?
Rating:***


Band: Funkadelic
AlbumTales of Kidd Funkadelic
Date: 21 September 1976
Favorite Tracks:  “Undisco Kidd”
Thoughts: Learning that this was a “contractual obligation” album of outakes from recording a different album lowered my expectation, but this album is good enough if a bit generic.  Actually it sounds very familiar due to it being frequently sampled by other artists.  “Butt-to-Butt Resuscitation” may stand as the best song title in the P-Funk catalog.
Rating: **1/2


Band: Funkadelic
Album: Hardcore Jollies
Date: 29 October 1976
Favorite Tracks: “Comin’ Round the Mountain,” “Smokey,”  “Hardcore Jollies,” and “Cosmic Slop {Live],”
Lyrics of Note:

I thought I knew all there is to do
I stuck out my chest and dove into a love
With ego in charge, I charged into what seemed
To be the quickest way into manhood
You scared me, baby
You scared the love right outta me – from “You Scared the Lovin’ Outta Me”

Thoughts:  Holy crow, did they really funk up “She’ll Be Comin’ Around the Mountain”?!?!?  YES!!!  And it was better than most everything on Tales of Kidd Funkadelic.  And that’s just the start of a hard-rocking, emotionally raw yet joyously funky album with flashes of soul, gospel, and doo wop.  It feels like a return to form for Funkadelic, not that they’d been all that much out of shape.
Rating:****


Artist: Fuzzy Haskins
Album: A Whole Nother Thang
Date: 1976
Favorite Tracks:”Mr. Junk Man”
Thoughts: Haskins, one of the original five members of The Parliaments, and Funkadelic and Parliament, goes solo on this album with lots of support from the P-Funk stable of artists (but not George Clinton).  It’s entertaining and toe-tapping but ultimately bog standard funk and soul.
Rating:**


Band: Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Album: Ahh… The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!
Date: 14 January 1977
Favorite Tracks: “The Pinnochio Theory,” “Munchies for Your Love
Thoughts: Bootsy Collin’s second album is an interesting contrast to Fuzzy Haskins, loose with jazz-like improvisation compared to Haskins’ Motown-style tight pieces.  Just a theory, but Collins is a decade younger so maybe the age gap plays a part in the stylistic differences, and why I like the “full-band” sound of Parliament-Funkadelic albums better where the different styles can play off and complement one another.  This is a solid album though, with funk party anthems on side A and slow jams on the flip side.
Rating: ***1/2


Artist: Eddie Hazel
Album: Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs
Date: 1977
Favorite Tracks: “California Dreamin'” and “What About It?”
Thoughts: This is P-Funk’s guitar-virtuoso’s first and only album released during his lifetime, and what a treat it is to have it. Hazel interprets The Mamas and the Papas’ “California Dreamin’,” The Beatles’ “She’s So Heavy” (an interestingly restrained performance), and Bootsy Collins’ “Phsyical Love” as well as an instrumental remake of Funkadelic’s “Wars of Armageddon” called “What About It?”. A great album for guitar buffs.
Rating: ***1/2


Band: Fred Wesley And The Horny Horns
Album: A Blow for Me, A Toot for You
Date: 1977
Favorite Tracks: “A Blow for Me, A Toot for You” and “Four Play”
Thoughts: Another section of the P-Funk orchestra is split off for their own bit of prominence, this time the horn players: Fred Wesley (trombone), Maceo Parker (saxophone), Rick Gardner (trumpet), and Richard Griffith (trumpet). There’s heavy participation from the P-Funk stable of musicians so in many ways this sounds like a Parliament album with an emphasis on the horns, but the instrumental horn jams stand out as the best tracks. The string arrangements on some tracks remind me that this was recorded in the height of the disco era.
Rating: ***1/2


Band: Parliament
Album: Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome
Date: 28 November 1977
Favorite Tracks: “Bop Gun (Endangered Species),” “Wizard of Finance,” and “Flash Light”
Lyrics of Note:

To dance is a protection
Funk is your connection
All you got to do is
Funk and dance

