Funkadelic Detroiters Reviewed
FUNKADELIC REWORKED BY DETROITERS
VARIOUS ARTISTS | WESTBOUND
Reviewed by PARIS POMPOR
Early in 2014, Kenny Dixon Jr released a self-titled, protractedly brilliant umpteenth album under his Moodymann moniker containing an eleven and half minute centrepiece entitled ‘Sloppy Cosmic’. Fast forward three years and the producer is joined by another fifteen or so fellow-Detroiters to pay homage to one of the city’s most adventurous, genre-bending and respected groups: Funkadelic. Now clocking in at just nine and half minutes, ’Sloppy Cosmic’ loses its original news report samples of a metropolis in crisis, and in the process gets renamed ‘Cosmic Slop’ in line with the title track from Funkadelic’s fifth LP. Changes aside, it retains all the creeping, hypnotic magic of the earlier Moodymann revision, along with those haunting “hear my mother call” choral refrains. George Clinton’s psychedelic outfit often amplified the use of humour in their wigged-out mix of soul, funk and rock, but in this particular tune the mood is sobering with Clinton detailing the story of a mother providing for her five children by doing sex work in a tough neighbourhood. Typically – and hypocritically – neighbours and an absent or hopeless father, label her a “Jezebel”. Co-written with Funkadelic’s genius keyboardist Bernie Worrell, it’s interesting to think ‘Cosmic Slop’ was released as a single in 1973, presumably to garner radio play. On the B-side was Funkadelic’s perfectly titled rebuke to anyone else judging the A-side’s mother: ‘If You Don’t Like The Effects, Don’t Produce The Cause’.
Kenny Dixon Jr, whose 2014 rethink may well have been the catalyst for this new 17 track collection of Funkadelic updates, appears twice in the lineup, also turning in a brand new edit of ‘Let’s Make It Last,’ the original song sourced from the same 1973 album.
Alongside Dixon, standouts are many. For starters there’s ‘Looking Back At You’ which essentially takes its source material from an unreleased demo of Funkdelic tune ‘Smokey’. Lifted from an old, incorrectly labelled studio reel, here the demo becomes a trippingly dubbed-out rarity thanks to techno coupling Brendan Gillen and Erika Sherman, better known as Ectomorph. The pair share a love of Moog synths with Funkadelic’s famous keys man, upping the growl quotient of the synths and making the “La, la, la” of the ‘Smokey’ familiar to many, into a heftier hook. Amp Fiddler turns ‘Let’s Take It To The Stage’ into much more of a ‘Sexy MF’ style workout with a welcome tempo nudge that will please DJs. Another highlight comes from radical techno collective Underground Resistance, who consolidate ‘My Mother’ into a dirty rally call fit for protestation; the upgrade’s stomp and chant benefiting from face-slapping electro claps. It’s said Underground Resistance protagonist “Mad” Mike Banks even played bass for Parliament/Funkadelic at some point, so it’s only right this particular Detroit producer is on board.
Largely retaining the freakiness of the originals, unlike other similar projects updating a group’s back catalogue, there’s little to suggest this was ever an exercise in providing DJs with easy-to-use, cookie-cutter remixes. Having never shied away from guitar mania, Funkadelic’s ‘Super Stupid’ (from ‘Maggot Brain’) feels in good hands with garage rockers The Dirtbombs. Also warranting mentions are the reworks of ‘You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure,’ ‘Sexy Ways,’ ‘Be My Beach’ and ‘Get Off Your Ass And Jam’ by Alton Miller, Recloose, Mophono/Tom Thump and Marcellus Pittman respectively. The latter is especially good for its enhanced, super bouncy groove. It’s also probably worth noting that Detroit luminaries Carl Craig and Theo Parrish were likewise working on remixes for the collection, but felt their treatments “didn’t hold up to Funkadelic’s legacy!” That tells you something about the esteem apportioned to the original jams.
Available on three LP gatefold, two CD package or as a download set from original label Westbound (now licensed to Ace Records worldwide and distributed by Rocket in Australia) this is something special for Funkadelic diehards and newcomers alike.