PARLIAMENT Mothership Connection (Casablanca)
Parliament's fourth album, released in 1975, parks up somewhere between Isaac Hayes, Ziggy Stardust and Frank Zappa, booting George Clinton's frequently awesome many-membered funk machine into deep space. Opening track "P. Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)" sets out the album's agenda, with the rest of the album essentially being variations on the theme. At its best, that's not such a bad thing at all. That opener, "Mothership Connection (Star Child)" and "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)", perhaps not coincidentally all chosen as singles, are the sound of a swinging party powered by the kind of combustion Prince occasionally achieved on record, and then only when backed by a band in a live-like environment. On the other hand, "Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication" barely makes it past the level of a chant lyrically, the medium being the message, perhaps, and "Handcuffs" knowingly espouses a somewhat primitive attitude to interpersonal relationships that hasn't aged spectacularly well. Still, abetted by a band that includes the Brecker Brother, future Talking Heads associate Bernie Worrell and ex-James Brown musicians Bootsy Collins, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, the album never fails to appeal to the feet even when its loosens its grip on the brain.
The currently available vinyl reissue of "Mothership Connection", discernible by the black and gold "180 gram" sticker that's become something of a warning sign for those of a sonically pernickety persuasion, bears the usual indications of being a product of the mysterious Scorpio Music concern, and therefore is almost guaranteed to sound mediocre. In fact, it veers from surprisingly good in some parts to shockingly poor in others, suggesting that a pre-owned pressing might be a better bet.
PARLIAMENT Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome (Casablanca)
Reputedly one of the finest albums in the Parliament catalogue, following the very fineness of “Mothership Connection” this 1977 opus leaves me cold. It seems to feature a more homogenised sound than I’m used to from the collective, and, with funk as a genre teetering on the precipice of repetitiveness at the best of times, there’s little to distinguish these six tracks from each other to my ears. The nursery rhyme and “Looney Tunes”-looting “Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk (Pay Attention – B3M)” is fitfully entertaining, and “Wizard Of Finance” has pretensions to being an actual song (about economics, no less). The fluttery, gliding arrangement of “Placebo Syndrome” is very pleasant indeed, but the album’s big single “Flash Light” seems, like much of the record, a triumph of dayglo hipster style over solid substance. Perhaps it would make more sense had my copy included the eight page comic book explaining the album’s concept found in the original issue, but for me the most entertainment I got from “Funkentelechy Vs. The Placebo Syndrome” was Dr. Funkenstein’s sleevenote shout out of “a special thanks to all the people Stevie already thanked!”, a sly dig at the fulsome thank yous found on the cover of Mr Wonder’s recent epic “Songs In The Key Of Life”.
The current vinyl pressing of “Funkentelechy” is a Scorpio, so , not being one of their rare stereotype-bucking issues, might as well be cut from a CD (or worse), its generally unimpressive sonics no doubt responsible for leaching further layers of enjoyment from the album.