Thoughts:And George Clinton had thoughts on Disco and commercialized music in general which he called “the Placebo Syndrome” and personified in the character of the obstinately unfunky Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk who goes head-to-head with Starchild on this album. Perhaps listening to too many P-Funk albums in a row makes me feel like the mythology and humor are laid on too thick, but there are some classic tracks on this album. There are also synth sounds and arrangements that seem to be laying the ground for New Wave and early hip hop to come in just a few years.
Rating:***


Band: Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Album: Bootsy? Player of the Year
Date: 27 January 1978
Favorite Tracks: “Bootzilla”
Thoughts: The third album from Bootsy & Co. doesn’t break new ground. Love songs are in demand here ranging from the romantic to the raunchy.
Rating: ***


Band: The Brides of Funkenstein
Album: Funk Or Walk
Date:  September 1978
Favorite Tracks: “Disco to Go”
Thoughts: P-Funk is rather dominated by male musicians, so it was interesting to see what  P-Funk band lead by two women – Dawn Silva and Lynn Mabry – would sound like.  It should not be a surprise or even a bad thing that they basically sound a lot like Parliament with female vocalists.  There are disco and even Broadway showtune influences well.  But it doesn’t sound like they brought out the best material for this project, which is a shame.
Rating: **


Band: Parlet
Album: Pleasure Principle
Date: 1978
Favorite Tracks:  “Pleasure Principle” and “Love Amnesia”
Thoughts:Never to do things in small measures, there were two female P-Funk groups releasing their debut albums in 1978, this one featuring the vocal talents of Mallia Franklin, Jeanette Washington and Debbie Wright. Parlet sounds “harder” than The Brides of Funkenstein, the female Funkadelic to their female Parliament.  This album is pretty strong but most of the tracks are overlong.
Rating: ***


Band: Bernie Worrell
AlbumAll the Woo in the World
Date: 1978
Favorite Tracks: “I’ll Be With You” and “Much Thrust”
Thoughts: The legendary P-Funk keyboardist gets his star turn on this solo debut, with lots of P-Funk friends on board for the recording.  Worrell’s keyboard wizadry is on display and the vibe of the album harkens back to the psychedelia of the early Funkadelic.
Rating: ***


Whew! That is a lot of funk.  But I’ll be back in a couple of weeks to finish this series on P-Funk.

 

Beer Reviews: 21st Ammendment Toaster Pastry


Beer: Toaster Pastry India-Style Red Ale

Brewer
: 21st Ammendment Brewery

Source
: Draft

Rating
: **** ( 8.0 of 10)

Comments
: Beer pours with a gorgeous amber color, but no much head or carbornation.  Fruit and malts are apparent in the nose.  The taste is a balance of sweet and bitter with wood, nut, and strawberry favors.  Nicely done and palatable.  Not overly bitter as the “India-style” usually implies. 

Book Review: 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus by Charles C. Mann


Author: Charles C. Mann
Title1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus
Narrator: Peter Johnson
Publication Info: Minneapolis, Minn. : Highbridge Audio, p2005.
Summary/Review:

This book attempts to reconstruct what the world of the Native peoples of the Western Hemisphere was like before contact with the Europeans.  Often what the first conquerors and colonists saw was not representative of the pre-Columbian reality as the diseases that preceded them decimated the Indians leading to political instability, and often a faction allying with the Europeans and hastening the demise of the culture in it’s entirety.  Mann focuses on three main points, presenting evidence for and against these hypotheses:

  • the population of the New World was much greater than generally accounted for, possibly more populous than Europe
  • people arrived in the Americas much earlier than the popular Bering land bridge theory would suppose
  • the Indians left an indelible mark on the landscape, building cities, managing ecoystems, and even creating the Amazon jungle

In many ways this book raises more questions than it answers, but dang are they good questions.  Ultimately, the full story of the pre-contact Americas may never be known, but the assumptions of what it was like have been tested and failed to hold up.

