Funky Five: P-Funk Spin-Off Albums

Words By Andy DeVilbiss

I've had the opportunity to see George Clinton and the Parliament/Funkadelic mob several times, and, although I may risk revocation of my Funk Card by saying this, I would not classify any of those performances as memorable. It was still a funky party, to be sure, but I have to admit there was something a little sad about seeing, for example, an older, slower Garry "Diaper Man" Shider jumping around stage. The man just passed on last year, and I don't want to be disrespectful to the dearly departed, but I remember ruminating during my first P-Funk Allstars show as to whether the Pampers were still just a costume or a functional and necessary part of Starchild's wardrobe. The answer I settled on, in true P double-entendre fashion, was "Depends." (Cue short pause for a corny rimshot and to allow me to dodge a few lightning bolts.) At that first show, I also expected to see Bootsy Collins with them, but, sadly, they were Bootsy-less. No Fred Wesley and/or Maceo Parker manning their posts in the Horny Horns, either. And of course guitar legend Eddie Hazel and vocalist supreme Glen Goins were already dead. My point is that by the time I was old enough to enjoy them live, they'd become somewhat of a nostalgia act and, really, a shell of what they once were as a live band.

That's why I have often wished that I was a bit older and more musically aware during Parliament/Funkadelic's mid- to late-70's heyday when they were at the absolute height of their powers and the biggest thing going, not just in funk, but all of American black music. P-Funk was dominating the charts and bringing heretofore unseen stage spectacle to arenas across the nation. Taking a page from the Deadheads of the time and the Phisheads of the future, I'm pretty sure I would have followed the Mothership Connection tour from city to city. It's entirely possible I would have been the only cracker in the crowd (certainly the only one selling "Cosmic Slop" burritos in the lot), but I still dream about being looped out of my gourd, grooving like mad, and geeking out every time the Mothership landed on the stage and that sumbitch Dr. Funkenstein made his grand entrance.

When you're hot, you're hot, and George Clinton knew he and P-Funk were hot at that moment. Following the precedent set by James Brown (the Godfather should just add "The Precedent" to his roster of nicknames) Clinton used his new-found fame and creative freedom to create his own cottage recording industry, serving as the mastermind behind many solo and spin-off albums from members of his mob. This extremely successful period saw the birth of groups like Bootsy's Rubber Band, the Brides of Funkenstein, and Parlet, as well as solo albums from Bernie Worrell and Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins. As is usually the case with success and power, acrimony and in-fighting soon tainted the P-Funk family, with several key players fleeing the scene, claiming Clinton's creative control was excessively rigid and, of course, upset about how the money was being handled. Still, even when those defectors went their own way, they didn't stray far from what they knew, and even their musical output was still decidedly P-funky.

One thing is for certain. George Clinton, whether he was directly involved in a project or not, surely established a recording legacy and sonic vibe that has been matched by few others. And during the days when the Mothership soared through the galaxy, the stars in the P-Funk universe were myriad and bright, putting out some absolutely dynamite funk. In particular, I advise you to just go grab everything by Bootsy's Rubber Band (and everything by Bernie Worrell if you're truly sonically adventurous), but here are some suggested P-Funk-related albums for your listening pleasure in another installment of... the Funky Five.

1. Bootsy's Rubber Band - Ahh... The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!

Yes, I know I said grab everything by Bootsy's Rubber Band, but, if you're only going to listen to one of Bootsy's solo works from this particular era, this is The One to have. From the elastic stomp of the album-opening title track to the completely absurd grooves of "Rubber Duckie" to the slow sexy burn of "Munchies For Your Love," it's a masterpiece. Bootsy at his funny, funky best. Consistently ranked by people who rank such things as one of the best funk albums ever, to borrow from "The Pinocchio Theory," this joint was made for "rubber fans and funkateers."

