The irrepressible George Clinton.
By Brian M. Howle
There’s this one, great, seminal verse from a Jimmy Buffet song that goes, “Don’t try to describe a KISS concert if you’ve never seen one.” It rightfully belabors the point that we often hear folks spouting off opinions (say, of a band they’ve never seen live) that are based on misinformation, stupidity and – sadly – prejudice (although the last two usually go hand in hand). So I’m sure there are a few out there who have no idea what a tremendously entertaining evening of music, theatre, political commentary and just plain fun is actually like.
Fortunately, the overwhelming majority of you do.
And to you lucky people, get ready to let your hair extensions down and revel in the delightful, bombastic Audacity of Funk with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, at House Of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, on Friday, April 16, 2010.
Admittedly, this show may not appeal to everyone’s tastes, especially if you’re a tightly-wound sphincter. But if you possess an open mind, a love of great music, fun and undeniably over-the-top showmanship … well, this is the show for you.
Here’s the history and pertinent backstory about this iconic entertainer and his merry band of funksters:
Think of George Clinton and you’ll likely conjure an image of a crazy black man with rainbow dreads and garb befitting a galactic shaman literally barking at phat bottomed girls with a sub-atomic “WOOF!” This lovable nutcase is the legendary and internationally renowned grandfather of funk and the founder of the Parliament-Funkadelic MOB, taking the sonic innovations of James Brown and Sly Stone to both outer space AND Neptune while selling millions of records and concert tickets in the process. Quiet as its kept, however, George Clinton’s initial approach to the ladies was crooning (when he wasn’t cutting hair) as the leader of a standup vocal group he formed in `55 called The Parliaments, emulating the doo wop and love songs that were popular when he was in diapers (well…he STILL wears those on occasion).
What is there left for the North Cackalackee-born grandfather of funk to do after four decades of rockin’ steady on the one? He can dip back to an era of sweet street corner soul that was his initial inspiration, take some folks back into time while blowing their minds THIS TIME with new spins on the standards – with a mothership full of special guests that completely have his back! We’re talkin’ Carlos Santana, Sly Stone, El DeBarge, Kim Burrell, the RZA (of Wu Tang Clan), Shavon (from System of a Down) and the Red Hot Chili Peppers – not to mention P-Funk stalwarts such as Belita Woods and Gary Shider!
It’s a concept he calls George Clinton and The Gangsters Of Love, produced by Bobby Eli and George Clinton – a blue light grind in da basement that marks the first in a series of special projects for Shanachie Entertainment. “I’m actually just trying to stay ahead of the game,” George says, posted up in the studio of co-producer Mark Bass (Eminem, 50 Cent), “`cuz ALL of this music is coming back like I knew it would. Mark and I figured we’d mix some doo-wop, hip hop and techno doo wop and call it ‘re bop!’ I’ve been thinking about it for a while now.” Techno doo wop? “That’s when you play a slow ballad groove against a triple time beat. I first did that on ‘How Late Do You Have to Be Before You’re Absent.’” George was very purposeful in the diversity of his special guests. “I didn’t want the record to be ‘nostalgic,’” he states. “I wanted to merge the old school with the new school. Some of the kids didn’t even know the original songs, so they did them their own way.”
George calls his rag tag assemblage of talents the Gangsters of Love. “Today, everybody wants to get their gangsta on,” he says. “Gangsters never want to admit that they’re in love, so they play it off. I’m trying to give them something they can take back to their ladies but still keep it gangsta.”
The jump off for George to seriously pursue this kind of music again came from a multiartist one-off project he participated in a couple of years back called A Soulful Tale of Two Cities: Detroit and Philadelphia, on which he sang former Delfonics member Major Harris’ ebony boudoir classic “Love Won’t Let Me Wait” (produced by Bobby Eli). “I surprised myself when I pulled that off,” he says. Now on em>Gangsters of Love, he cruises through Ruby & The Romantics’ “Our Day Will Come,” Tommy Edwards’ “It’s All in The Game” and The Heartbeats’ “A Thousand Miles Away.” Most of the rhythm tracks and George’s vocals were laid in the Philadelphia studio of Bobby Eli (a Philly Soul veteran whose credits stretch from Blue Magic to Atlantic Starr).
And then there are many friends with whom George linked up in various stops along his travels. “I did ‘Let the Good Times Roll’ with RZA and the Chili Peppers out in L.A. while I was working on some soundtrack stuff for Quentin Tarantino,” he shares. “We cut it at the guitar player’s house! Then I hooked up with Sly where he lives now back in Northern California. He sang on ‘Ain’t That Peculiar,’ but plays keyboards all over the project.” Having his old friend Sly on the record – an icon he has collaborated with on several past occasions, most significantly the early `80s club jams “Hydraulic Pump” and “Pumpin’ it Up” – was very special for George. “Being on my record is the first thing Sly has done on record since…forever! He had a lot of fun singing with El DeBarge. A couple of songs came out so good he wanted to keep them for himself! He did a version of ‘Fever’ and added lyrics that relate to global warming. He has such perfect vocal pitch, when uses a vocoder it’s better than anybody I’ve ever heard. Sly showed me a lot about vocals, made me work even harder.”
Thankfully, George Clinton is in possession of the street cred to reintroduce concepts of timeless romance to a near-clueless generation. His classics such as “Flashlight,” “Atomic Dog,” “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” and “Aqua Boogie” have been covered and sampled by so many rockers, rappers and turntable scratchers that they’re like new tunes today. His plan is to include a couple of songs from Gangsters of Love in a showcase smack in the middle of his patented funk fests.
69 years-young, George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic has visited Myrtle Beach before – but as Don Henley so pointedly reminded us, “there’s just so many springs and summers, baby” – so make the most of this opportunity and catch this ultimate night of entertainment with George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, performing their ya-gotta-see-it-to-believe-it show at House Of Blues in North Myrtle Beach, on Friday, April 16, 2010. Doors open 8:00pm. For info call 843-272-3000; for tickets call 1-877-598-8497; or visit http://www.livenation.com .
This article also appears in Alternatives NewsMagazine and Coast Magazine, April 8 – 22, 2010 and online at http://www.myrtlebeachalternatives.com