Favorite Passages:

What seems unlikely to be undone is the awareness that Native Americans may have been in the Americas for twenty thousand or even thirty thousand years. Given that the Ice Age made Europe north of the Loire Valley uninhabitable until some eighteen thousand years ago, the Western Hemisphere should perhaps no longer be described as the “New World.” Britain, home of my ancestor Billington, was empty until about 12,500 B.C., because it was still covered by glaciers. If Monte Verde is correct, as most believe, people were thriving from Alaska to Chile while much of northern Europe was still empty of mankind and its works.

Recommended booksGuns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies by Jared Diamond and A Voyage Long and Strange: Rediscovering the New World by Tony Horwitz
Rating: ****

Book Review: The Great Bridge by David McCullough


Author:  David McCullough
TitleThe Great Bridge 
Narrator: Nelson Runger
Publication Info: Recorded Books (2006)
Previously Read by the Same AuthorJohn Adams1776, and The Wright Brothers
Summary/Review:

What’s the longest period that a book has been on your “to read” list before you actually read it?  For me, it may be 33 years as I got a copy of this book around the time of the Brooklyn Bridge centennial in 1983, looked at the pictures a lot, but never got around to reading.  Since my copy of the book is falling apart, I listened to it as an audiobook.  It’s a straightforward history of the planning, construction, and aftermath of Brooklyn Bridge and it’s effect on the cities of New York and Brooklyn.  Central to the story are three people: John Roebling – the great bridge builder who designed Brooklyn Bridge but died as construction was beginning in 1869, Washington Roebling – who emerged from his father’s shadow as chief engineer but suffered greatly from illness and injury that kept him away from the job site, and Emily Roebling – who stepped in to manage the chief engineer responsibilities when her husband was indisposed.  The construction of Brooklyn Bridge faced many challenges including the physical demanding work of the laborers leading to injury and death (particularly the notorious caisson’s disease), a rivalry with James Eads – then constructing a bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis, and the revelations of corruption of the Tweed Ring that were tied up in the bridge project.  All three of these things lead to efforts to remove Washington Roebling that would be defeated.  If there’s one flaw to this book it’s that McCullough tends to pile on the details and repeat himself in ways that make this a less engaging read than it could be, but otherwise it’s a fascinating story of a significant monument in American history.

Recommended booksBoss Tweed: The Rise and Fall of the Corrupt Pol Who Conceived the Soul of Modern New York by Kenneth D. Ackerman, 722 Miles: The Building of the Subways and How They Transformed New York by Clifton Hood, A Clearing In The Distance: Frederick Law Olmsted and America in the 19th Century by Witold Rybczy, and Five Points by Tyler Anbinder
Rating: ****

Book Review: Who was Johnny Appleseed? by Joan Holub


AuthorJoan Holub
TitleWho was Johnny Appleseed?
Publication Info: New York : Grosset & Dunlap, c2005.
Summary/Review:

Another children’s biography that I read to my son that ended up teaching me about someone I knew little about.  John Chapman, Massachusetts born, moved to the frontier to raise apple orchards and sell seeds and seedlings to the pioneers who didn’t have time to time raise any apples themselves.  Both an eccentric and a genius of self-promotion, Johnny Appleseed left his mark on the American landscape.  If there’s one downside to this book is that it glosses over the fact that the apples were primarily used to make an alcoholic beverage, something I don’t think needs to be hidden from the kids.

Rating: ***

#TopTenTuesday: Top Ten Books Set Outside the United States


Top 10 Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish.  This weeks topic is top 10 books set outside of the United States.

  • Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass by Lewis Carroll (England)
  • Anne of Green Gables by Lucy Maude Montgomery (Canada)
  • The Complete Works of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle (England)
  • The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde (alternate universe England)
  • Les Miserables by Victor Hugo (France)
  • Life of Pi by Yann Martel (India, Pacific Ocean, Mexico, and Canada)
  • Like Water for Chocolate  by Laura Esquivel (Mexico)
  • Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (Iran and Austria)
  • A Star Called Henry by Roddy Doyle (Ireland)
  • Stalemate by  Icchokas Meras (Lithuania)

This is probably a good time as any to remind you of my Around the World for a Good Book project.

