Rating P. Funk
As George Clinton plays what are likely to be his final UK shows, Shaun Ponsonby and Galactic Funk Miltita’s Mook rate the entire P. Funk oeuvre.
P. Funk. Uncut funk. The bomb.
Sometimes it is kinda crazy to think of what George Clinton achieved with his rag-tag gang. Who else links doo wop to hip hop, with added psych, soul, metal, pop and, of course, a heavy dose of FUNK?
Clinton started his music career as a member of doo wop group The Parliaments and it progressed in ways that, quite honestly, nobody could have seen coming. Even before forming Funkadelic in the late 60s, he had already worked as a staff songwriter at Motown, had a stint in the legendary Brill Building with legendary songwriters and producers like Gerry Goffin and Carole King, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil…and pretty much anyone else who wrote a hit in the 60s.
Relocating to Detroit and changing format from a suited and booted soul group to a freaky psych rock band, rubbing shoulders with Iggy & The Stooges, Alice Cooper and the MC5. He then returned to his pure funk roots and took black music into stadiums with the kind of expensive stage show that black audiences had never seen before, laying the groundwork for future superstars like Michael Jackson and Prince.
He has continued working with younger acts, producing and collaborating with Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Primal Scream, Snoop Dogg, right up to Kendrick Lamar on To Pimp A Butterfly. Not to mention that as it stands right now, he is the most sampled man on Earth – the sound he created with his P. Funk collective was the basis of G Funk and pretty much all 90s hip hop. If it wasn’t for George Clinton, the language of the streets may never have made it onto the charts.
A few weeks ago, Clinton announced his retirement from the stage. Next year, he will bow out gracefully at 78 years old. This means his upcoming UK dates – including shows at Manchester Academy and London’s Innervisions festival – could be your last chance to see what is still one of the most vital live experiences on the planet.
We felt it was right to celebrate his legacy, but we’re going to have to do it right.
You see, Clinton created the bands Parliament and Funkadelic, but as each were becoming increasingly successful, the collective continued to expand. Pretty much everybody recorded solo albums, side projects, splinter groups. Each was signed to a different label and for a brief moment in time, the P. Funk Empire reigned supreme, and everyone had their part to play in the extended P. Funk Universe.
So, we’re not just looking at Parliament, Funkadelic and acknowledging Bootsy Collins in passing. We’re gonna show the full extent of this Parliafunkadelicment Thang…
76. George Clinton & His Gangsters of Love [George Clinton, 2008]
An incredibly misjudged comeback attempt from Clinton. It sounds great on paper; George and his ragtag group of funkateers jam on some classic tunes with the likes of Sly Stone, Carlos Santana and Red Hot Chilli Peppers. Sadly it is nowhere near as good as it sounds, and barely raises above “competent”. P. Funk is at its best when it is inventive. This ain’t all that inventive.
75. Connections and Disconnections [Funkadelic, 1980]
This would be a totally forgettable record if not for its historical curiosity.
By the late 70s, the Parliafunkadelicment thang was starting to implode. There are many reasons for this, from market fatigue, to changing trends and the lesser quality of the material. Internally, Clinton’s poor financial management of the group led to the departure of a number of key members. In particular, original members of The Parliaments felt they were being side lined with the constant influx of new members. They ended up splitting and forming this outfit.
For whatever reason, they decided to name the new band…Funkadelic…? Naturally, a legal battle with Clinton ensued, which only further disintegrated P. Funk’s already shaky ground.
As a result, this oddity of an album is often remembered as “Renegade Funkadelic”. Much of it has dated pretty horribly, and it is barely worthy even given the context of the time it was released. Lyrically speaking, it seems to spend much of its time criticising George’s practices at the time (which may be valid, all things considered).
It just goes to show how important Clinton was in driving P. Funk’s creativity.
74. Self Portrait [Ruth Copeland, 1971]
Ruth Copeland was an English singer singed to Invictus Records, the label formed by legendary Motown songwriting and production team Holland-Dozier-Holland. Parliament also signed to the label to release their 1970 album Osmium, and worked on the album with the group. As a result, George and co. assisted with Copeland’s own albums. Neither are particularly great , and this second effort– aside from being as mediocre as it gets – has no cohesion whatsoever.
73. Tha Funk Capital of the World [Bootsy Collins, 2011]
This is a sadly disappointing release that really should have everything going for it. Not only is the majority of the material surprisingly mediocre, but it is held back with a strange, muddy mix that stops anything from really jumping out. There is nothing classic, not even Rev. Al Sharpton’s tribute to Bootsy’s former mentor James Brown, or the tribute to P. Funk mainstay Garry Shider. For the most part, the album cover is probably better than the actual content.
72. Play Me Or Trade Me [Parlet, 1980]
Parlet were one of the many spin-off groups in the P. Funk stable. Two girl groups were formed in 1978, Parlet being the first. This isn’t actually a bad album by the standards of any other outfit, but there is a flavour of mediocrity here that some might generously describe as “accessibility”. Perhaps it was the changing times. Of note, I’m Mo Be Hittin’ It has flavours of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards’ production work, not only for Chic but for the likes of Diana Ross. This alone probably signals that P. Funk had given over to something with more sheen.
71. Standards [Bernie Worrell, 2011]
Perhaps rated unfairly low, Parliament-Funkadelic keyboardist Bernie Worrell plays a handful of jazz standards with his own funky twist. It is an enjoyable listen, hearing his trademark Moogs over the likes of Take The A Train is cool enough. But it never really surprises, which is disappointing for one of the most inventive players of all time.
70. How Late Do U Have 2BB4UR Absent? [George Clinton & The P. Funk All-Stars, 2005]
A bit of a mess. It is less of an album and more of a hodge podge of songs recorded over a lengthy period of time, which makes it feel more like a loose odds and sods collection. What you get then is a bunch of tunes that are too plentiful and spread across a double disc, but also feel squashed together with little space to breathe.
There are highlights though, such as Sexy Side of You, the Prince-featuring Paradigm and Sativa’s Something Stank, where she raps about the joys of weed over a classic 70s Parliament groove. But all too often they are let down by bizarre inclusions like Goodnight Sweetheart.
