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Mothership Connection

Casablanca 7022
Released: January 1976
Chart Peak: #13
Weeks Charted: 37
Certified Platinum: 9/20/76

Bootsy CollinsGeorge ClintonWith the "Parliafunkadelicament thang," leader George Clinton has succeeded in creating two distinct identities for one band -- the mystical voodoo of the Funkadelics and the stabbing, humorous funk of Parliament. While Funkadelic has no discernible influence, Parliament is more closely attuned to the post-Sly wave. But unlike the Ohio Players or Commodores, the group refuses to play it straight. Instead, Clinton spews his jive, conceived from some cosmic funk vision, under titles like "Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication," "P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)" and "Mothership Connection (Star-Child)."

Mothership Connection is patterned closely after last year's tongue-in-cheek success, Chocolate City. With little regard for theme or lyric development, Clinton weaves a non-stop rap of nonsensical street jargon ("Sombody said, 'Is there funk after death'/I said is seven up") like a freaked out James Brown. And oddly enough, former Brown sidemen, Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley, make up Parliament's horn section, along with Joe Farrell and the Brecker Brothers. But this album refuses to be taken seriously, except as Clinton's parody of modern funk. After all, it was George Clinton who renamed James Brown the "Grandfather of Soul."

- Ken Barnes, Rolling Stone, 3/25/76.

Bonus Reviews!

Very well done effort combining all of the elements so many soul-oriented groups strive for but seldom meet. Strong mix of lead vocalists, each with his own distinctive style, backed by voices arranged differently for each song. Tight, funky instrumentation, particularly the sax and synthesizer work. Some of the best synthesizer yet used by Black disco groups, with the instrument remaining in the background but filling in gaps well. Fun lyrics expressed without the seriousness that burdens so many such albums. Disco, of course, but also quite suitable for just plain listening. Fine production from George Clinton. Instrumental guests include Fred Wessley, Michael and Randy Brecker and Bernie Worrell on keyboards and synthesizer. Best cuts: "P. Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)," "Mothership Connection (Star Child)," "Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)," "Night Of The Thumpasorous PeopIes."

- Billboard, 1976.

This was the Parliament masterpiece. It mixed creative and clever satirical takeoffs on James Brown, Sly Stone and classic black radio with the kind of loose, inventive improvising seldom heard in R&B or soul circles. The narratives were swift and humorous and the music crackling, fast-moving and progressive. The title cut, "Tear The Roof Off The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)," and others marked the beginning of Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic's evolution into national celebrities. * * * * *

- Ron Wynn, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

Almost any P-Funk album from the 70s is a good choice, but Parliament's Mothership Connection lays out the mob's philosophy in a capsule with relentless grooves and happy horns. "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)" is the big hit, but the title tune is like losing yourself in a bumping cartoon. * * * * *

- Lawrence Gabriel, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the cat with the diaper on revolutionized funk, establishing it as an artistic statement, all the while creating some of the best party tunes ever written. The modern musical mothership arrived the day this album landed to deliver the key to the gates of contemporary pop and hip-hop, so earthlings should run, don't walk, and buy it to shake their asses off to its historic, transcendent space-grooves. * * * * *

- Zagat Survey Music Guide - 1,000 Top Albums of All Time, 2003.

In 1976, Parliament would release two albums, and so would Funkadelic. These were not compilations or tossed-off efforts (those would come later), but full-fledged band efforts. Of those, Mothership Connection is the best. It's all here -- Bootsy Collins's elastic bass, Bernie Worrell's extraterrestrial synthesizers, Gary Shider's guitar, Fred Wesley's horny horns. And, laid on top of it all, are George Clinton's vocals -- teasing, mocking, exhorting, and celebrating, with a worldview that melded W.E.B. DuBois with a Marvel superhero comic.

Mothership Connection appeals to anyone who loves music, though in its time it was created as part of a distinctly African American phenomenon. P-Funk reflected African American sensibilities and concerns, and was wildly popular as a result. Parliament hit it big because of their hardcore funky grooves, but their imagery and ethos were essential. On Mothership Connection, George Clinton evokes his starship with the stunning co-opting of the line "swing low, sweet chariot," and ties together centuries of African American suffering under a transcendent wish for release, for freedom, for happiness -- in short, for da funk.

