Happy Parliafunkadelicment Thangday! Everywhere There Is a Lack Of Funkin’ (Brides of Funkenstein, Pt. 1)

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As I stated in the previous Brides post, The Brides of Funkenstein formed in Detroit in 1977.  Started as a vehicle for Lynn Mabry and Dawn Silva, both of whom had both been in the fold of the P for over a year.  But that is getting ahead of the story.  The two female vocalists had a history prior to Parliament Funkadelic.  Mabry and Silva both contributed background vocals to Sly Stone’s High on You (1975) and Head You Missed Me, Well I’m Back (1976).  Lynn was a cousin of Sly’s; Dawn had been discovered singing in her parents’ garage, by Cynthia Robinson, an original member of the Family Stone.  After initial refusing, Silva accepted the offer a year later in time to work on High on You, where she worked with Lynn.

Sly Stone formed a new touring Family Band to back him in November 1976 for the P-Funk Earth Tour.  As a result of tour, as short-lived as Sly’s appearance was, George was introduced to Dawn and Lynn.  He asked them to sing on a Horny Horns session and then on Eddie Hazel’s ongoing solo record.  Climbing aboard the Mothership, the two women next contributed to Parliament’s Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome (1977),  appearing on “Bop Gun”.  They also sang on 1977’s live release, Live/P-Funk Earth Tour.

Taka Boom, aka Taka Khan or sister of Chaka Khan, was an extraterrestial voice and good time hand clapper” on 1975’s Mothership Connection and an “extra singing clone” on Parliaments The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (1976).  She also supplied just plain old backing vocals on Funkadelic’s Tales of Kidd Funkadelic (1976).  Perhaps it was her departure that caused GC to recruit more female vocalists.  George used plenty of talented female vocalists, but for whatever reason waited until Silva and Mabry were aboard before creating the Brides of Funkenstein.

The idea of a female vocal group in the Parliafunkdelicment Thang Inc. Empire, was first unleashed on 1976’s Clones album.  Dr. Funkenstein needed help in spreading the message of the Funk, so he created the Clones of Funkenstein.  Mashing the Funk with Frankenstein created the Clones.  But the Clones, much like the misunderstood, lumbering Frank needed someone to love and be loved by.  Hence, the creation of the Brides of Funkenstein.

The Brides, also like Frankenstein, had no say in their creation.  Informed by George that they were going to have their own group “whether they wanted one or not”, George wasted no time.  The group was signed with Atlantic a week later.  In fact, George had already begun work on the first record, harvesting sounds from old tapes for Mabry and Silva to sing over.

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From the start the Brides were a success.  One of the opening acts of 1978 European and Anti-Tour, aka the One Nation tour, the Brides, were joined by the Bridesmaids.  Consisting of vocalists Jeanette McGruber, Sheila Horne, who was married to Slave front-man Steve Washington, Babs Stewart and a backing band, which included “Blackbyrd” (gtr), Frank Waddy (dr) and a brass section of Horny Horn members Maceo, Fred and “Kush” Griffith, the Brides proved a sensation.

Mabry became pregnant and left the band in 1979 before the recording of the amazing Never Buy Texas From a Cowboy.  She later worked with the Talking Heads, reuniting with Bernie Worrell, on Stop Making Sense.  In the meantime, Horne and McGruber were promoted to Bride status and work began on the sophomore record.

The Brides opened on many tour for P-Funk, including the Flashlight tour, Aqua Boogie tour, Motor Booty tour, Gloryhallastoopid (ECG Tour).  Silva and Mabry pop up on One Nation Under a Groove (1978) and Bootsy’s “Jam Fan (Hot)” from 1979’s This Boot Is Made For Funk-N.  The revamped Brides contributed to Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns second album. In 1980, work was started on a third album, to be titled The Shadow on the Wall Shaped like the Hat Wore, but was aborted when the P-Funk crumbled.  Some of this material was released on the George Clinton Family Series and showed up, heavily reworked, on George’s solo Cinderella Theory.

And now you know the some of the rest of the story.  On to the music.

As I mentioned previously, old Parliament and Bootsy Rubber Band material was mined for Funk Or Walk.  The record opens with the extremely funky “Disco To Go”, which reached #7 on the R&B chart and #101 on the pop chart.  Written by GC to make fun of disco, and originally supposed to lead off Bootsy’s Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy Baby (1976), “Disco To Go” twists around   Old McDonald rhyme and is filled with humorous lyrics.  A simple disco beat may provide the pulse, but instruments come alive around it.  Bootsy’s bass balances out the disco, and is repeated by guitar, which also echoes the horn line.  Awesome vocals by Dawn and Lynn.  “The Mothership Connection” is here!

“War Ship Touchante” is one of the strangest P-Funk songs, and by far the weirdest Brides song.  Eerie vocals, abstract funk philosophy, and the contrast between Bernie’s sounds, which are the stars of the song.  Crazy atmospheric space noise are mixed in with classical keys.  You can hear phazars and explosions.  It is all anchored by a great bass line by “Skeet” Curtis.  You don’t want to be held in contempt of Funk.

After the sci-fi sonics of “War Ship Touchante”, “Nappy” is a pleasant return to earth.  The Bride sing about hair, another love of GC.  Love the ragtime swing.  Great horns!

Huzzah!  Finger snaps and hand claps contribute to the percussive effort on “Birdie”, one of the best songs on the album.  The Brides vocal effort is again hypnotizing, as horns add to the heavy riff of the guitars.  Bass get funky!  The down-low dirty funk provides the space needed for Bernie’s keys, mixed underneath, to roam.  GC pulls backing vocal duties.

The second side of the album begins on slow note with “Just Like You”.  A traditional ballad, though epically long.  Bernie keeps the song as interesting as a traditional ballad can be.  But this song just drags on way too long, like Detroit Lion football games.  The funk does build slightly as the song goes on, but not nearly enough.  “Just Like You” gets a bit repetitive .  The vocals as solidly delivered as they are, get boring.  This one could have been cut in half, probably even more.

Sadly, another ballad follows “Just Like You”.  “When You’re Gone” has a faster tempo, a stronger disco beat, strings appear again, but is not nearly as long as the B side opener.  So it is better than the previous ballad attempt. Still, it is not a particularly strong song.  It is not one you will find yourself repeating often, potentially ever.

“Amorous” is the last song off the album.  Do not fear, for a third ballad does not appear.  An up-tempo ode to love featuring well delivered vocals, great work from the horn and rhythm sections, including a spectacularly deep bass.  This song marks the third in a row on which strings are heard.  Their contribution to “Amorous” is better than the previous two attempts.

Funk Or Walk utilized the talents of many great Funkateers, including Bootsy, Bernie, Gary Shider, Michael Hampton, and Catfish Collins.  The string were provided by the Detroit Symphony.  Interestingly, Fred Wesley wrote the horn arrangements, but none of the Horny Horns were credited with playing the horn parts.  A mystery.  George Clinton is not credited with either of the last two songs, but  Ron Dunbar appears in the credits for both.

I was very exhilarated when I finally got my hands on the Bride albums.  Some of the P-Funk releases can be rather hard to find.  Make my funk the P-Funk I want my funk unkut!  Happy Parliafunkadelicment Thangday!

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One Response to “Happy Parliafunkadelicment Thangday! Everywhere There Is a Lack Of Funkin’ (Brides of Funkenstein, Pt. 1)”

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