69. Some of My Best Jokes Are Friends [George Clinton, 1985]
It is odd to think that George Clinton would work with British keyboard whiz Thomas Dolby of She Blinded Me With Science fame. And yet here we are. A lot of George’s 80s solo work was acclaimed, even if in retrospect it didn’t always hit the mark. This album is probably a good example of that. As the title might suggest, Some of My Best Jokes… is a little too pleased with its punny cleverness.
68. Invasion of the Booty Snatchers [Parlet, 1979]
Parlet’s second release is a little superior to their first, perhaps helped by major line-up changes that were bigger personalities on record. It is basically a middling disco-inspired album that is pretty typical of the era. In fact, Ridin’ High is probably as close to Chic as P. Funk could reasonably get. The northern soul-sounding ballad Don’t Ever Stop (Lovin’ Me, Needin’ Me) is a highlight, but overall it doesn’t match the parent bands. Excellent title though.
67. Christmas Is 4 Ever [Bootsy Collins, 2006]
OK, so this is a total novelty record. It’s a Christmas album, what do you expect? And listening to it in one go, the joke does occasionally wear a little thin. But, it actually does work as a Christmas album. Collins weaves his signature jams and Bootsyisms in seamlessly.
Christmas records aren’t created to be masterpieces, and they’re usually made with much less inventiveness than this. On its own terms, it’s hard to view this as anything other than a reasonable success – and a nice change from Band Aid.
66. Gloryhallastoopid [Parliament, 1979]
Nothing lasts forever. After an unprecedented run of albums that were both critically and commercially acclaimed, Parliament finally stumbled with Gloryhallastoopid. Though it is undoubtedly their weakest album, it isn’t totally worthless; The Big Bang Theory and Theme From The Black Hole are particularly great. By now, disco was all the rage and it was only natural that it would start to colour the P. Funk sound. The ten minute Party People is the most obvious example, and plods along for much longer than it needs to. Coming not long before the breakout new electro P. Funk stylings of Clinton’s solo career, overall it feels a little redundant.
65. Medicaid Fraud Dogg [Parliament, 2018]
Parliament’s first album in 38 years is a tough one to rate, not least because George dropped it out of nowhere while we were halfway through putting this list together. And while we perhaps haven’t had time to digest it properly, it seems to suffer from a lot of the same problems as Funkadelic’s 2014 album First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate; it’s too long and doesn’t really do anything to justify it being released under the Parliament name. It’s just another George Clinton album where he tries to marry P. Funk with modern trends to inconsistent results. That’s not to say there aren’t some great grooves on there, but Bootsy’s most recent release feels far more like what you would want Parliament to sound like in the 21st century.
64. I Am What I Am [Ruth Copeland, 1970]
Copeland’s first album is mildly better than the first. It is slightly more focussed than Self Portrait, but is still a pretty bog standard psychedelic soul album from the era, with a couple of pointless Rolling Stones covers thrown in. But as the first example of P. Funk branching out into spin-off artists, it is of mild curiosity.
63. I Don’t Even Know [Bernie Worrell, 2010]
There isn’t really much to recommend either way here. It’s one of many Bernie solo albums and, though enjoyable enough, it isn’t going to blow anybody’s minds or make him any new fans. For diehards only.
62. Lifestyles of the Roach and Famous [INCorporated Thang Band, 1988]
P. Funk produced so many spin-off acts that many just disappeared without a trace. This was one of them, perhaps not helped by the fact that the collective reached their commercial peak a decade earlier. If the 80s were the “me” decade, the street smart afrofuturism of P. Funk could be viewed as a little out of place commercially, particularly when African American acts such as Prince and Michael Jackson were crossing over like never before.
Obviously, with the development of G Funk, gangsta rap and the commercial emergence of hip hop culture, Clinton and co. would eventually find themselves as relevant as ever. But this record came out somewhere between – acting as a parody of the popular TV show Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous. It also reunited George and Bootsy. There’s enough groove to keep it moving, but probably wouldn’t interest anyone outside of the devoted.
61. First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate [Funkadelic, 2014]
This was the first album to carry the Funkadelic name in 33 years. So, as a neat little gimmick the album featured 33 tracks. Over three discs. With that in mind, it is no surprise that it is far from the most consistent record in the P. Funk discography. It is an unwieldly collection of songs in a similar vain to How Late Do U Have 2BB4UR Absent?, albeit with more worthy material. Some is great, some is weak, and it could have done with some ruthless editing.
It is also fairly controversial among the P. Funk faithful due to its trap flavours, which at least proves that Clinton is willing to constantly push forward.
If you don’t mind sifting through, some of it will be worth your time (Pole Power, Yesterdejavu, the nu metal of Dirty Queen). But it is uncertain how fitting it is under the Funkadelic name. Although Funkadelic was always the most experimental of the Parliafunkadelicment thang, there’s nothing about the record that distinguishes it from P. Funk All-Stars or George Clinton’s solo records. And it probably wouldn’t be any different if it was released under any of those names.
60. What’s Bootsy Doin’? [Bootsy Collins, 1988]
By the 1980s, Bootsy was on a punitive record producing mission to pay back legal costs that were owed to his label. So, his albums in the period tend to be good, if not great. Luckily, he still has that charisma that threatens to cause your record player to explode, and it is hard not to enjoy his hi jinx. More notable of the period, however, is his collaboration with A Tribe Called Quest’s Q-Tip and a young New York dance act called Deee-Lite on a little song called Groove Is In The Heart.
59. Federation of Tackheads [Jimmy G & The Tackheads, 1985]
By the mid-80s, P. Funk’s offshoot projects were going largely ignored – though to be fair, there weren’t many of them anymore. This is one of the few of the era, and is a bit of an overlooked gem all things considered. Production-wise it was a bit of a collaboration between Clinton and long-time guitarists Blackbyrd McKnight and Garry Shider. Though there isn’t much to distinguish it from Clinton’s solo albums of the day, it is superior to a handful of them. A nice dose of 80s electro-funk.
