July 16, 2011

Playlist Week of 7-16-11

You Shouldn't-Nuf Bit Fish

* Orchestra Of The Age Of Enlightenment : Royal Festival Hall, London 6-30-07 (FM 2CDR)
* Thelonious Monk: The Complete Prestige Recordings (Prestige/Fantasy 3CD)
* Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (Columbia/Legacy CD)
* Thelonious Monk: Live At The It Club Complete (Columbia/Legacy 2CD)
* Andrew Hill: Pax (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Compulsion!!!!! (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Change (Blue Note CD)
* Andrew Hill: Grass Roots (Blue Note CD)
* Miles Davis: Star People (Columbia LP)
* Sun Ra: It Is Forbidden: At The Ann Arbor Blues & Jazz Festival In Exile 1974 (Alive/Total Energy CD)
* John McLaughlin & The 4th Dimension: North Sea Jazz Festival, 7-09-11 (FM CDR)
* Ingrid Laubrock: Anti-House (Intakt CD)
* Mary Halvorson/Reuben Radding/Nate Wooley: Crackleknob (hatOLOGY CD)
* Mary Halvorson Quintet: Saturn Sings (Firehouse 12 CD)
* Weasel Walter/Mary Halvorson/Peter Evans: Electric Fruit (Thirsty Ear CD)
* P-Funk All-Stars: Urban Dancefloor Guerillas (CBS CD)
* George Clinton: Computer Games (Capitol LP)
* George Clinton: You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish (Capitol LP)
* George Clinton: Some Of My Best Jokes Are Friends (Capitol LP)
* George Clinton: R&B Skeletons In The Closet (Capitol LP)
* George Clinton & The P-Funk All-Stars: T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (Sony CD)
* Praxis: Profanation: Preparation For A Coming Darkness (M.O.D. Technologies CD)†/‡
* Grateful Dead: The Palladium, New York, NY 5-04-77 (set 2) (SBD CDR)†/‡
* Grateful Dead: Winterland June 1977: The Complete Recordings (d.7-9) (GDP/Rhino 9CD)
* Grateful Dead: Nassau Coliseum, Uniondale, LI, NY 3-31-93 (SBD 3CDR)
* Blind Faith: Blind Faith (Deluxe Edition) (d.1) (Polydor/Universal 2CD)†/‡
* Chicago: VI (Columbia LP)
* Chicago: VII (Columbia 2LP)
* King Crimson: Heavy ConstrukCtion (DGM 3CD)†
* King Crimson: EleKctric (DGM CD)
* Tool: 10,000 Days (Volcano/Sony CD) †
* Sonic Youth: Goo (Deluxe Edition) (d.1-2) (Goofin’ 4LP)
* Thurston Moore: Demolished Thoughts (Matador CD)†/‡
* Robert Pollard: Lord Of The Birdcage (GBV, Inc. LP)
* Deerhoof: Deerhoof vs. Evil (Polyvinyl CD)†/‡



I had just graduated from high school when George Clinton’s first “solo” album came out in 1982. Although Computer Games barely scratched the pop 100, “Atomic Dog” was a #1 R&B single and was the soundtrack to numerous parties for years to come. As good as it was, the follow-up album, You Shouldn’t-Nuf Bit Fish (1983) was even better. “Nubian Nut” hardly charted, but the record is all killer, no filler. Both records prominently feature the full P-Funk crew, including Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Gary Shider, Maceo Parker, et al. and Clinton’s arranging and production is truly inspired—completely off the hook. This is some funky baroque! “Last Dance” summed up my pathetic self at the time: a timid “psychedelic wallflower” too shy to get the girl. Little did I know I would find true love in a library of all places (but that was much later). Urban Dancefloor Guerillas, a one-off record for CBS was released almost simultaneously under the P-Funk All Stars moniker and it's also a stone-cold classic. For a little while, it appeared George Clinton had staged a full-blown comeback.

But as ‘80s wore on, Clinton’s legal difficulties mounted and his mainstream popularity started to wane. So Capitol suggested he work with Thomas Dolby, another one-hit wonder whose career had been flagging since “She Blinded Me With Science” peaked in 1983. Whatever the label's hopes, the resulting album, Some Of My Best Jokes Are Friends (1985), was still a P-Funk thang through and through, despite the prominence of booming drum machines and swooning keyboards—but neither single (“Double Oh-Oh”; “Bullet Proof”) went anywhere. R&B Skeletons In The Closet followed in 1986, but by then, Capitol had lost interest and let the record sink without a trace. Beneath the surface of florid arrangements and shiny beats, Clinton’s bitterness and fatigue was beginning to show, resulting in a quasi-concept album about black artists losing their black audience when trying to “cross-over” to white pop success. Notably, the opening track, “Hey Good Lookin’,” features former Miss America 1983, Vanessa Williams, in her recording debut. While largely overlooked at the time, it is a strong record and a fitting capper to a run of extraordinary albums for the label.

