Happy Parliafunkadelicment Thangday! May We Board You? (Flat Earth Theory)

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This past week when back in the home of the successful Detroit Lions.  0-16,  I believed!  I discovered a previously untapped lode of P-Funk, including some unreleased material from 1973 and 1976, and many of the spin-off releases.  I am still missing a few albums and recordings where significant Funkateers were the session musicians.  A quest not as grandiose as the latest, not so greatest Indiana Jones movie, but much more rewarding.

Lions Packers Football

I finally arrived home today after a long day of flying and busing.  Crying babies on planes are an essential reason for carrying headphones.  Headphones are necessary if you are using public transit; you never know when someone will try to engage you in a conversation you have no desire in engaging.  The attempt is inevitable, but with Boy Scout readiness one can deflect the conversation.

Headphones effectively block conversation attempts even if your mp3 player is dead.  The illusion of listening to something is generally enough.  Other times a cell phone conversation can be initiated or, in the case of not being able to get hold of anyone, hold a fake cell phone conversation.  I  have never actually had to get that creative before.

Anyhow, today’s as a good as time as ever to finish up with the Brides of Funkenstein discography.  When the Brides were opening for Parliament-Funkadelic on 1978’s Anti-Tour, a live album was recorded during the two shows, occurring November 1 and 2, 1978, at the Howard Theatre in the Chocolate City, aka Washington, D.C.

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The performance thankfully includes a version of “Birdie.”  “Birdie” is one of the greatest songs ever!  I just came back to the studio version of the song after a couple of weeks away, and was blown away as much as before.  The sultry female vocals at the end are pants tent inducing.  The bass dances all over in a way that means usually means one thing.  Bootsy, but Rodney “Skeet” Curtis is credited on the album.  Credit is due, for the studio performance is dripping with the funk juice provided by ball of tits from outer space.

funkyballoftitsfromouterspace

Everything on this song works so well individually and collectively.  The musicians often get overlooked in the glare created by GC, but true heads know how important the musical invasion force was.  Clinton greatest gifts were at breaking down boundaries, realizing the potential in others, melody, and processing and synthesizing concepts and information.  He also managed the circus, while mythologizing the Funk through verse and vibrations.  The man could not have slept much during the 70s, or since.  The man isn’t wired to sleep, and crack is his fuel.

Chaos was the method to the madness of the P.  Funk wouldn’t exist without it.  Living in chaos on the line between genius and insanity can provide a clarity not allowed by staying in the cozy confines of the artificially flavored center.  Once you get outside the box, you see how tiny that box really is.  P-Funk was able to channel chaos better than probably any other group in history, which is one reason they were successfully able to smash genres and transcend boundaries.

It also helps explain why the discography of P-Funk is the greatest.  Motown certainly had more hits, and even got slightly psychedelic, but P-Funk’s output tops all due to the diversity of sound, inventing a whole new way of funkin’ different from the James Brown model, satirical wit, pushing the trends .  Although the truly psychedelic Motown soul was recorded on side labels.  Berry Gordy peddled his music to white pop radio, which should not be taken as an indictment of the music or man.  This decision influenced the sound and themes of material.  Motown transformed over to political-influenced releases and harder sounds on a little later on.  P-Funk was conducting mad scientist sonic experiments on the level of the Beatles, one of their influences, but had a sound, style and background much different than the shaggy headed quartet.

George Clinton witnessed the riots in Newark and Detroit and was transformed profoundly like Saul when he was blinded by the light.  Morphing from a barbershop doo wop trying to land on at Motown to the early Funkadelic combination of vocal harmonies, Sly Stone and Jimi Hendrix-inspired rock, the grimy rawness of MC5 and Iggy & the Stooges, studio experimentation, and the Funk that rested within.  P-Funk was ever evolving and exponentially expanding throughout the seventies.  The eighties got a bit synthed out and stale, but George can still bring it, just not as often or on nearly the level as the golden age of P-Funk.  The musicians surrounding GC in the Incorporated Thang during this period is the most impressive cast of musical talent ever assembled, so the difficulty reaching previous heights is understandable.

Anyways, the official live release of the Brides of Funkenstein finds a  comfortable and hungry band ripping through a well-paced stellar set.

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After the band introduction, the  “War Ship Touchante,” one of the most whacked out P-Funk songs begins.  Electronic blips and bleeps roam throughout the song.  It begins with the Wedding March theme, until jumping into a straightforward take on the song.  Although, the live version is spiced up with some horns.  “Razor Sharp” goes crazy on the keyboards extracting otherworldly noises.