Photopost: Hall of Fame for Great Americans


The Hall of Fame for Great Americans is the nation’s first hall of fame opened in 1900 to honor prominent Americans and located on the campus of the Bronx Community College in New York.  It was originally part of New York University’s Bronx campus (NYU sold the campus to BCC in 1973) and for many years was a major New York City attraction.  Today it is off the beaten path – and there have been no inductions since 1976 – but it is nevertheless a well-maintained outdoor sculpture park in a 630-foot colonnade designed by Stanford White.  I’m aware of it because my mother grew up in the adjacent neighborhood and it was one of her favorite places, partially due to the panoramic views of the Harlem River which are now obstructed by taller trees and new construction.  Yesterday I paid a return visit with my mother and son.

 

 

 

As you might expect from a grouping selected primarily in the first half of the 20th-century, the Americans represented here are almost all white men, broken down into the following groups: Statesmen, Scientists, Jurists, Teachers, Musicians, Artists and Writers (I may have forgotten a category). There are more women than I expected (although still a small number) and only two African-Americans. I think it would be fascinating to see who would be inducted if they continued adding to the current 102 inductees.

Off the top of my head, I put together a list of people I’d consider for induction following the rules that they be United States born or naturalized and deceased for at least 25 years.  A lot of these are no-brainers, some may make you scratch your head, and others may even be controversial.  Let me know what you think, and add your own nominees in the comments.

Pocahontas  1596 1617
Anne Hutchinson 1591 1643
Metacomet  1638 1676

Phillis Wheatley 1753 1784

Merriwether Lewis 1774 1809
Sacagawea  1788 1812
Abigail Adams 1744 1818
Nat Turner 1800 1831
William Clark 1770 1838
Sequoyah 1770 1843
Charles Bulfinch 1763 1844

John Brown 1800 1859
John Roebling 1806 1869
Crazy Horse 1842 1877
William Lloyd Garrison 1805 1879
Sojourner Truth 1797 1883
Dorothea Dix 1802 1887
Sitting Bull 1831 1890
P.T. Barnum 1810 1891
Frederick Douglass 1818 1895

Elizabeth Cady Stanton 1815 1902
Frederick Law Olmsted 1822 1903
Geronimo  1829 1909
Mary Baker Eddy 1821 1910
Harriet Tubman  1822 1913
John Muir 1838 1914

Isabella Stewart Gardner 1840 1924
Samuel Gompers 1850 1924
John Singer Sargent 1856 1925
Eugene Debs 1855 1926
Victoria Woodhull 1838 1927

Stephen Mather 1867 1930
Ida B. Wells 1862 1931
Will Rogers 1879 1935
Huey Long 1893 1935
Bessie Smith 1894 1937
George Gershwin 1898 1937
Amelia Earhart 1897 1937

Nikola Tesla 1856 1943
Ida Tarbell 1857 1944
Fiorello LaGuardia 1882 1947
Babe Ruth 1895 1948

Edwin Hubble 1889 1953
Jim Thorpe 1887 1953
Charlie Parker 1920 1955
Mary McLeod Bethune 1875 1955
Jackson Pollock 1912 1956
Buddy Holly 1936 1959
Frank Lloyd Wright 1867 1959

Ernest Hemingway  1899 1961
William Faulkner 1897 1962
Eleanor Roosevelt  1884 1962
W.E.B. Du Bois 1868 1963
Rachel Carson 1907 1964
Flannery O’Connor 1925 1964
Malik el-Shabazz (Malcolm X) 1925 1965
Edward Murrow 1908 1965
Walt Disney 1901 1966
Margaret Sanger 1879 1966
Gus Grissom 1926 1967
Edward Hopper 1882 1967
Woody Guthrie  1912 1967
Martin Luther King, Jr. 1929 1968
Thomas Merton 1915 1968
John Steinbeck 1902 1968
Helen Keller  1880 1968