58. Let’s Take It To The Stage [Funkadelic, 1975]
The last proper album Funkadelic made for the Westbound label, where they arguably did their most critically celebrated work (the following Tales of Kidd Funkadelic was an album of outtakes put out by the label following their departure). Get Off Your Ass and Jam is the source of one of Clinton’s most used stage chants, and also has an interesting story behind it’s recording. The shredding guitar solo that runs throughout was not played by Eddie Hazel, or Michael Hampton, or any other of the incredible players in the P. Funk galaxy, but instead by a homeless man who rocked up to the studio and offered his services for a small sum. He played through in one take, left immediately and they never heard from him again. Also of note is Be My Beach, Bootsy Collins’ vocal debut. Despite all of this, it was becoming clear that Funkadelic would need a new direction soon, and the collective would look to their other big venture for inspiration.
57. Trombipulation [Parliament, 1980]
This was the last full album to display the Parliament name until this year’s release. It is often viewed as being worse than the previous Gloryhallastoopid, but although it hardly returns them to their former glory, we do find it a slightly more enjoyable listen as a whole. It is rather difficult to get a hold of now, but if you do, keen listeners might pick out the main sample from Digital Underground’s Humpty Dance in Let’s Play House. And that isn’t all they took from P. Funk.
56. Lord of the Harvest [Zillatron, 1993]
Now this is interesting. A bizarre collaboration between Bootsy, future Guns N Roses guitarist Buckethead and Bill Laswell. Bootsy leaves the cartoonishness at home a little and indulges in some industrial metal. It is definitely the darkest record in Bootsy‘s catalogue, and whether or not that is a good thing is up to you. More interesting than enjoyable, but definitely a worthwhile experiment from alt rock’s commercial zenith.
55. Never Buy Texas From a Cowboy [The Brides of Funkenstein, 1979]
The Brides of Funkenstein were the second P. Funk girl group of the era, after Parlet. They were a little more disco-influenced than their colleagues/rivals in Parlet, but somehow they managed to make it work more successfully. For some reason, they seem to assert themselves more. This is their second album, and while it doesn’t quite match the first, it is definitely stronger than the Parliament albums that were being made at the time.
54. The One Giveth, The Count Taketh Away [Bootsy Collins, 1982]
Bootsy’s final album for Warner Bros Records. He was churning them out in the 80s to pay off debts, so perhaps it isn’t surprising that there seems to be a bit of heart missing. There are some good moments – in fact it starts off with a truly impressive trio; Shine-O-Myte (Rag Popping), Ladyshark (Just When You Thought It Was Safe) and Countracula (This One’s for You), but it starts to go downhill not long after and soon becomes a hugely inconsistent effort.
53. The Cinderella Theory [George Clinton, 1989]
After his contract at Capitol expired, Clinton had trouble finding a new label. This seems curious now. Of all the funky figures of his generation, he had probably the most profound effect on what was happening with hip hop at the time. Further to that was his willingness to experiment with his musical children. Indeed, the lead single from this album was Tweakin’, a collaboration with Public Enemy, then hot off the heels of the ground breaking It Takes A Nation of Millions To Hold Us Back.
In any case, this album was recorded and somehow found its way into Prince’s hands, who proceeded to sign Clinton to his Paisley Park label and released the album in 1989. Like many albums in the early CD era, it is a little too long which makes it spectacularly uneven, and on songs like Why Should I Dog U Out? it feels like Clinton is relying on some of his standard tropes. But, you could probably rank it among his more enjoyable solo albums.
52. This Boot Is Made For Fonk-N [Bootsy’s Rubber Band, 1979]
The last album from the Rubber Band feels like a group winding down. The P. Funk Empire seemed to be crumbling in a mire of over-saturation and terrible business management by now, so it only stood to reason that the Rubber Band would follow suit. In fact, this was the first Rubber Band release not to generate any hit singles, perhaps owing to the more experimental nature of the songs. It is a good album, for sure, but not as strong as the Rubber Band’s previous efforts.
51. Improvisczario [Bernie Worrell, 2007]
We don’t know if Improviszario was actually improvised, but it certainly feels like it.
This is a compliment, of course. Worrell, along with his jammates (who include numerous P. Funk alumni and Living Colour drummer Will Calhoun) play with an infectious abandonment that may not be traditional sounding P. Funk, but is still dedicated to the feeling of good. It is still full of grooves, but they’re not necessarily funky.
50. Funk Of Ages [Bernie Worrell, 1990]
Not to labour the point, but Bernie couldn’t produce a truly bad album, whether being his traditional funky self or indulging in his jazzier side.
This definitely one of his funkiest releases (did the title give it away?), but what really makes it stand out is the guest appearances and cameos, which do much to show how loved and influential Bernie was among his peers. There’s David Byrne (with whom Worrell famously played as a touring member of Talking Heads), Herbie Hancock, Keith Richards and Living Colour’s Vernon Reid.
He wouldn’t make many more out and out funk albums, so this one is to be treasured.
49. Ultra Wave [Bootsy Collins, 1980]
By the time the 1970s drew to a close, most of the greatest funk acts had transitioned to disco, which had swallowed up pop culture. Earth Wind & Fire entered Boogie Wonderland, Kool & The Gang were having a Celebration. Even James Brown released an album called The Original Disco Man.
It was to be expected. Disco was almost a combination of funk and the sound of Philadelphia International. Yet somehow Bootsy resisted getting on that particular gravy train.
This is far from Bootsy’s best album (evidently), but it is a good solid piece of funk, that finds itself edging towards the 80s in sound and production. The highlight is probably It’s a Musical, but there is much to be enjoyed, even if it doesn’t blow you away.
48. Osmium [Parliament, 1970]
Clinton formed The Parliaments as a doo wop group inspired by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers, but he could sense a change in the air. When he lost the rights to his own group’s name, he brought the musicians forward and christened them Funkadelic. When he regained the rights to the name, he envisioned Parliament as a whole new act.
