The Music Spotlight: Parliament

P-Funk Mothership

I don’t trust anyone who doesn’t like Funk.

I’m not talking about that godawful Bruno Mars rendition of the genre either; I’m talking about the stuff that leaves a ring around your bathtub, that puts a glide in your stride and a dip in your hip, I’m talking the soundtrack to the Mothership.

Funk is the only music that is always guaranteed to put a smile on my face, no matter how bad my day might be going or how low I feel, and even though there are a lot of fantastic bands that fall under this banner, there is only one conglomerate of musicians that this week’s music spotlight could shine on.

And that’s Parliament.


Who Are Parliament?

That is a tricky question to answer. Parliament started life as a Doo-Wop group, formed by a very young George Clinton, that would expand into Funkadelic, one of the forerunners of the 60s psychedelic rock movement after Clinton lost the rights to the Parliament name.

He’d eventually reform them, but keep them as a separate entity to Funkadelic, which meant that he’d have a foot in two camps—one that was rock based and the other that was funk.

Considering he used the same musicians for both bands, the whole thing would eventually just become known as P-Funk, but they still had, and still have two very different sounds.

I’ll be taking a closer Funkadelic in a future Music Spotlight, but today I’d like to present to you the five Parliament tracks that will help you get into this cosmic groove.

Dr Funkenstein

Dr. Funkenstein

Taken from the album The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein, the title track is pure funk of the highest order.

As with nearly all of George Clinton’s work, this is part of a larger story, a bigger concept, of aliens saving the world with the purity of music from those that would oppose, but just taking the track as a standalone piece of music—which we’re going to have to do or else we’re going to get lost in Uncle George’s insane genius—it’s as smooth as a freshly shaven face coated in ice-cream.

It’s so laid back it’s almost horizontal.

Bootsy’s bass helps keep the rhythm on an even keel while the rest of the band weave their magic around it, including some of the best brass work that you’ll ever hear.

The lyrics don’t make a great deal of sense to anyone who isn’t versed in the story that Clinton was telling here, but that doesn’t matter as with music this cool I dare you not to find yourself moving to the grooving before the good Dr. starts laying down his vocals.

P-Funk Wants To Get funked Up

P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)

Make my funk the P-Funk,
I want my funk uncut,
Make my funk the P-Funk,
I wants to get funked up”

There are a few of you out there that will recognize this piece of music as the tune that a certain Dr. Dre used to end his album The Chronic with back in the day and though I’m a fan of the man, there’s no replacement for the original.

P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)” is Parliament laying down a marker to any other band out there that would even dare to challenge the throne.

It’s a simple rinse and repeat that doesn’t do anything outside of the opening refrain for seven-plus minutes but I’ll be damned if I’d have it any other way.

The use of quiet to loud is done to perfection and the build into the final crescendo of the chorus where you find yourself singing along, as well as strutting your funky thang, should be proof enough that when it comes to The Art of the Funk, nobody does it better than Parliament.

One Nation Under A Groove

One Nation Under A Groove

This song is a call to arms, or more specifically a call to feet.

It’s Parliament telling you to get up and dance your way out of your constrictions. It’s a battle cry for the downtrodden masses to find their voice and their rhythm and show the world that they aren’t going to take anymore.

It’s done with the funky flourish that you should now expect from Parliament, even if your only exposure to the band are the two tracks proceeding it, and the simple rinse and repeat formula just doesn’t get old.

The soul of the band is to make you groove and they achieve this here, as they do on every song, by letting you focus on the natural beat that is within all their songs, and that lurks inside each one of us.

Even 47-year-old men who have about as much dancing ability as a stuffed rat.

P-Funk Give Up the Funk

Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)

I’ll be honest with you here, dear readers, this week’s Music Spotlight is proving hard for me to write.

Not because there’s a lack of choice cuts for me to offer, nearly every track Parliament recorded could’ve been included here, but because of the fact that unlike Gil Scott Heron or Tom Waits I’m not explaining to you why a song is personal to me or what the story behind it is, but instead, I’m trying to put a feeling, a groove, into words.

And that’s like trying to catch lightning in a bottle.

Suffice to say, there is enough funk on offer here to drown in and when the music moves you in the way this song does, then there shouldn’t be a rug left in your house that you haven’t cut.

Chocolate City

Chocolate City

And when they come to march on ya
Tell em to make sure they got their James Brown pass
And don’t be surprised if Ali is in the White House
Reverend Ike, Secretary of the Treasure
Richard Pryor, Minister of Education
Stevie Wonder, Secretary of Fine Arts
and Miss Aretha Franklin, First Lady”

Parliament wasn’t the most political of bands, preferring instead to let their music move you instead of preaching, but when they turned their hand to it, they could be as politically minded as any artists you’d care to mention.

Chocolate City” takes a look at Washington, as well as America as a whole, and states that the African American population holds more sway than any other.

Instead of being seen as a menace, George Clinton wants the world to see his people as a positive force and a majority that should be respected.

He also wants them to see Washington as their piece of the rock instead of the 40 acres and a mule that they were promised.

And as always it’s done with that smooth groove and exceptional musicianship that filled every song that Parliament released.

P-Funk Together

Final Thoughts

I don’t trust anyone that doesn’t like Funk.

And I sure as hell don’t trust anyone that doesn’t like George Clinton.

If Parliament doesn’t make you want to get up out of your chair and shake your ass, then there is no hope for you.

Like they say;

If you got faults, defects or shortcomings you know
Like arthritis, rheumatism or migraines
Whatever part of your body it is, I want you to lay it on your radio
Let the vibes flow through, funk not only moves, it can remove, dig?”

And I dig.

Written by Neil Gray

The Grandmaster of Asian Cinema.

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