Jimi Hendrix 1942 1970
Louis Armstrong  1901 1971
Jackie Robinson  1919 1972
Roberto Clemente  1934 1972
Jeanette Rankin 1880 1973
Duke Ellington  1899 1974
Paul Robeson 1898 1976
Alexander Calder 1898 1976
Groucho Marx 1890 1977
Fannie Lou Hamer  1917 1977
Elvis Presley 1935 1977
Norman Rockwell 1894 1978
Harvey Milk 1930 1978
Arthur Fiedler 1894 1979
Charles Mingus 1922 1979
A. Phillip Randolph 1889 1979

Dorothy Day  1897 1980
Alfred Hitchcock 1899 1980
Jesse Owens 1913 1980
Ella Grasso 1919-1981
Peace Pilgrim (Mildred Lisette Norman) 1908 1981
Muddy Waters 1913 1983
Ansel Adams 1902 1984
E.B. White 1899 1985
Ella Baker 1903 1986
Lucille Ball 1911 1986
Benny Goodman 1909 1986
Christa McAuliffe 1948 1986
Georgia O’Keeffe 1887 1986
Corita Kent 1918 1986
Andy Warhol 1928 1987
James Baldwin 1924 1987
Bayard Rustin 1912 1987
Harold Washington 1922 1987
Richard Feynman 1918 1988

Jim Henson 1936 1990
Martha Graham 1894 1991
Frank Capra 1897 1991
Audre Lorde 1934 1992
Marian Anderson 1897 1993
Arthur Ashe 1943 1993
Cesar Chavez 1927 1993
Thurgood Marshall 1908 1993
Craig Rodwell 1940 1993

Not eligible under the 25-year rule, but definite future inductees in the Hall of Fame of my dreams:

Jonas Salk 1914 1995
Ella Fitzgerald 1917 1996
Carl Sagan 1934 1996
Willem de Kooning 1904 1997
Alan Shepard 1923 1998
Benjamin Spock 1903 1998

Eudora Welty 1909 2001
Johnny Cash 1932 2003
Fred Rogers 1928 2003
Shirley Chisholm 1924 2005
Rosa Parks 1913 2005
Jane Jacobs 1916 2006
Andrew Wyeth 1917 2009

Howard Zinn 1922 2010
Neil Armstrong 1930 2012
Sally Ride 1951 2012
Maya Angelou 1928 2014
Pete Seeger 1919 2014
Julian Bond 1940 2015
Muhammad Ali 1942 2016
Daniel Berrigan 1921 2016
John Glenn 1921 2016
Harper Lee 1926 2016
Prince 1958 2016
Elie Wiesel 1928 2016
Gene Sharp 1928 2018

[Updated May 1, 2018]

Podcasts of the Week


Here are the podcasts I recommend listening to from the past week.

Code Switch – “No Words

This extra podcast reflects on the horrible week of atrocity and death in Baton Rouge, St. Paul, and Dallas.

ProPublica – “How New Jersey Has Embraced ‘State-Sanctioned Loan Sharking’ to Students

The title really says it all, but it’s really shocking to hear how one state’s student loan program is so exploitative.

Life of the Law – “Bail or Bust

“There really are two systems of justice. There’s one for people who can make bail, and one for people who can’t.” So begins another story of how the incarceral state is rigged against the least privileged in America.

Ben Franklin’s World – “Age of American Revolutions

Revolutions broke out across North and South America in the late 1700s and early 1800s.  These are their stories, and how the United States – itself a revolutionary republic – responded or didn’t to their fellow seekers of independence.

Song Exploder – “Kill V. Maim by Grimes

The amazingly talented Claire Boucher, who records as Grimes, breaks down the creation of one of her latest songs. 

Song of the Week: “Cada Dia Es Domingo” by Mexrrissey


You haven’t heard the music of English alternative superstar Morrissey until you’ve heard it in its original Mexican version, or so it would seem upon listening to Mexrissey‘s rendition of “Everyday is Like Sunday” called “Cada Dia Es Domingo.”  It’s a sad song, but I’m happy it exists.

http://www.kcrw.com/music/shows/todays-top-tune/mexrrissey-cada-dia-es-domingo