For almost five decades George Clinton has been pushing the envelope to define the sound of funk music and the all around groove of soul and R&B. A very busy musician indeed, he spent most of the seventies recording and touring between his bands Parliament and Funkadelic, both of which had mostly the same members. Next to Sly Stone, Clinton was the man who had made it okay for soul music to be psychedelic but it wasn’t until 1976 when Clinton had reached his creative peak and decided to make a sort of concept album with extraterrestrial leanings. One aspect to take into consideration that makes Mothership Connection so phenomenal was the cast of musicians who Clinton had working alongside him during the recording process. Clinton’s personnel included bassist Bootsy Collins and classically trained keyboard wizard Bernie Worell. But the true icing on the cake was the addition of trombonist Fred Wesley and saxophone great Maceo Parker, both former members of the JB’s. For those of you who have been living under a rock, the JB’s were the renowned backing troupe of musicians for James Brown who will always be known as the most precisely drilled instrumental assemblage in all of funk music.
Clinton provided his alter-ego of Lollipop Man (one of many) to do the monologue on the albums perfect opener “P-Funk(Wants to Get Funked Up)” which is the first song in history that compelled folks to “raise the roof.” The feeling of funk was in and of itself almost like a drug to Parliament where the whole group sings “I want my funk uncut/I want da bomb/I want the P-Funk/I want my funk stepped on.” On “Unfunky UFO” Fred Wesley would lay down a thick slab of this trombone groove that James Brown used to shuffle his feet alongside to a decade earlier. It seems rather odd to see the term “unfunky” in the title when this song is probably one of the funkiest tunes in all of earth and space.
The evolution of hip-hop will forever be indebted to the influence of Mothership Connection. The laid back grooves and deep bass from the early ’90s west coast G-funk/gangsta-rap boom is truly a product of “(Star Child).” Amazingly enough, the song has a swaggering bridge, which threw in hints of that from folk spiritual “Swing Low Sweet Chariot.” Dr. Dre would use this song sixteen years later in 1993 in his hit single “Let Me Ride” off of his smash album, The Chronic, the likes of which would never have seen the light of day had it not been for Mothership Connection, biotch! The “D.A.I.S.Y. Age” of hip-hop that was started by De La Soul’s 3 Feet High and Rising, and was followed by other alt-rap artists such A Tribe Called Quest, The Pharcyde and The Jungle Brothers, owes its existence to the kaleidoscopic, steady flow of “Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication.” Even the freaky sex-capde romps of Rick James and 2 Live Crew are existent on the sleek, sexy bump of “Handcuffs.”
Singer Glen Goines had his moment in the sun on this number as he soulfully and sensually croons “Do I have to put I handcuffs on you, mama? /Are you susceptible to flattery and games?”
As innovative and groundbreaking as Mothership was, the world could have never foreseen the coming of one of the best known party anthems, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof the Sucker).” Its bubbly bass lines, zappy horn arrangements, and catchy sing along chorus will forever make its song title the only answer to respond with throughout the ages when somebody asks what the definition of funk is. Two decades later it would be exposed to a new generation as Clinton and company performed the track at a house party hosted by the aging campus misfit Droz in the film PCU.
Funk was born in three stages. First came James Brown’s Live at The Apollo, then Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly and then Mothership Connection took it even further. The carnivalesque vibe makes this album the Pet Sounds or even a Sgt. Pepper’s to soul music as a whole. You’ve never really shaken your ass until you have taken a ride on the Mothership.
Similar Albums /Albums Influenced:
Parliament – The Clones of Dr.Funkenstein
The Fatback Band – The Fattest of Fatback
The Jimmy Castor Bunch – 16 Slabs of Funk