- World excluding USA & Canada
- Catalogue Id:
- CDSEWM 244
This product is also available in these versions:
Let's Take It To The Stage, LP (£10.99)
Despite 1974's promise, 1975 did not turn out to be the breakthrough year. Two fantastic albums were released, one each by Parliament and Funkadelic, but neither "Chocolate City", "Let's Take It To The Stage" or the related singles would do any better than the previous year's releases. Major success would come in early 1976 with the third Parliament album on Casablanca "Mothership Connection" and the third P-Funk act, Bootsy's Rubber Band. Another year of getting things together allowed things to ferment a little longer and listening to "Let's Take It To The Stage" provides pointers for what was to come.
For a start, despite being represented as such on the sleeve, Funkadelic were no longer a distinct band. They had begun in 1967/8 as the backing band to the Parliaments' five-piece vocal group comprising of George Clinton, Grady Thomas, Fuzzy Haskins, Ray Davis and Calvin Simon. By the release of Funkadelic's first album they had stabilised as a five piece outfit with Eddie Hazel on lead guitar, Bernie Worrell on keyboards, Tiki Fulwood on drums, Billy "Bass" Nelson on bass and Tawl Ross on rhythm guitar. George Clinton had hit upon the idea of signing his backing band to a recording deal when he got into a dispute with Revilot Records, and the Parliaments were prevented from recording under their own name though they continued to guest on Funkadelic's records.
The early Funkadelic line-up created a phenomenal stage act: dressing up in psychedelic outfits, playing loud rock music; they also indulged in large amounts of drugs. Their records reflected the times. The first three albums for Westbound, "Funkadelic", "Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow" and "Maggot Brain" freely mixed funk and rock, and were often dominated by the musical brilliance of Hazel and Worrell. Money and drug problems saw band members leave some temporarily, some permanently and their fourth album "America Eats Its Young" was recorded over nearly two years involving a cast of over 40 musicians. By the next album, "Cosmic Slop", a new shape had emerged for the band. Bernie Worrell was accompanied by guitarist/vocalist Gary Shider, Cordell "Boogie" Mosson on bass, Ron Bykowski on lead guitar and Tyrone Lampkin on drums. These players had joined as the original Funkadelic members had left the band, but had been lost amongst the cast list of "America Eats Its Young".
"Cosmic Slop" and "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On" had seen the sound honed towards a tighter, more accessible format. Even with the return of original members Eddie Hazel and Tiki Fulwood, it was a commercial step forward as well as an artistic one. "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On" was also the last album to be distinctively a band album.
By the time of "Let's Take It To The Stage", Hazel had removed himself from the full time ranks again; in the grip of some psychedelic or other drug he had attacked an air hostess, and ended up locked up in a Californian correctional facility. Officially the line-up pictured on the sleeve includes the five Parliament vocalists: Bernie Worrell, Gary Shider, Cordell Mosson and Tiki Fulwood with Mike Hammond on guitars. The guest Funkadelics are quite a list and include Gary "Mudbone" Cooper and, most notably, Bootsy Collins. Interestingly, for one track only, Billy "Bass" Nelson makes his only recorded return to the Funkadelic fold (though he is currently playing in George's latest touring band).
The album takes in many different styles, some fitting into the expectations of what should be on a Funkadelic album, others pointing to the future, whilst at least one track could just have easily turned up on Parliament's "Mothership Connection" LP. The opening track 'Good To Your Earhole' is a rhythmic funker in the style of "Cosmic Slop" or "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On". With its multi-layered rhythms, snaking lead lines (probably from a pre-detention Eddie Hazel) and "put your hands together, come on stomp your feet" chants, it is an exuberant entry into the album.
'Better By The Pound' is odd in that despite it featuring original members Billy Bass and Eddie Hazel, it is perhaps the track that shows Funkadelic's future direction. Over a slinky bass and plenty of percussion Hazel and Shider sing about trying to find yourself in a "tidal wave of mysticism". Compared with the social comment on earlier Funkadelic albums it is more inclusive and less rejective. The rousing chorus may not have quite captured the national mindset, but it is definitely a precursor for the inclusive anthem and worldwide hit 'One Nation Under A Groove' that Funkadelic would top the R&B charts with three years later.
The third track, 'Be My Beach', is also important to P-Funk history because it was where Bootsy Collins discovered the voice that would make him a star in his own right when he made the Bootsy's Rubber Band albums. The feel of 'Be My Beach' is slow and groovy and Bootsy has the role of a man lusting after the girl of his dreams, while the chorus tell him that there's plenty more beaches around for him. If this seems politically incorrect to you, the following cut 'No Head, No Backstage Pass' will definitely offend you. The track, built around an eastern-style guitar riff, is unique for 1970s R&B records, I'm pretty sure, in that it recounts the myth of the groupie, which was a normal part of 70s rock'n'roll.
With the addition of horns, the album's title track could quite easily have made it onto a Parliament album instead. The funk groove, the nursery rhyme-style chanting, the chanted backing vocals, all appeared on tracks like 'P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)'. In fact while "Let's Take It To The Stage" has some fun at the expense of some major funk acts - Dufus, Earth, Hot Air and No Fire, The Godmother 'P-Funk' riffs on some major rock acts such as the Doobie Brothers. Of course the Parliament records included horns; without them, Bernie Worrell's keyboard lines become more prominent, and there's more room for George Clinton's asides. The first side of the album ends with the rapid-fire guitar and funk-filled 'Get Off Your Ass And Jam'.
Side Two opens with the wonderful 'Baby I Owe You Something Good'. With a Calvin Simon lead vocal, and plenty of help from his fellow Parliaments, this is one of those tracks where they outdo any of their rivals. (As a bonus we present here their earlier treatment of this track with the band US Music; it is fascinating to see how the arrangement of the song had developed in the intervening years.) No other funk band of that period could seriously challenge the quality of the vocal harmonies. This is followed by 'Stuffs And Things' which is said to be the first appearance on record of, soon-to-be Funkadelic member, Michael Hampton on guitar. He plays underneath some final vocal work from both Clinton and Gary Shider and backing vocals from Parliament and a LA-based vocal group called Brandy.
'The Song Is Familiar' shows off the vocal harmonies again, over a wonderful sloping bass line and some quite amazing understated keyboard parts by Worrell. He is also the focus of the final track, 'Atmosphere', a seven minute demonstration of his mastery of many different keyboards, from Hammond organ and piano to the latest synth. Buried in the mix are some filthy lyrics courtesy of Clinton and Bootsy Collins. A strange way to finish an LP perhaps, but this is, after all, a Funkadelic LP.
The completion of this LP, which went Top 20 in the R&B charts, left Funkadelic owing only one more album to Westbound. By the time that was ready to go "Mothership Connection" had started to make Parliament a hit act. Things were definitely changing.
Dean Rudland 2005