Here is my third and final post for my “discovery” series on the P-Funk collective of musicians in the 1970s and early 1980s. In the first post I found myself impressed by the freshness and innovation of the music even though it was more than 40 years old. The second post featured the familiar hit songs of P-Funk’s prolific peak. This final post sadly marks the decline of P-Funk, and while there are some standout tracks and albums, I’m disappointed at how dated and tired much of the music from this period sounds.
Album: One Nation Under a Groove
Date: 4 September 1978
Favorite Tracks: “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?,” and “Cholly”
Lyrics of Note:
Who says a jazz band can’t play dance music?
Who says a rock band can’t play funk?
Who says a funk band can’t play rock?
Ok. We’re gonna play some funk so loud
We’re gonna rock and roll the crowd
Just watch them dance, watch them dance – from “Who says a funk band can’t play rock?”
Thoughts: The title track has more of dance/disco sound than one is accustomed to hearing from Funkadelic. That’s followed by the relaxed, smooth calypso sound of “Groovallegiance.” And if the genre shifts are not enough on the first two songs, on track three they gleefully declare “Who says a funk band can’t play rock?” All right I won’t go track by track, but the album’s theme of the power of funk is emphasized by making every genre funky. It’s a great album, that loses a half-point for the the tedious track about poop.
Album: Motor Booty Affair
Date: 28 November 1978
Favorite Tracks: “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop),”
Lyrics of Note:
You can dance underwater and not get wet – from “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)”
Thoughts: Another themed album, this one goes under the sea for the aquaboogie. Parliament can never be accused of not dedicating themselves to a theme and there are references to fish, water, swimming and Atlantis throughout as well as new characters like “Mr. Wiggles.” And Sir Nose finally gets dunked in the funk. It’s a fun and cohesive album but nothing about it really excites me much.
Album: Uncle Jam Wants You
Date: 21 September 1979
Favorite Tracks: “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” “Field Maneuvers,” and “Holly Wants to Go to California ”
Lyrics of Note:
Thoughts: Following on “One Nation Under a Groove,” Funkadelic plays with patriotic/militaristic phrases to promote the funk and “save dance music from the blahs.” The epic jam “(Not Just) Knee Deep” defines the album and since it’s been sampled so many times that it sounds like a compilation of r&b and hip hop all by itself. The instrumental guitar jam “Field Maneuvers” and the melancholy ballad “Holly Wants to Go to California” are also standouts. Despite drill instructors barking out dance moves, this album feels less gimmicky than its predecessors.
Band: Bootsy’s Rubber Band
Album: This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N
Date: 1 June 1979
Favorite Tracks: “Bootsy (Get Live)”
Thoughts: Eschewing the slow jams of earlier Rubber Band albums, this is a non-stop party funk album. It coasts a lot on Bootsy Collins’ charma and charisma but it can coast a long way on that.
Album: Gloryhallastoopid (or Pin the Tail on the Funky)
Date: 20 November 1979
Favorite Tracks: “Theme from the Black Hole”
Thoughts: Another concept album that attempts to explain the science behind the creation of the universe by way of funk. It recycles a lot of ideas, lyrics, and grooves from previous albums and is awfully redundant in doing so. And for all the criticism of disco this is is a disco-heavy album at the time of peak disco. But it’s bland overall and doesn’t offer much.
Date: 5 December 1980
Thoughts: OK, I’m officially sick of the Vocoder voice of D’Nose. It’s a tired act and shows just how out of ideas Clinton & Co. were by 1980. Kind of disappointing that Parliament goes out on such a bland album
Artist: Bootsy Collins
Album: Ultra Wave
Date: October 1980
Thoughts: Bootsy’s first album with a solo credit is fun and dance-able, but nothing that leaves an impression. From the r&b styles on display, one can tell that the 80s are here!
Album: Connections & Disconnections
Thoughts: Original P-Funk members Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon and Grady Thomas split off to form their own band under the Funkadelic name as the demise of George Clinton’s P-Funk stable of musicians descended into acrimonious lawsuits and in-fighting. Many of the lyrics are critical of Clinton, and musically it makes an attempt to recapture the early Funkadelic sound, but only achieves greatness in fits and starts.
Album: The Electric Spanking of War Babies
Date: 14 April 1981
Favorite Tracks: “Funk Gets Stronger” and “Shockwaves”
Lyrics of Note:
You can walk a mile in my shoes
But you can’t dance a step in my feet – from “Electric Spanking of War Babies”
Thoughts: The official Funkadelic offers a better farewell album with a sound that played off the soul, funk, and R&B of the early 80s with P-Funk innovation. The lyrics are strongly political on many tracks, something that had been missing in latter day P-Funk. As an added bonus,Sly Stone is featured on this album and there’s a great funky reggae track “Shockwave.”
Band: George Clinton
Album: Computer Games
Date: 5 November 1982
Favorite Tracks: “Man’s Best Friend/Loopzilla” and “Atomic Dog”
Thoughts: Although credited to Clinton, many P-Funk musicians appear on this album much like on Parliament, Funkadelic, and side projects in previous years. I arbitrarily chose to end this series on this album as it seems to mark the end of the P-Funk era although there more Clinton solo albums, P-Funk All-Stars recordings, and other projects in the ensuing years. It’s a good album to go out on as it is reliant more on synths and has an electro sound that ties in well with the rise of hip hop in this era.
Okay, so that’s it for P-Funk. Whew!