He signed to Invictus – the label started by famed production team Holland-Dozier-Holland following their departure from Motown, and is a real curiosity in the P. Funk oeuvre. It probably owes more to Funkadelic than what would become Parliament. It is a strange, eclectic album that shows the P. Funk crew experimenting with what they could do with music at the start of the new decade. A world away from their early singles era and before classic P. Funk as we know it today took shape. Silent Boatman is bizarre but glorious.
47. Pieces of Woo: The Other Side [Bernie Worrell, 1993]
The first of Bernie’s wildly experimental albums. Pieces of Woo finds Worrell cutting loose in the studio beyond anything he had ever recorded before. He is still funky, but now he’s adding far more jazz and avant-noise into the mix. It is a somewhat chaotic mix, and though there is something for everyone, it isn’t an album for everyone. But it is a solid reminder of his creativity and importance within the P. Funk universe.
46. I Wanna Testify [The Parliaments, 1995]
This is a singles collection of the very first incarnation of P. Funk, which never released a full album, but this is their singles collected together.
Clinton formed The Parliaments (named after a brand of cigarettes) having been inspired by Frankie Lymon & The Teenagers. They eventually aspired to be more along the lines of The Temptations, and at one point even auditioned for Motown. They were unsuccessful, but Berry Gordy saw something in Clinton’s song writing and hired him as a staff writer, whilst the group released singles on a handful of labels.
But it wasn’t to be. If there’s one defining characteristic about groups The Temptations, it’s that they are slick. The Parliaments could never quite get that down, they were too funky and this shows in the music present here. It’s not as bonkers as what was to come, but it was certainly more wayward than the soul music of the day.
They scored one real hit, (I Wanna) Testify, and followed it up with a disastrous performance at Harlem’s famed Apollo Theatre, which was enough to prove to Clinton that they were on the wrong track. Around the same time, he lost the rights to The Parliaments’ name.
From the ashes of The Parliaments, Funkadelic was born.
45. America Eats It’s Young [Funkadelic, 1972]
A sprawling, double disc affair, America Eats Its Young is almost like the Funkadelic version of Parliament’s Osmium, although a big reason for that they re-recorded a huge chunk of Osmium for the release, including Loose Booty and I Call My Baby Pussycat.
Like Osmium, it is diverse and strange, but probably a little more consistent, despite being a double record. It feels like the P. Funk pieces are starting to come together. They haven’t unleashed the full conceptual work they would eventually make their bread and butter, but it feels like it’s rumbling underneath the surface.
Of note also is the debut of Catfish and Bootsy Collins, the latter of whom especially would become one of the figureheads of the movement.
44. You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish [George Clinton, 1983]
George’s first solo album proved that there was still a lot of life in the old (atomic) dog, despite the funk being taken to new places by the likes of Rick James and Prince.
You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish was the immediate follow-up and sounds like it could have been a little rushed. For starters, it is short on material – there’s only six tracks on the album, and the material itself is fairly weak with a tendency to meander.
Clinton is wise enough to know you have to listen to what the younger generation is doing. With hip hop taking over the streets in the early 80s, he began incorporating more of it in his work. It isn’t always successful – Nubian Nut is pretty awkward – but it works better than it would be for most people in his position. After all, if it wasn’t for the street language applied to P. Funk records, there may not be hip hop as we know it. At the very least, he proved that he could out-rap the best of his bastard children.
43. Blacktronic Science [Bernie Worrell, 1993]
Truth be told, this is far from Bernie’s best album. He still hadn’t come out of his shell as a solo artist, which is perhaps why so many of the old gang show up on this one; George, Bootsy, Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker. But whilst Bernie’s leadership for a project like this might not be all that at the moment, the ideas are definitely there. Revelation In Black Light, for example, is exceptional even if Blood Secrets is a bit tiresome. Luckily Dissinfordollars is the kind of jam that we all paid our money to hear.
42. Funkadelic [Funkadelic, 1970]
When Clinton lost the rights to The Parliaments name, he brought the backing band forward and re-christened them Funkadelic, leaving the classic soul style back in the 60s and entered the new decade with a heavy, psychedelic feel.
Their self-titled debut was pretty unique at the time. If Sly & The Family Stone dabbled in psychedelia, and if even Motown’s suited and booted Temptations dipped in their toe, Funkadelic threw themselves in with both feet. It is perhaps less weird than Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow, and less diverse than America Eats Its Young, and less accomplished than their output beyond 1973’s Cosmic Slop. But it is a seminal album down the road.
In fact, the title is apt. Funky and psychedelic. If you had to invent a word to describe it, the chances are you would hit upon Funkadelic. And weirdly the Jackson 5 covered the single I’ll Bet You on their ABC album, which pretty much amounts to Baby-era Justin Bieber covering Dillinger Escape Plan.
41. R&B Skeletons In The Closet [George Clinton, 1986]
Had this followed up 1982’s Computer Games, the trajectory of 80s P. Funk may have been very different. This is far more focussed and confident.
It is really to the collective’s credit that they could come up with something as infectious as Do Fries Go With That Shake? so late in their career. It really has “HIT” written all over it, whilst Mix-Master Suite proves that Clinton hadn’t abandoned his experimentation, providing a bizarre ode to hip hop by way of everything from jazz to old Westerns.
40. Pleasure Principle [Parlet, 1978]
One of the stronger spin-off albums, Parlet’s debut is a great showcase for singers Mallia Franklin, Debbie Wright and Jeanette Washington.
The album pretty successfully balances disco and funk, with the title track being a particular gem that is as prime P. Funk as you could get. But they do stretch themselves a bit too, with tracks like Are You Dreaming? feeling a bit euro-disco.
You could probably argue that it is a mainly inessential release, and it doesn’t do too much to expand the P. Funk extended universe. But, Goddamnit, it’s fun!
One final piece of trivia to note: Bootsy on drums!
39. Elevation: The Upper Air [Bernie Worrell, 2013]
If it took Bernie a few years to find his feet as a solo artist, he definitely found his niche towards the end of his life.
