Saturday, April 18, 2009

I'd Buy Anything By...Parliament / Funkadelic

It took me many years to finally understand "the funk." I think that my ideas about music were too rigid; I didn't think that a song should be "a party," or have any loose ends, or shun a strict verse/chorus structure.

When I started DJ'ing the '80s night at Club Renaissance in 2004 I bought a lot of "greatest hits" compilations, and when I listened to the one for Parliament I fell totally in love. The joy! The silliness! The virtuosity! The mythology! The songs that just repeated endlessly until the fade-out! Somehow the funk got into me and -- as we know -- "Funk gets stronger, just a silly millimeter longer."

It took me some time to get used to George Clinton's role in the band as sort of figurehead, MC, and center of gravity. Parliament was full of so many wonderful musicians but Clinton always stood in front of them, and his personality overshadowed their quiet contributions. The thing is, a band full of enthusiastic drugged-out geniuses probably NEEDED Clinton to keep them focused. But if you're looking to a man like Clinton for stability then you're probably in a lot of trouble, and they certainly were.

Eventually I branched out to all the Parliament side-projects and discovered that some of them are really awful. Drum machines and cheap keyboards seemed to really kill the funky sound during the '80s. Funkadelic remains my personal favourite spin-off, being the harder-edged and more experimental side of the group.

The videos on YouTube are mostly crappy and I'm still getting over my cold so I'm going to cut this entry short, but here's the usual ending:

Parliament albums you should buy: the classic three ("Up for the Down Stroke," "Chocolate City," and "Mothership Connection") are totally solid and avoid the excesses of the later albums. I also love "Osmium" but it's a mighty strange beast. Albums you should avoid: "Gloryhallastupid" is pretty bad in my opinion, though I'm sure there are worse out there in spin-off land. For fans only: any of a million live albums of dubious lineage, and the bizarre Ruth Copeland releases.

Funkadelic albums you should buy: They are ALL brilliant until "Uncle Jam Wants You," where they seem to lose their way and get tired.

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