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Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic, LP (£10.99)
AND SO AFTER nearly seven years and eight albums, Funkadelic recorded their last album for Westbound Records. 1976 would be a big year for George and his team of Funkateers and the success of the single 'Tear The Roof Of The Sucker (Give Up The Funk)' and the album "Mothership Connection" for Parliament would affect things in a number of ways. Parliament would be the star vehicle for a time. This stardom and the concurrent success of a third P-Funk outfit, Bootsy's Rubber Band, allowed George to think about and achieve a big new deal for Funkadelic with a major label. Though, looking back, we can see it was the final unravelling of the original Funkadelic group concept, as the different groups' personnel became more interchangeable and less distinct.
Funkadelic had signed to Westbound in 1969. They had developed as the rhythm section for George Clinton's vocal group the Parliaments: Clinton with Calvin Simon, Fuzzy Haskins, Ray Davis and Grady Thomas. The Parliaments came from Plainfield New Jersey and in the wake of their smash hit of 1967 'Testify' they started to draft in local musicians to form their instrumental backing group. When Clinton fell into a contractual dispute with Revilot Records, the Parliaments were unable to record, and became guests on the records of the newly named and signed backing band Funkadelic.
By this time the musicians in the backing group had influenced the whole look and sound of the onstage performance that was becoming the talk of Detroit, where they were now based. Younger than the singers, they mixed rock'n'roll and acid culture with some serious musical skills and by the release of the debut album "Funkadelic" the line-up had solidified around Billy Nelson on bass, Tiki Fulwood on drums, Eddie Hazel on lead guitar, Bernie Worrell on keyboards and Tawl Ross on rhythm guitar. This line up made three albums, including the classic "Maggot Brain" which often finds itself near the top of polls judging the best guitar album of all time.
After "Maggot Brain" the original line up started to disintegrate. Billy Nelson and Tawl Ross left, whilst Hazel and Fulwood became occasional members. After the recording of the double album "America Eats Its Young", which used over 40 musicians, Gary Shider took over on guitar and vocals, Cordell "Boogie" Mosson came in on bass, Tyrone Lampkin played drums and Ron Bykowski took over on lead. This was the line-up that provided a new tighter Funkadelic sound on the "Cosmic Slop" album, a sound that was honed to perfection on the amazing follow-up "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On", which saw Fulwood and Hazel back on board. Hazel was so involved that he co-wrote every song on the album.
It was around this time that George Clinton signed Parliament to a record deal with the major money-backed indie, Casablanca, who proceeded to put a lot of money behind the deal. The first album for the label returned the act to the Top 10 for the first time since 1971 and Clinton realised he could probably run a troupe of acts. He achieved this in 1975 with the release of two albums "Chocolate City" by Parliament and "Let's Take It To The Stage" by Funkadelic. Both the albums did well without providing a breakthrough big single. They also demonstrated that the creative axis was beginning to lie within P-Funk projects, as Clinton, Bernie Worrell and ex-James Brown bassist Bootsy Collins dominated the writing credits. The sound was also different to the other line-ups; although there was some strong distinctions: horns on Parliament records, guitars on Funkadelic ones, the key moments on the albums, songs like 'Chocolate City', 'Let's Take It To The Stage', 'Be My Beach' or 'Big Footin'' could easily have come from either album. It was almost as if George Clinton was just waiting to see which one would make him the star.
As it was, the charting of the "Mothership Connection" album on Casablanca and its breakthrough hit 'Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)' meant that Parliament won the gold medal for now. This breakthrough saw the band become the subject of a feature in Rolling Stone where Tom Vickers followed the band through the mid-west as they played shows. "They were using an old yellow school bus no luxury." Tom remembered that the shows were being played to black audiences in venues that probably held about 10,000 people. "There were some places in Michigan were they played big arenas, but they were at medium sized venues for the most part.".
A couple of months after the Rolling Stone interview Clinton contacted Vickers and ask him to come and work for the groups as "a translator for the funk", a press liaison officer for the band, a role he would perform for the next four years. The current record when he arrived to take up the new post was 'Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic' which had just come out. Out on the road he could see certain tensions developing. For a start a lot of the more rockier moments, which had worked well for smaller audiences, did not move the larger audiences brought in by the Top 5 hits. "They'd like things like 'Cosmic Slop', but long guitar solos would leave the crowd cold."
It was also clear that some of the band members were not so integral to the enterprise as others. This led to the departure of the original Parliaments after 20 years with Clinton in 1977. However it was clear the year before that things had changed just by looking at, and listening to "Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic". Funkadelic were ostensibly the group caricatured by Pedro Bell on the inner sleeve of the gatefold sleeve. This saw the five Parliaments plus Gary Shider, Bernie Worrell and Cordell Mosson joined for the first time by vocalist and guitarist Glenn Goins, guitar wonder and Kidd Funkadelic himself Mike Hampton, and on drums Jerome Brailey. All of these also played on the "Mothership Connection" LP. They were joined by several singers and a bunch of Funkadelic alumni including Bootsy Collins and Eddie Hazel.
If "Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic" is less distinctively Funkadelic than Parliafunkadelicment, at its high points it is musically as good as ever. It opens with the one track that would possibly fit with Funkadelic's earlier style. 'Butt To-Buttressuscitation'. But whilst "Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On" or "Cosmic Slop" were propelled by layers of guitars, the rhythm here is provided by Worrell's organ, and the lead by his synthesiser. There are guitars, but they don't dominate the song's direction.
'Let's Take It To The People' is an almost discofied funker with Gary Shider singing lead, which is followed by the album's two key tunes. 'Undisco Kidd' is a George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell collaboration that tells the story of the titular character. Its groove is fluid and could quite easily have ended up on a Parliament album. Faster but of a similar nature 'Take Your Dead Ass Home' fits into the same vein.
Although there are two songs 'I'm Never Gonna Tell It' and 'How Do Yeaw View You?' which are popular Funkadelic tunes from the album's second side these days, the side is dominated by the title track. This is a 12 minute virtual instrumental and a showcase for Worrell's many keyboard skills. It replicates the part played by 'Atmosphere' on "Let's Take It To The Stage". It can be looked at in two ways, either as the weirdness that defines Funkadelic or as a time filler. Certainly it isn't there to create a pop masterpiece, and yet Worrell is, as ever, right on top of his game, so it is not a waste.
By the time the album appeared in the autumn of 1976, George Clinton had already produced the next Funkadelic album and signed it as part of a new deal to Warner Brothers. "Hardcore Jollies" charted some six weeks after "Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic", but was hardly a significant move forward, as both albums chart runs were very similar #14 for 15 weeks for "Tales Of Kidd Funkadelic" and #12 for 14 weeks for "Hardcore Jollies". For now it would seem that Funkadelic had reached its natural peak, and that Parliament would be where George would find the hits. It would be another two years before "One Nation Under A Groove" would change that.
Dean Rudland, 2005