On Elevation, it feels like he is interpreting his greatest influences through his own style. This would be unremarkable if it wasn’t for the sheer breadth of what he wound up interpreting; John Coltrane’s Alabama is intimate, Santana’s Samba Pa Ti is romantic, Bob Marley’s Redemption Song is gospel, and of course he can’t forget to re-imagine P. Funk a little bit with Bootsy’s I’d Rather Be With You. It is by far the most subtle album made by a P. Funk alumnus, and it gives you a real idea of the scope of Worrell’s talents.
38. Heavy Metal Funkason [Michael Hampton, 1998]
Guitarist Michael Hampton has been a P. Funk stalwart since 1975, but it took him until 1998 to record his first album, and when he did he put his foot down on the pedal.
In a way, it takes the early, heavy Funkadelic sound to where it would naturally be in the late 90s. The title really says it all; Heavy Metal Funkason. It’s heavy, it’s funky, and a true representation of Hampton’s formidable talents.
37. Radio Active (Fuzzy Haskins, 1978]
Fuzzy was one of the original members of The Parliaments (in fact, he was one of the members of the rogue Funkadelic band mentioned above). As one of the more extroverted members of the group, it isn’t really a surprise when Clinton chose to record a solo album with him.
It cannot be exaggerated how funky Haskins is, but this kinda got lost in the shuffle with all the other P. Funk albums that came out in the period. The record as a whole is an enjoyable listen, but not one of the ones that is going to blow your mind.
36. Bootsy? Player Of The Year [Bootsy’s Rubber Band, 1978]
This was one of Bootsy’s biggest commercial successes, and basically battled Parliament’s Funkentelechy Vs The Placebo Syndrome on the R&B charts. P. Funk mania was at its absolute height as the collective took their mothership around America’s stadiums, which were usually occupied by the dinosaurs of rock.
At least three of the songs probably rate among the finest jams to ever come out of P. Funk, Bootzilla in particular could practically be Collins’ theme tune. There are a lot more ballads than one would expect though. On the one hand, they do provide a balance to the funk-outs, but none really match some of Bootsy’s previous ballads like Vanish In Our Sleep.
35. Uncle Jam Wants You [Funkadelic, 1979]
This is an odd one, because on the one hand it is as solid as Funkadelic albums come, but it lacks the tight concept and breakout tunes with which we had become accustomed. Of all the big P. Funk albums of the era, it is probably the one that they draw the least amount of material from on stage.
The obvious exception, of course, is (Not Just) Knee Deep. A 15 minute jam that just keeps going and never gets bored, Knee Deep is one of the greatest dance songs ever recorded, and only became more iconic when it was sampled on De La Soul’s monster hit Me, Myself and I. The albums sleeve notes claim that its purpose is to “rescue dance music from the blahs” – and Knee Deep certainly does that.
The front cover is also one of the most iconic images of Clinton, echoing the Black Panthers in a Huey Newton pose.
34. Hey Man, Smell My Finger [George Clinton, 1993]
This was the second of two albums released on Prince’s Paisley Park label (which would close as a result of Prince’s infamous feud with Warners).
It is, however, much stronger than the previous The Cinderella Theory. By now the hip-hop phenomena was in full effect, and G Funk was taking over the airwaves. Most of those records sampled Clinton at some point, and maybe Clinton was energised by this because this is undoubtedly his best solo album since 1982.
Aside from Prince, other young guns showed up to lend George a hand. Notably, Paint The White House Black includes guest spots from a cavalcade of hip hop stars; Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Public Enemy, Yo-Yo, MC Breed, Kam and Digital Underground’s Shock-G.
33. Play With Bootsy: A Tribute To The Funk [Bootsy Collins, 2002]
A fascinating 2002 album that saw Bootsy collaborate with musicians and producers, including Fatboy Slim and Toots Hibbert of reggae legends The Maytals. It’s actually a joy, and it feels like everyone enjoys jamming together, rather than just showing up for the sake of it. It could serve as the soundtrack to any summer.
It isn’t perfect. The title track, while enjoyable, is a little too close to Daft Punk’s Harder Faster Stronger. But much of the album, especially Groove Eternal, is a delight.
32. Funk or Walk [Brides of Funkenstein, 1978]
The P. Funk girl groups seemed to do great debut albums, and then kinda tail off a bit for the second. This is true of Brides of Funkenstein. Funk or Walk immediately proves to be very different to an album that Parlet may have made, and more than justifies the separate groups.
The Brides were contributing significantly to the expanded universe. There are more references to the established narrative – this is notable straight away on opener Disco To Go, where they sing “The mothership connection is here”.
Of all the P. Funk albums, this is definitely one of the more disco sounding, which isn’t surprising for an R&B album in 1978. But it still manages to sound like P. Funk and doesn’t go off in the deep end in the way that some Parliament cuts like Party People did.
31. Fresh Outta ‘P’ University [Bootsy Collins, 1997]
Definitely one of Bootsy’s stronger albums of the 90s, but it probably won’t surprise you to learn that there aren’t any real surprises. It sounds great, a readymade successor to his classics of the 70s – and most would be better served with those. But Collins’ howls will still infect you from the moment Off da Hook kicks in.
30. Blasters of the Universe [Bootsy’s New Rubber Band, 1993]
Perhaps Collins felt the same rejuvenation that Clinton did in the early 90s, as both kicked off the decade with inspired albums. His mojo is apparent throughout, and the album is full of filthy funk jams every bit as engaging as his older material.
The highlight, though, is probably something where Collins’ soul is more palpable than his funk – the bittersweet Goodnight Eddie, a tribute to the recently deceased Funkadelic axe slinger, who recorded some of the greatest guitar lines in rock & roll history.
Speaking of which…
29. Game, Dames and Guitar Thangs [Eddie Hazel, 1977]
With his first solo album, Eddie Hazel proves he should be in all of the top ten guitarists lists. Forgotten in the hullaballoo of the Hendrix’s, the Van Halen’s and the Claption’s, he was every bit as radical, imaginative and virtuoso as any of them.
Some of the songs on this disc are shockingly underrated, and this writer would argue that these are the best covers of California Dreamin’ and (She’s So) Heavy ever recorded. Personally speaking, I enjoy them more than the originals.
