The first record I bought based on my own taste was Rubberband Man by the Spinners, and have always had a penchant for funky music – but in the late 70’s got swept away from funk in the anti-disco sentiment. So I missed out on the grandmaster of funk, George Clinton, and his Parliament and Funkadelic groups until much later. Recently I was cruising my iTunes Library for recordings celebrating anniversaries this year and came across the classic Parliament recording Mothership Connection, and it has been dominating my iPod for the last few days!
George Clinton is one of the true pioneers and creative geniuses in the fusion of R&B, rock, soul and funk that was instrumental in the development of rap and hip-hip music later on. He built on the work of Jimi Hendrix and Sly Stone and James Brown and Motown, fusing all of it into a massive funky machine!
In early 1976 Parliament released ‘Mothership Connection’, the recording that is clearly Clinton’s masterwork. The musicianship is top-notch, featuring Bernie Worrell on keyboards; Bootsy Collins on bass (and also drums and guitar); guitarists Gary Shider, Michael Hampton, and Glen Goins; and the Michael and Randy Becker (whose ‘Brecker Brothers’ jazz-funk onslaught the previous year was a huge success) on saxophone and trumpet respectively; and former James Brown band-mates Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker also on horns.
The music … transcendent funk. The compositions are intricate and subtle and brash all at once, there is wall to wall fun going on. But most of all there is an infectious rhythm that even had my kids digging the tremendous funk!
You can gram Parliament – Mothership Connection at Amazon ($7.43) for the MP3 version now. It was supposedly re-released in 2003, but I can’t hear any difference from my older CD version when I listened to the new release on MOG.
Here is a great video of Mothership Connection recorded live in Houston in 1977. The video quality is sketchy, but the music sounds great! Clinton is dressed in his usual outrageous garb, with much of the rest of the band dressed in similarly shiny outfits. But although the costumes haven’t aged well, the sense of funk is every bit as infectious today as it was 35 years ago!