“Birdie” follows up the mood set up by “War Ship Touchante,” which serves as a fitting intro.  “Birdie” is about embracing the Funk.  The tempo really picks up around the halfway mark, allowing Blackbyrd to shred over a hard tempo.  Then, it all drops off and the vocalists are given a minimal groove to float over.  The keyboard plays brilliantly around the space provided by the groove.  And none of it could be done without the foundation laid down by the drums and bass.

Beginning with a Chocolate City shout out, the bass and horns take you on a funky “Ride On.”  There is a lack of flow between “Birdie” and “Ride On” indicating a chop.  Funk commandments are further proselytized.  The consistent excellence of the P-Funk horns is most impressive.  Jeff “Cherokee” Bunn plays some dirty slap bass.

jeff bunn

“Brides Maids” is a direct sequeway over from “Ride On.”  The synth bass rumbles like Jackie in Hong Kong.  The choruses of “Good to Your Earhole” and “Mothership Connection” are smashed together with walloping drums.

The Brides take Bootsy’s “Vanish In Our Sleep” out for a spin.  Out in the front at the beginning, Dawn and Lynn don’t disappoint.  Maceo also provides some delicate flute at the beginning.   Eventually, the minimal backing music builds as the song progresses.  Bootsy’s is a spacey, mostly mellow affair featuring bizarre keyboard effects and space bass.  The Brides “Vanish In Our Sleep” isn’t nearly as spacey and finishes with a more spunk than Bootsy’s.

“Together” is a song off of Chocolate City.  Faster and slower tempos are intermixed, while horns are given ample space for soloing.  “Kush” gets a chance to really go off.  Crowd participation takes over the second half of the song.  A seething ball of energy is created, bringing the Mothership down.

The live version of “Disco To Go” is even more potent than the studio.  Popping with energy from the get go, including crowd participation, “Disco To Go” has outstanding horns and a groove that hits harder than the studio version.  Halfway through the song turns into an outro jam.

James Wesley Jackson, aka the “Environmedian,” finishes the set with some  humor and insight.

The support lineup for the Brides, who consisted of Lynn Mabry and Dawn Silva, was impressive.  The studio sound was replicated with the aid of the Bridesmaids, who were Sheila Horne, Babs Stewart and Jeanette McGruder.  Horne and McGruber became full-time Brides when Mabry left just before the recording of the second album.  The band consisted of long-time Bootsy associate Frank Waddy (drms), Joel “Razor Sharp” Johnson (keys), Jeff “Cherokee” Bunn (bass), DeWayne “Blackbyrd” McKnight (gtr).  The horns consisted of the talented trio, Maceo Parker (flute, sax), Fred Wesley (trombone), and Richard “Kush” Griffith (trumpet, band leader).  So there was some fresher blood in this smorgasbord of talent.

Today’s post will end with a shout to an old roommate living in Korea who recently had a P-Funk sighting:

when i was watching the lights down at the stream here last night a kid with a blaster came up to the bench and starting dancing a jerky, funky, ugly, energetic, flexible wierd ass improv dance. i just let him do his thing while listening to the funkadelic tracks echo over the iced water and concrete walls. After sir nose d. had made a long speech i had to talk to this kid whose response to the words:
” funkadellic?”
“Parliment ?”
funk music ?”
“george clinton ? ”
was : ” no english” so i said “Funky music, funky dance” and smiled at him. he said ” Funk dance ! funk dance !” and split a huge grin and gave me a hug.
I never thought that would happen to me while bird watching at the led lit concrete creek in my district, but it did. even if they don’t know what they are listening to, you can’t keep the funk away from the youth.

Once the Funk was unleashed there was no containing it.  Like herpes, the symptoms of funk infestation can remain dormant, but just because you can’t see something doesn’t mean that it’s not there.  Funk flows even if mostly unknown, as this story illustrates.

Happy Parliafunkadelicment Thangday!  Enjoy the music.  I am off to roadie for a friend  A sound scientist divinely born with the sonic equivalent of the Hubble Telescope for ears.  A Funkateer even before he was a Funkateer, Forrest is an artist in the truest sense.  You can check out some of his stuff at:

http://www.myspace.com/deliciouspeeps

http://profile.myspace.com/index.cfm?fuseaction=user.viewProfile&friendID=41630221

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