28. World Wide Funk [Bootsy Collins, 2017]
This is a real return to form for Bootsy. Using a similar process to 2002’s Play With Bootsy, he collaborated with a host of other musicians and producers, from Iggy Pop to Doug E Fresh and the last appearance of the great Bernie Worrell. It is probably more effective than Clinton’s current projects. It doesn’t actively try to be current, it feels more like Bootsy and his cohorts just get lost in the music.
27. Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow [Funkadelic, 1970]
If Funkadelic’s debut was psychedelic, this was…well, there probably isn’t even a word for it. You can practically feel the acid on your tongue. I once walked around town late on a Saturday night with the title track in my ears and it was honestly one of the most weirdly frightening experiences of my life. And I was sober. Bad trip.
Funky Dollar Bill is the other obvious standout, grimy, psychedelic and funky all in one go, which pretty much sums the album up.
Let’s not forget as well – it is definitely one of the greatest album titles in music history.
26. Free Agent: A Spaced Odyssey [Bernie Worrell, 1997]
Bernie made a lot of solo albums in a similar style, and by the late 90s he was definitely focussing on more of a jazz feel. The highlight here is In Pursuit, an afrobeat inspired jam that makes you wish that the P. Funk mothership made the occasional foray into purely African music.
25. Up For The Downstroke [Parliament, 1974]
Parliament made one album on Invictus in the early 70s, but it wasn’t easy to tell it apart from Funkadelic albums, which all performed far better than Osmium. So perhaps it isn’t surprising that Clinton put Parliament on hold for a while.
When the group returned in 1974, they were arguably the most pure and distilled funk band ever committed to record, which becomes immediately apparent as soon as the opening title track kicks in. With that one song, the new Parliament sound is set in stone – fully formed, coming in on the one with chants, shouts and slap bass.
By looking back at P. Funk’s past with a funkier take on The Parliament’s hit (I Wanna) Testify (retitled simply as Testify) and the fact that there’s still a bit of the Funkadelic feel in there a little bit, particularly on closer Presence of a Brain, it feels like a natural bridge between the eclectic style of Osmium and the hard hitting R&B funk of Chocolate City.
24. Rest In P [Eddie Hazel, 1994]
A posthumous release by the great Eddie Hazel, featuring tracks recorded between 1975 and 1977 during sessions for his Games, Dames and Guitar Thangs release. Bizarrely, though, it feels like there is more of Eddie in these recordings than what eventually wound up on the finished record. Three jams cross the ten minute mark (Juicy Fingers, We Three and No, It’s Not!) and each prove why Hazel was so revered by his peers, and hits home how underappreciated his talents are to general audiences.
23. All The Woo In The World [Bernie Worrell, 1978]
Bernie’s solo career was inevitable – he was too important to the P. Funk sound.
This was his debut, and revolves around a concept called “woo”. What is “woo”? We don’t exactly know, but it sounds good. The highlight is Insurance Man For The Funk, a 12 minute jam that could have been remembered as one of the collective’s greatest ever jams had it been released by Parliament or Funkadelic.
22. Urban Dancefloor Guerillas [P. Funk All-Stars, 1983]
Alternatively known as Hydraulic Funk, this is technically the follow-up to Clinton’s 1982 solo effort Computer Games, although released as P. Funk All-Stars rather than under his name. It builds on the new formula that began with its predecessor, and while not as strong, it has exceptional moments, such as the sweet Generator Pop. Refreshingly different, while still unmistakably P. Funk.
21. T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. [George Clinton & The P. Funk All-Stars, 1996]
Just for reference – the acronym stands for The Awesome Power of a Fully Operational Mothership.
Now that is out of the way, this is a great slice of liquid from the 1990s. Being influenced by the G. Funk of Dr. Dre (which in itself was significantly inspired by P. Funk), Clinton decided to bring in all the old faces from the 70s that he hadn’t worked with in years, such as Bootsy, Bernie and Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker of the Horny Horns.
And the combination works far more successfully than you would expect. If Anybody Gets Funked Up (It’s Gonna Be You) combines everything that was great about the 70s P. Funk with everything that was great about 90s G. Funk, whilst Hard As Steel remained a mainstay of P. Funk live shows for almost two decades.
The album is an absolute classic, and without a doubt the most consistent set from Clinton’s side of the stable in the last 25 years.
20. Dope Dogs [George Clinton & The P. Funk All-Stars, 1994]
Initially only released in Japan (the funk capital of the world?), Dope Dogs is a unique and fascinating album. Funk, hip hop and R&B combine to cover a core concept; something about dogs, drugs, the government and conspiracy theories. Yeah, it’s hard to follow, but it is heavy and groovy. The P. Funk All-Stars channel it all expertly and arguably make it Clinton’s most focussed album of the decade. The highlight? Dog Star. A heavy beast.
19. Hardcore Jollies [Funkadelic, 1976]
As Parliament were racing up the charts, Clinton took Funkadelic away from the independent Westbound Records and signed them to Warner Brothers. This was their debut and just like Uncle Jam Wants You, it is a solid collection of songs, but it doesn’t quite hit the heights of the other Funkadelic albums as a whole. What it gains in extra points for the sublime If You Got Funk You Got Style, it loses for a pointless live re-recording of 1973’s Cosmic Slop.
Ultimately it feels like a bit of a transitional record – which is no surprise given what came next (see #14).
18. A Whole Nother Thang [Fuzzy Haskins, 1976]
Fuzzy’s debut solo album is definitely his strongest, perhaps the plethora of P. Funk records that flooded the market two years later diluted his subsequent output. The real take away from this record is a P. Funk fan favourite that the collective still play on stage to this day; Cookie Jar. Of note, though, it seems bizarre that his solo records would still be released by Westbound, yet still feature significant input by the entire collective despite Funkadelic moving to Warners.
17. Sweat Band [Sweat Band, 1980]
Bootsy lost the rights to the name of his backing group Rubber Band to a folk group of the same name that nobody remembers. So, he started this side project in response. Bootsy writes and produces much of the material, and George Clinton serves as executive producer. It really needs to be considered on its own terms. There was no follow-up and it has been deleted so is hard to find now, so is barely even remembered as a curiosity. Which is a shame – there are loads of great tunes on it. Space is the place.
16. Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy, Baby! [Bootsy’s Rubber Band, 1977]
Bootsy’s first two albums with the original Rubber Band are definitely his strongest – cartoonish and full of groove, not to mention some of the sexiest ballads ever written.
This was probably the first of the P. Funk expanded universe albums to inform the parent bands. Most notably The Pinocchio Theory, which led to the creation of Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk – an unfunky pimp, and the arch nemesis of Starchild, Dr Funkenstein and the rest of the P. Funk protagonists. As the song says, “you fake the funk; your nose got to grow”.
But aside from the funkier tracks, there’s also the moody What’s a Telephone Bill? which shows that Bootsy’s talent knows no end. If we had to say anything negative, maybe Munchies For Your Love goes on a bit too long. But that’s it.
15. Tales of Kidd Funkadelic [Funkadelic, 1976]
A change in Funkadelic timbre as the lines between Funkadelic and Parliament begin to blur. This was released just a few months before their Warner Brothers debut. Fascinatingly, the title track was meant to be a song long guitar solo from Kidd Funkadelic, a.k.a. Michael Hampton. But when Bernie laid down his synth parts they were so strong that that the idea was changed and the song became synth-led.
It’s basically an album of leftovers that Westbound put out to try and curb the forthcoming Hardcore Jollies. But, ironically, it turned out to be a stronger album. And gave us one of the great P. Funk chants in Take Your Dead Ass Home.
14. One Nation Under a Groove [Funkadelic, 1978]
Who says a funk band can’t play rock? Funkadelic had spent the best part of a decade being the weirdest, most experimental funk band in America. That all changed in 1978 with One Nation Under a Groove – by far their most commercially successful album.
Of course the title track is also one of their most enduring anthems. Clinton said he wrote it after two fans described the feeling after seeing them perform as it “being like one nation under a groove”. The real kicker though is how he described it in a recent interview; “For me, the song was about bringing humanity together, because the real problems are gonna come when we’re dealing with other planets and we have to worry about aliens coming to eat us or fuck us with five dicks.”
But the rest of the album is just as strong. Funk gettin’ ready to roll.
13. Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band [Bootsy’s Rubber Band, 1976]
So many of the debut P. Funk solo albums are the superior releases from those artists. Bootsy is a prime example. He comes out swinging, sounding like the star he always knew he was as soon as he shouts “Hallelujah!” on the opening title track. You can’t look away from him.
There isn’t a dull moment. The ballads are sexy and effective, especially Vanish In Our Sleep and I’d Rather Be With You. The latter of these is one of the most sampled songs in the P. Funk catalogue, with Beyonce’s Be With You, Adina Howard on Freak Like Me, and 2Pac, N.W.A. and who knows who else?
12. Say Blow By Blow Backwards [Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns, 1979]
Like Bootsy, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker were refugees from James Brown’s band. They all joined the P. Funk collective in the early to mid-70s, and by the end of the decade Clinton had given them their own showcase. Wesley’s horn arrangement skills are a real force to be reckoned with. It isn’t surprising that a song like We Came To Funk Ya is straight up P. Funk, but Wesley’s jazz credentials poke through on the likes of Mr. Melody Man, Just Like You and Circular Motion. It isn’t pure jazz (P. Jazz?), but it definitely shows of the Horny Horns’ talents beyond the funk. An absolute gem.
11. Cosmic Slop [Funkadelic, 1973]
A strong Funkadelic album in the vain of their early psych rock sound. At this point the groove strengthens and they become funkier.
What stands out most is Clinton’s ability to sneak social commentary into songs that sound like complete silliness. A title like Cosmic Slop suggests pure nonsense, but the song is actually about an impoverished mother who has resorted to prostitution in order to support her family.
Also of note is the front cover – the first to feature artwork by Pedro Bell, the artist who would work with them throughout the 1970s and provide them with the aesthetic that would become as iconic as their music and the mothership.
10. Chocolate City [Parliament, 1975]
Part of Clinton’s vision was to put black people where they had never been. Later he would put black men in space on Mothership Connection, but he started on Chocolate City in the most obvious place – the White House.
That’s the general concept for the album, and the title track has fun imagining prominent black figures in government roles; “Richard Pryor, Minister of Education/Stevie Wonder, Secretary of Fine Arts/And Miss Aretha Franklin, First Lady”.
Outside of the social-political message, it really did set the ball rolling for P. Funk commercially. Side Effects is an absolute beast and Big Footin’ is a rallying cry to war against the unfunky. Together is as sweet a ballad as you can get with a driving groove.
9. A Blow For Me, A Toot For You [Fred Wesley & The Horny Horns, 1977]
The Horny Horns’ debut album was perhaps less experimental with the jazz influences that Say Blow By Blow Backwards – but they’re still there, most notably in Peace Fugue, which might be more un-P. Funk sounding than pretty much anything on the follow-up. It sounds more like something Grover Washington Jr might record. But it shows off Wesley’s skills impeccably, and you can’t help but wish hat P. Funk’s current incarnation would delve into some of these pieces occasionally.
Most of the album is a balls to the wall funk out though, with George and Bootsy composing the majority of the material. Although mostly instrumental, you do get the occasional chorus line being sung, such as in the re-recording of Up For The Downstroke.
8. The Clones of Dr Funkenstein [Parliament, 1976]
Something about the exceptional horn arrangements makes The Clones of Dr Funkenstein sound weirdly Christmassy. They started down the sci-fi route on the previous Mothership Connection, but definitely amplified it here. There are some beautiful tunes; the ballads such as Getting To Know You and I’ve Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body) really step up. Dr Funkenstein would become one of the most dramatic moments in their live shows as the giant mothership would land on stage, from which Clinton would emerge as the title character.
7. Funkentelechy Vs The Placebo Syndrome [Parliament, 1977]
Expanding the ideas and sounds on the previous two records, Clinton claimed in his brilliantly titled book Brothas Be, Yo, Like George Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You? that this is his favourite Parliament album, and with good reason.