Mothership Connection was voted the 55th greatest album of all time in a VH1 poll of over 700 musicians, songwriters, disc jockeys, radio programmers, and critics in 2003.

- Quinton Skinner, VH1's 100 Greatest Albums, 2003.

"Do not attempt to adjust your radio," the DJ announces as George Clinton leads his Detroit crew of extraterrestrial brothers through a visionary album of science-fiction funk, doing it to you in your ear hole with jams such as "Supergroovalisticprosifunkstication (The Thump Bump)."

Mothership Connection was chosen as the 274th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Inspired by Motown's production line of sound, George Clinton gradually constructed the funk juggernaut that was Parliament-Funkadelic: two groups, several side projects, and more than 50 musicians, including sax star Maceo Parker and bass deity Bootsy Collins.

Mothership Connection -- Parliament's third and best album -- testifies to the sheer power of their extreme musicianship and innovation. The cover depicts a spreadeagled Clinton in makeup and thigh-length platform boots jumping out of a spaceship, which is as close as a photo can get to describing what is on the album itself. Under Clinton's guidance, Parliament took funk, washed it in acid, dressed it in a camp, sci-fi outfit, and wrapped it in cool. The result is seven tracks of relentlessly perfect R&B, immaculately arranged by Collins, Clinton, trombonist Fred Wesley, and keyboardist Bernie Worrel.

Further reading on
Super Seventies RockSite!:

Album Review:
Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

Album Review:
Funkadelic - One Nation
Under A Groove

Article -
"The Funky Photographer"

Parliament Lyrics

Parliament Videos

"P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up") heralds what is to come. Clinton speaks smoothly over languid basslines, before kicking into high gear and letting the synths, horns, and harmonies take over. From then on, each track is an explosion of interweaving rhythms and melodies.

Mothership Connection's innovation alone makes it one of the best ever funk albums. A huge success at the time ("Tear The Roof Off That Sucker" was Parliament's biggest hit on the Hot 100), it changed the way people looked at funk and R&B. Decades later, its impact resounded in the work of rappers like Warren G. and Snoop Dogg, and rockers like The Red Hot Chili Peppers and Primus. The P-Funk legacy makes Clinton and Co. one of the most important American acts ever.

- Liam Pieper, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Naturally the singer and ringmaster George Clinton deserves credit as the mastermind of this space-funking cowboy trip. Give Bootsy Collins some love, too, for the subsonic rumble in the bass that gets people moving before they even know it. But there are always unsung heroes where Parliament are concerned, and one is Glenn Goins, the sweet-voiced singer and guitarist who was one of this collective's many secret weapons. After the main chorus of the title track has been churning for a while, Goins leans in with a counterline for the ages: "Swing down sweet chariot and!" With this old-time gospel invocation, Goins changes what had been a mildly campy intergalactic groove into a spiritual quest.

That's Parliament in a nutshell: Funk as a pathway to physical bliss, and at the same time, metaphysical understanding. The long-running revue began in the mid-'60s a soulful doo-wop group (the Parliaments, whose first hit, in 1967, was called "I Wanna Testify") and became one of the most influential and creative collectives of the 1970s -- influencing hit-makers like Earth, Wind & Fire as well as virtually everyone connected to hip-hop.

Mothership Connection begins with what was a stock P-Funk device (heard on the preceding album Chocolate City and others), later co-opted for countless hip-hop skits: The smooth talk of a DJ from the mock radio station WEFUNK, whose patter amounts to an inventive elaboration on sister group Funkadelic's famed line, "Free your mind and your ass will follow." From there, Clinton and crew do everything they possibly can to loosen up any lingering rigidity in your pelvic section.

Each track is unassailable individually; heard in sequence, Mothership Connection, which is one of nine albums the group released between 1974 and 1980, becomes almost overwhelming. Its grooves are hard-hitting yet as loose as the jellied limbs of basketball stars. Its chants treat funk as a path to enlightenment, melding the idealism of the late '60s (best embodied by Sly and the Family Stone) with Me Decade escapism. Put it all together, and you have a cosmic revival meeting of the highest order.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

George Clinton leads his Detroit crew of extraterrestrial brothers through a visionary album of science-fiction funk; Mothership features signature P-Funk jams "P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)" and "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)."

The Mothership Connection was chosen as the 363rd greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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