The Album List: #87 Parliament “Mothership Connection”

Just for the funk of it.

Parliament/Funkadelic are iconic innovators and general weirdos who produced the biggest, baddest beats of the seventies. George Clinton’s merry band of funk practitioner pranksters created a masterpiece of dance and groove with Mothership Connection. Some of the most memorable bass lines ever are on this record, and it is a favourite of Dr. Dre, who keeps sampling from it. But the galactic implications with Clinton’s own sci-fi ambitions turned this record into the spaciest time one can have with a piece of vinyl, and God only knows when I listen to P-Funk, I tend to believe in Star Trek as well.

The album’s legendary penultimate track “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” created the entire image of the silver space suited Clinton I had as a child, with all the big hair and spaceships… it blows the mind of a five-year old, I’ll tell you. The deep bass and drums, the strong rhythm sections of the P-Funk brand, though, is what really appealed to me as a kid. It was loud, it was massive, and it was kick ass. My kids all love P-Funk. Because I still rattle the floors with this record. You feel them inside you body, as it pulverizes your liver into pâté.

Clinton  and his collective of crazy people in lamé created a masterpiece of jazz influenced soul and made it tear the roof off the mother with “Give Up the Funk”, and it isn’t even the best track on the album.

Take the title track, “Mothership Connection (Star Child)”, a sunshiny skip and jump over a Bootsy Collins bass groove that is both soulful and pop supreme. Part gospel, part acid jazz, part Stevie at motown, all completely George and Bootsy funk. It’s a fun song, in a fun genre that is maligned for being completely void of any substance, even as the song lyrically samples from the old spiritual “Swing Down, Chariot”.

“Unfunky UFO” is a lie of a title, because it’s a deeply funky groove, dude. (I might be listening to the Beach Boys as well as P-Funk. Sorry if I sound like a stoned surfer). This is my youngest daughter’s favourite track, as her hard of hearing ears can hear both the deep bass lines and feel the earth shatter at top volume. The ridiculously titled “Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication” is, as Clinton himself would say, the bomb. As the band trips out over an amazing percussive beat that mirrors a clock’s ticktock beautifully, the band sings nonsense, but insist giving the people what they want when they want it. “Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples” has that incredible bass line, those amazingly inventive keyboards, that steady and creative percussion, and complete nonsense lyrics, for what they are. The song is mostly instrumental.

It’s hard not to sound repetitive when talking about good funk music, since the entire genre is about the groove, and less about the lyrics and melodies. Parliament had the greatest- GREATEST- rhythm section in bassist Bootsy Collins and drummer Tiki Fulwood, and they also had genius keyboardist Bernie Worrell, who would be talked about in hushed tones along with jazz greats if he hadn’t been in the P-Funk collective. Worrell’s use of Hammonds and Moogs popularized their use in funk and soul, and certainly would aid the creation of hip hop by giving DJ’s  hooks to base their spins around.

The album opens with ” P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)”, which begins with a mock radio call before launching into a magical spaced out, deep funk, where Clinton speaks over the track as a DJ of a mythical station that wants it funk good and dirty. Dr. Dre loved this track so much he used it on The Chronic.  Make my funk the P-Funk, and I want the bomb, yeah. How can anyone hate this song? Or this record?  Do people out there genuinely hate pure sonic joy like this? Who are those people?

If you hate Parliament, or their sister group Funkadelic, I don’t want to know you. This album is the pinnacle of true funk genius. and if you don’t love it, well, I guess all I can do is paraphrase George Clinton from House Party

“I might cry two tears in a bucket. Fuck it. Let’s take it to the sound evidence again, shall we?”


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