If you need any justification (you don’t), just listen to Flash Light. One of P. Funk’s greatest jams EVER. Though many assume its Bootsy on bass, it is actually Bernie on synth bass, kick starting a new trend that is still prevalent to this day.
Elsewhere, the aforementioned Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk makes his debut with the proclamation; “I am Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk. I have always been D’Voidoffunk, I shall continue to be D’Voidoffunk. Starchild, you have only won the battle. I am the subliminal seducer, I will never dance”. In live shows, Sir Nose appears as the villain, before being won over by the power of the funk and gettin’ down. The song itself is oddly based on the nursery rhyme Three Blind Mice.
And Wizard of Finance is a delicious ballad that doesn’t let go once it’s in your head.
6. Mothership Connection [Parliament, 1975]
And here it is. The first true P. Funk concept album, and the beginning of their obsession with what would now be considered afro-futurism. Not only is it the debut of Dr Funkenstein, Star Child and the Mothership, but the term P. Funk itself also coined in the opening P. Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up).
It also gave Parliament their biggest hit – Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker), the greatest yet simplest chant they ever pulled out the bag.
Future albums may have perfected the art of the P. Funk concept album, Mothership Connection invents it. Most of the songs remain in the band’s set for a reason; it is absolutely seminal. Just listening to this record makes you feel bad ass.
5. The Electric Spanking of War Babies [Funkadelic, 1981]
As the 80s dawned, the empire that Clinton had built over the second half of the 70s was in tatters. The last couple of Parliament albums were sore disappointments, most of the spin offs started to fail and bad contracts was leaving everything in a heap. Somehow, though, Funkadelic were able to make one of their finest albums in the period.
It is a bit of a departure that shows where Funkadelic might have gone in the 80s. It is still recognisably the same band who released Free Your Mind…and Your Ass Will Follow over a decade earlier, but it is equally brings in totally new sounds and proves why Funkadelic were the more experimental arm of the P. Funk collective.
In a way, the album serves as something of a spiritual sequel to Uncle Jam Wants You. Once again, although the title seems like total gibberish, it actually refers to what Clinton U.S. government using the media to promote imperialistic wars. Either way, the title track is an absolute belter and the whole album is filled with strong concepts and ideas, and pushes a new style for a new decade. It’s a shame that Funkadelic weren’t able to continue and deliver on the promise.
Of note, Roger Troutman of Zapp appears on the record, and none other than the reclusive Sly Stone co-wrote Funk Gets Stronger.
4. Computer Games [George Clinton, 1982]
Following the collapse of Parliament and Funkadelic, Clinton decided that if those names were exhausted in the public consciousness, he would use his own name. There was little fanfare for the record, but he ended up proving the naysayers wrong. With Computer Games, Clinton proved that P. Funk could continue throughout the new decade and that the Parliament and Funkadelic brand names weren’t necessary. This was a whole new electronic sound on the cusp of the 70s and 80s
The obvious song to point to here is Atomic Dog – undoubtedly one of the most sampled songs of all time, you probably know the chant of “Bow wow wow yippie yo yippe yay” from somewhere even if it isn’t from here (there is literally no point in listing examples, we would be here all day).
But equally noteworthy is Loopzilla a pastiche of interpolations from hit songs over the years that feels as much Afrika Bambaata as it does George Clinton.
Computer Games was ahead of its time and still feels like a modern record today.
3. Maggot Brain [Funkadelic, 1971]
This feels like the culmination of everything P. Funk had been working towards in their earliest incarnations. Despite everyone being off their face throughout, it’s far more focussed than previous releases. They wind in the craziness just a touch and it works in their favour.
Obviously the opening title track is the centrepiece – a guitar solo that it absolutely one of the greatest ever committed to vinyl. There’s a whole story in there. Eddie Hazel really was something else. Other than that, Super Stupid is some metallic shit that would give any of the heavy rock bands of the period a run for their money. Deep Purple and Led Zeppelin rarely got as HEAVY as Super Stupid.
Perhaps what sets Funkadelic aside from the other psychedelic bands is that they talk in the language of the streets, not some pseudo-intellectual clap trap. It immediately makes them feel more down to Earth.
2. Standing on the Verge of Getting It On [Funkadelic, 1974]
In a lot of ways, this is arguably the definitive Funkadelic album, even down to its title.
There was another re-recording from Parliament’s Osmium in the form of Red Hot Mama, though in fairness it is undoubtedly the superior recording of the song. The title track is, of course, a heavy funk-rock jam that still sounds perfect, and Alice In My Fantasies is a close second – both make the supposed dangerous white rock bands of the era sound like little pussycats.
Of interest is Jimmy’s Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him – a song about a gay friend. It’s a little on the humorous side, but it doesn’t feel mocking or homophobic. Given the amount of homophobia that would permeate hip hop culture for the longest time, it is pretty refreshing to hear that hip hop’s founding fathers weren’t that way.
1. Motor Booty Affair [Parliament, 1978]
By the time Motor Booty Affair was released, the P. Funk mythology was fully formed; the message, the metaphors, the heroes, the villains. This is the album that fully cashes in on the promise of Clinton’s vision.
After sending black people to Washington, and then into outer space, Clinton now goes underwater. Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk continues to stalk Starchild and Dr. Funkenstein, but this time he is joined by his friend Rumpofsteelskin. Our heroes respond by bringing their DJ, Mr. Wiggles, along for the ride.
Wiggles’ title tune kicks off the album, a nimble little number that builds things slowly, before Rumpofsteelskin kicks things into a higher gear, whilst Aqua Boogie sounds like it was released at least three years later and probably created the R&B sound that kicked off the next decade.
Everything from the concept, to the grooves to George’s one liners are pitch perfect, and makes this possibly the strongest P. Funk album, where all the elements came together to their maximum effect. Classy, musically solid, witty, funny sexy and inspiring, it is a psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop.
George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic play Manchester Academy on Saturday 7th July 2018, and London’s Roundhouse as part of the Innervisions Festival on Sunday 8th July 2018.
Lead image: Press