Mothership Connection

Parliament

album cover

A Real Type of Thing Going Down

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 is 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 let . . . me . . . ride!" With this one 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 as 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 hitmakers 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 region.

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.

Genre: R&B
Released: 1976, Casablanca
Key Tracks: "Mothership Connection (Star Child)," "Unfunky UFO," "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)."
Catalog Choice: Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome
Next Stop: Funkadelic: One Nation Under a Groove
After That: Eddie Hazel: Game, Dames, and Guitar Thangs
Book Pages: 580–581

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