Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Album Review of Parliament’s The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein

Legendary funk outfit Parliament released their fifth studio album The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein on September 29, 1976. It was the band’s hotly anticipated follow-up to their landmark album Mothership Connection. Needless to say, expectations were high for The Clones; and the talented P-Funk crew didn’t disappoint, delivering a high-quality collection of funk and R&B tracks.  

Like its predecessor, The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein is a sci-fi-themed concept album; but instead of funky extraterrestrials, UFOs and space exploration, it’s monsters, ghouls, cloning,  and mad scientists. George Clinton’s wild imagination was exploding with cool and interesting new concepts for this LP. He came up with perhaps his best-known alter ego: Dr. Funkenstein. He’s the mad scientist who uncovered the ancient secret of the “Afronauts,” which have the ability to “funkatize galaxies.” He cloned these Afronauts in his own image, so he could propagate P-Funk.

The album begins with the spoken-word “Prelude.” It’s set to some inspired synth work from Bernie Worrell. Clinton recounts the legend of Dr. Funkenstein and closes with, “And funk is its own reward.” Truer words were never spoken. “Gamin’ On You” kicks off the album proper. The dynamic groove boasts a powerhouse bass line, spectacular horn charts, funky congas and some ultra-tight drumming. “Gamin’ On You” was penned by George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell.

“Gamin’ On You” is followed by the obscenely funky cut “Dr. Funkenstein.” Bootsy Collins’ gut-bucket bass line plunges deep into funky waters and is baptized with pure groovosity. George Clinton, assuming his alter ego Dr. Funkenstein, drops a brilliant proto rap that displays his great gift for clever wordplay. The track boasts a fantastic intro and an irresistible chorus. And the cherry on top of this funkalicious groove is a super-smooth trombone solo from Fred Wesley. Other cool things about this track include an ingeniously sped-up verse (“I’ll make your atoms move so fast/Expanding your molecules/Causing a friction fire/burning you on your neutron…”); Worrell’s squiggly synth work; the trollish Igor-like character; dope horn lines; and Bootsy’s ghostly funk wails. “Dr. Funkenstein” was written by George Clinton, Bootsy and Bernie Worrell.

“Children of Production” is one of the most underrated tracks in P-Funk’s oeuvre. It features a superb vocal arrangement that showcases the band’s formidable vocal talent. And the horn work is next-level. The song is about Dr. Funkenstein’s devoted clones/disciples who were created to spread the P-Funk gospel, which is designed to deliver humanity from its fallen, unfunky state. Clinton penned some great lyrics for this track. Here’s a sampling: “We're a flawless testimony/To the attainment of the P.Funk/Endowed with conceivement of true groove/We are deeper than abortion/Deeper than the notion/That the world was flat when it was round.” Parliament-Funkadelic would often perform a stripped-down version of the song at concerts with just the vocals, horns and synth parts. It is truly haunting to hear it performed that way live—chills for days. The song was written by George Clinton, Bootsy and Bernie Worrell.

Garry Shider delivers a marvelous vocal performance on “Getten’ To Know You.” The resplendent love song has a terrific horn arrangement and some topflight bass work from Shider. Michael Brecker sweetens the groove with a stellar sax solo, and Bernie Worrell follows it up with a deft piano solo. This underrated gem was written by Garry Shider and George Clinton.

The band recycles the bass line from Funkadelic's “You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure” to maximum effect for the feel-good funk anthem “Do That Stuff.” Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey’s killer drumming keeps the funk firing on all cylinders. And the rousing horn arrangement enhances the track’s exuberant party vibe. The song features a whimsical, cartoonish bridge that provides a nice contrast to the high-energy main groove. Goins, Clinton and Shider bring the thunder on their soulful co-lead vocals, and Worrell’s creative synth work adds some fantasy flavor to the mix. Also, Rick Gardner signals the groove’s climax with a galvanic trumpet solo. “Do That Stuff” was written by George Clinton, Garry Shider and Bernie Worrell.

“I’ve Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body)” features a mesmerizing vocal performance from Glen Goins. The seductive soul ballad provides the perfect showcase for the guitarist/singer's tremendous vocal gifts. The track boasts a sumptuous arrangement with the band musically creating a sensually-charged atmosphere. It was penned by George Clinton, Garry Shider and Glen Goins.

“Everything Is On  The One is” is a solid groove with some splendid synth work and great horn lines. However, it lacks the spark and imagination of the other tracks on the album. The chorus is not all that interesting and drags on a bit too long. This is the only track on the album that could be considered filler. It was written by George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell.

Goins serves up another incredible vocal performance on  “Funkin’ For Fun.” The song is about a young man charting his own path in life and following his passion for funk music. It’s possibly about Goins himself who joined P-Funk when he was only 20. The surprisingly sentimental track is also a loving tribute to mothers who have to say goodbye to their children as they venture out into the world as young adults and find their own way. The track is exquisitely arranged. The wistful verse section features some delicate guitar work and somber horn lines. On the chorus, the track goes full-out sanctified gospel funk, where Goins catches the spirit and takes the listener to church with some soul-stirring shouts, runs and screams. Cordell “Boogie” Mosson deepens the funk with a chunky bass line, and Maceo Parker contributes a nasty sax solo. The song was written by Glen Goins, George Clinton and Garry Shider.

The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein is an excellent work and a worthy addition to the P-Funk canon. True music lovers, whether they’re Funkateers or not, can appreciate the outstanding songwriting, production and musicianship on this album. It had an impressive showing on the album charts, peaking at #3 on Billboard’s R&B charts and #20 on Billboard’s pop charts. It was certified gold (500,000 units sold). The two singles, “Dr. Funkenstein” and “Do That Stuff,” were modest hits on the R&B charts, reaching #43 and #22, respectively. The album was produced by George Clinton and released on Casablanca Records. 

The full P-Funk lineup for this album was the following: George Clinton (vocals, production), Cordell “Boogie” Mosson (bass), Michael Hampton (guitar), Bootsy Collins (bass, drums, percussion, vocals), Fuzzy Haskins (vocals), Randy Brecker (trumpet), Bernie Worrell (synthesizers, keyboards), Gary “Mudbone” Cooper (vocals, drums, percussion), Garry Shider (guitar, vocals, bass), Debbie Edwards (vocals), Michael Brecker (saxophone), Glen Goins (vocals, guitar), Fred Wesley (trombone), Taka Khan (vocals), Maceo Parker (saxophone), Calvin Simon (vocals), Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey (drums, percussion), Grady Thomas (vocals), Rick Gardner (trumpet) and Raymond Davis (vocals). Fred Wesley and Bernie Worrell split horn-arrangement duties for the album's tracks, and both did an amazing job.

"Do That Stuff"

"I've Been Watching You (Move Your Sexy Body)"

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