At the time, I never saw the need to own these records; it seemed all my friends already had them and played them A LOT. And as the years went on and I moved away, I moved on. I never really thought about them. Sure, I’d see them in record stores sometimes and they’d bring back fond memories, but, upon closer examination, they were usually completely trashed—the victim of one too many parties. But I was browsing at Grimey’s on Tuesday (as usual) and found all four original LPs in the new “pre-loved” bin. They were a little dirty (as expected), but the vinyl appeared to be unblemished, so I figured, “what the heck—I needs me more funk!” And, as I suspected, a little “deep cleaning” made them sound good as new—fantastic, even! Wow, I hadn’t heard these records in years, and, let me tell you, it was nothing but a party, y’all! Good stuff. What’s remarkable about hearing them now is how fresh they still sound; Clinton could make those primitive drum machines swing in a way those other ‘80s bands never could.

So, here we are, almost thirty years later. Despite an up-and-down career (1996’s T.A.P.O.A.F.O.A.M. (Sony) being a particular highlight), George Clinton is still kicking it. In fact, he’s right here in Nashville this very evening with The P-Funk All Stars, headlining The Soul Food Festival in Riverfront Park. I bet it’s going to be a blast and the soul food sure sounds tempting—but, no, I'm not going. (Yes, I am lame.) Instead, I’m thoroughly enjoying spinning these records in the comfort of my air-conditioned home (and scribbling about it on my blog). I’m totally there in spirit, though: “Make my funk the P-Funk, their funk is the best!”


Sam said...

Hey, Rodger, glad to hear you got all funked up this weekend! Clinton's first two albums, I agree, are the strongest by far, although there's great stuff on the next two as well. I like the way he mixes drum machines and real drums (often with Bootsy on drums, a great funk drummer), but I have to say the drum machines and the synth sounds on these records have aged less well than the grooves.

Here's my list for last week:

Playlist 2011-07-18:

*Morton Feldman: Morton Feldman Festival 2008-02-10 Amsterdam (CDR) disc 2
*Marshall Allen/Elliott Levin/Tim Harding/Sam Byrd: 2007-12-13 Richmond VA (CDR)
*Anthony Braxton (solo): 2004-10-24 Sweden (CDR)
*Stan Getz and Joano Gilberto: Getz/Gilberto
*Joe Morris: 2009-04-03 The Stone, NYC (CDR)
*New Loft: 2010-03-10: live, "Chirp! Summer in Winter" The Bridge, Charlottesville (wav)
*Sun Ra: Space Probe (Art Yard)
*Sun Ra: Dance of the Living Image (Lost Reel Collection, vol. 4) disc 1
*Various artists: Baden-Baden Free Jazz Meeting 1970 (1970-12) CDR (discs 1, 2)
*Cornelius: Sensuous
*Deerhoof: Deerhoof Vs. Evil
*High Llamas: Talahomi Way
*Love: Da Capo
*OOIOO: Taiga (selections)
*OOIOO: Armonico Hewa (selections)
*Elvis Presley: A Golden Celebration (disc 2)
*Santana: Santana [III] (Legacy Special Ed.) disc 2
*Ululating Mummies: Sacred Snack
*Yardbirds: Having a Rave Up

Reading List 2011-07-18:

*Ebert, Roger. The Great Movies II (finished a while ago, forgot to update!)
*Arabian Nights: Tales of 1001 Nights (transl. Malcolm C. Lyons) Vol. 2 (in progress)
*Campbell, Eddie. Alec: The Years Have Pants (A Life-Size Omnibus) (in progress)
*Gifford, Don, and Robert J. Seldman. Ulysses Annotated, rev. and expanded ed. (in progress)
*Joyce, James. Ulysses (reread/in progress)
*Martin, George R.R. A Feast for Crows (reread/in progress)
*Meyerowitz, Rick. Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead (in progress)
*Segar, E.C. The Complete E.C. Segar Popeye Vol. 8 (Dailies 1932-1933) (in progress)
*Sim, Dave. Cerebus, Vol. 1 (in progress)

Rodger Coleman said...

Sam -- what's amazing is the drum machines have aged well at all (c.f. Herbie Hancock's "Future Shock"). I really enjoyed hearing these records again -- it had been many, many years!

Sam said...

Did you ever hear any of the 12" remix/extended singles from any of these albums? I have a few of them...I remember particularly the drum sound in "Double Oh Oh" as being enormous in the remix.

"Last dance" absolutely cooks! Lord, bless this fish....