Funkadelic - One Nation Under a Groove 1978

Posted by Al Barger on September 16, 2005 01:04 AM (See all posts by Al Barger)

George Clinton certainly has one of the half dozen biggest names in the history of the funk. Other than Prince or James Brown his own bad Self, Clinton has as big a reputation as anyone.

For my part, I'm a little less than 100% sold on Clinton. His general creative vision was outstanding, and he had great bands and grooves, but the songwriting was mostly marginal at best. He was certainly no Sly Stone, much less Prince. I'm probably not alone in liking the idea of George Clinton far better than any of his actual records.

Then again, I mostly haven't listened real closely and attentively to his work. So then, let's look at the highly reputed 1978 Funkadelic album One Nation Under a Groove.

The title track has more of a tune than some of his stuff. Combine that with the taut and super detailed grooves, and even a skeptic can't deny that this groove is indeed "So wide can't get around it So low you can't get under it."

Actually paying attention to the lyrics, perhaps they could be credited with some becoming modesty. The Clinton crew manage to get flavors out of lyrics with some veneer of "social statement," but don't really in fact get into a bunch of political nonsense. Really though, "Pledge a groovallegiance to the funk
The United Funk of Funkadelica" says all that needs said. Also though, that bass is doing all the talking by the end. This ain't no cheap, repetitive disco; that's jazz worthy playing that will bear repeated listenings.

"Who Says a Funk Band Can't Play Rock" presents something of the basic Clinton problem. You can't argue against the classic liberating sentiment. They do play a perfectly credible rock groove with heavy lead blues guitars. However, the song just isn't that interesting. There's just not six minutes worth of song. There's about 15 seconds worth of central melody repeated ad nauseum, and it's really giving them a fairly big benefit of the doubt to say that the guitar play is interesting enough to justify the whole enchilada.

They work up a pretty strong slow rock funk groove for "Promentalshitbackwashpsychosisenemasquad (The Doo-Doo Chasers)" but I'm not going to listen to it again voluntarily. Look, I'm too big a South Park fan to be accused of not appreciating a good potty joke, but this loses me.

A musical bowel movement
Designed to rid you of moral diarrhea
Social bullshit
Crazy do-loops
Mental poots

George spends over ten minutes giving the most loving, creatively ornately detailed lyrics of his career, entirely devoted to being as absolutely unappetizingly copraphilic as humanly possible. He just HAS to carefully describe the original food and the exact details of it in the middle and on the other end. In short, this does nothing to free my mind, and leaves my ass with no interest in following. Does diarrhea make YOU want to dance?

"Into You" is basically just boring. It has a more developed tune than some of this, but it's just not a very interesting tune. After about two minutes, I'm patiently waiting for the end. "Cholly" is perhaps slightly more agreeably sprightly, but no more interesting musically.

"Lunchmeataphobia" has a solid hard rock groove, but there's no significant melody vocally or instrumentally to sustain interest. Chasing down the strong guitar and drums rock sound, it doesn't really have any of the great fruity freak flavors that mark Clinton's best work.

They limp out of the original album with the mundane instrumental rehash of "PE Squad/Doo Doo Chasers-Going All the Way Off."

The live version of their 1971 classic "Maggot Brain" (originally a bonus 7") tacked onto the end of this certainly makes a better closing statement. It's not really a song with verses and choruses, but an extended blues guitar showcase. This is notably NOT very funky, but it is directly dramatically effective.

This song in particular might be framed as a "jam band" song. Looked at that way, this track is more passionate and focused than any but the best few Grateful Dead jams.

Overall, there's not more than a couple of things here at best that might really be called songs. The best three or four tracks might be thought of as worthy instrumental excursions. But really, this is no Stand or Purple Rain.

As background music at a party, this would be great texture. But if you listen to it at all closely, it's going to start falling apart.

Maggot Brain  1971

Uncle Jam Wants You  1979

One Nation Under a Groove  1978







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