2. Eddie Hazel - Games, Dames and Guitar Thangs

Everybody, yours truly included, plays the "What if?" game when it comes to Jimi Hendrix. Deservedly so. But I also play that game quite a bit with Eddie Hazel. What if he had been able to dodge his demons of substance abuse? What if he had been able to get along with Clinton and stuck with the P-Funk mob for the whole ride? What if his mother really HAD died before recording his epic solo in "Maggot Brain," (according to legend that's what Clinton told him right before he turned on the tapes, a rumor that later proved completely false) would it have been better? Is that EVEN possible? This album conveys the breadth of Hazel's incredible talent through moments like sweet, slinky, psychedelic solos in a cover of the Mamas and the Papas' "California Dreamin'" and absolutely frenetic Funkadelic-style shredding on "So Goes The Story." The highlight of the album combines both these incredible facets of Hazel's playing in another cover with a nine-plus minute version of the Beatles' "I Want You (She's So Heavy)."

3. Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns (featuring Maceo Parker) - A Blow For Me, A Toot For You

The first of three albums released by the Horny Horns ("Say Blow By Blow Backwards" and "The Final Blow" rounding out the trio). Fred and Maceo fill out the Horny Horns with the trumpet talents of Rick Gardner and the legendary Richard "Kush" Griffith. The rest of the line-up puts the Allstar in P-Funk Allstars, with the talents of Bootsy and his brother Phelps Collins, Garry Shider, Mike Hampton, Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey, Glen Goins, and the untouchable Bernie Worrell. Obviously, it's a horny heavy affair, including instrumental covers of P-Funk classics "Up for the Down Stroke" and "Between Two Sheets." My favorite track, however, is the Fred Wesley authored "Peace Fugue" which is unmistakeably funky, yet almost classical. This album proves that the combination of Fred and Maceo is pure musical magic, no matter what band they happen to be in. The only negative I can think of is that Pee Wee Ellis isn't a part of the festivities, but Kush is a fine substitute.

4. Quazar - Quazar

Quazar was a project headed by P-Funk vocalist Glen Goins, with an assist from disgruntled drummer Jerome "Bigfoot" Brailey. It's a slammin' slice of sizzlin' sweetness that borrows heavily from the P-Funk aesthetic, with swirling Worrell-esque synths, shout-along vocal riffs, complex horn arrangements, and ample stank. Standout tracks include "Funk With a Big Foot" which, as one would suspect, highlights the badass beats of Brailey. Sadly, Goins passed away shortly after the release of this album, which effectively derailed the project. It's shame, too because this relatively unknown and forgotten album is a true gem. It also left Brailey without an ensemble and he still had some things he wanted to put on the record.

5. Mutiny - Mutiny on the Mamaship

In the wake of Quazar's disintegration, it became apparent just how disgruntled Bigfoot had been with the George Clinton machine (I like to pretend it's because Clinton wanted Jerome to temporarily change his nickname to "Sasquatch" for the Canadian leg of a world tour). Brailey went out and formed a new outfit called Mutiny, seemingly with the sole purpose of exposing what he thought were the constricting inner dynamics and politics of P-Funk and of sticking it to Clinton. The result was "Mutiny on the Mamaship," an anti-P-Funk P-Funk album which is just scathing in its treatment of Clinton, who Brailey refers to as "Lump" throughout the proceedings. Much like Quazar, if you weren't paying attention to Brailey's lyrics and didn't have the album cover in front of you, you'd probably just assume it was a P-Funk release as it's steeped in the Clinton vibe whether Bigfoot wants to admit it or not. So much so that George Clinton eventually admitted he wished he could have put it out on his own Uncle Jam label, despite the fact that it was record that trashed him personally from beginning to end. It wasn't until 1993 that Clinton and Brailey buried the hatchet and Bigfoot rejoined the P-Funk Allstars. Mutiny's follow-up album, "Funk Plus The One" is also worth a listen.

May these albums put a glide in yo' stride and a dip in yo' hip as you learn there's more in the P-Funk fleet than just the Mothership. Happy weekend, y'all.


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