Tidal Catalog #3A: Parliament

Introduction: For those of you that have stumbled across this website and are interested in reading about my trek through the universe of the Tidal streaming service, let me tell you a bit about what I did. Back in 2016 I thought it would be kind of cool to listen to artist’s catalog from start to finish and rank them from best to worst. After all, who doesn’t like a good list? I thought I might do a few of them and see what happened, hoping it would introduce me to records that were foreign to me in the arsenal of an artist I was familiar with. I also though that it would be pretty cool to get out of the “one off” mode of listening to a new record, years after the previous one, in order to get a true sense of how the artist matured over time. Flash forward to June of 2019 and 250 catalogs later, I have ended the trek. I posted these all on Facebook over the years as they were completed but I’m going to move them all over here, starting with #1, in order to expand them out a bit more.

As with all my catalogs, to be considered in the ranking, an album has to meet certain criteria:

  • The artist must actually perform on 80% of the tracks (soundtrack and rap provision)
  • No compilations of previous released material will be included.
  • The album must have been released officially and within the realm of the label that the artist would have been on at the time or official releases posthumously (normally applies to a slew of live records)
  • Any EPs must contain new new music and be relevant to the catalog, not be more like a single with a b-side or two.
  • Compilations of previously recorded material will be included if they are remixes, bonus tracks, outtakes… mostly music that hasn’t been part of a main release before)
  • Entrance Point: I don’t know that I had ever heard a Parliament record in full before this catalog. Though in a way I had since it seems like literally every song was sampled at some point.

I love me some funk and around this time back in 2016, I know I was listening to a lot of old school g-funk, so I wanted to go back and see what Parliament-Funkadelic was all about. While I don’t believe I had ever heard an album in full from either entity, it quickly became apparent that I knew more than I expected thanks to sampling. I can’t fathom how much George Clinton and the gang made just from Dr. Dre and Ice Cube alone. After completing this catalog, I felt like I had listened to almost all of Cube’s Death Certificate, at least half of Digital Underground’s songs and a large chunk of Snoop Dogg’s career.

All albums ranked on a 10 point scale.

  • Mothership Connection (10)

This is actually one of the hardest collections I’ve had to rank simply because it’s that good. Mothership Connection is their fourth record and the first one to really hit big, though they had built up some nice momentum with their previous two albums. In reality, there are seven albums that could sit on the top perch at any given point but I put this funk beast at the top simply due to the number of stone cold classics on it. I don’t think there’s any real debate when I state that George Clinton is the number one funk songwriter of all time. But he also put together a stunning band: Michael and Randy Brecker, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker on Horns, Bootsy Collins on bass, Michael Hampton on guitars and Bernie Worrell on keys & synths, among other great players.

I wish I had been alive at this time to see if there was some real inclination that this would end up being one of the most iconic funk records of all time. Surely, it was some of the tightest funk ever made, even with Clinton’s sprawling free form passages throughout the disc. But I suppose it wasn’t like anyone could really foresee this album having such a cultural impact a few decades later when West Coast G-funk hit big thanks mainly to Dr. Dre and Ice Cube.

So I put this at #1 because Mothership Connection contains “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” Unfortunately the biggest sample of this song became “We Want the Funk” by Gerardo but Snoop of course also sampled it for “Who Am I? What’s My Name?” Of all the great songs in the catalog, this is my favorite. A stone cold classic. But it also has “Mothership Connection” on it, which you would know from Dr. Dre’s “Let Me Ride.” Don’t let anyone tell you this isn’t a perfect record. This is what gets you funked up!

Parliament, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)”
  • Chocolate City (10)
  • Up for the Down Stroke (10)
  • Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome (10)

Chocolate City and Up for the Down Stroke pre-date Mothership Connection and while fantastic records, Placebo Syndrome is the one that’s more fun to talk about. The concept on this one is to not fall into the disco trap which he saw as the pale little cousin of funk.

Clinton introduces the character Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk, whose mission seems to be to try to convince everyone to be void of funk music. This is where he also gave the world the “Bop Gun” which is an imaginary weapon that makes anything you shoot out of it, incredibly funky. In “Sir Nose d’Voidoffunk (Pay Attention – B3M)” he takes passages out of the nursery rhymes “Ba Ba Black Sheep” and “Three Blind Mice” and changes them into drug references instead. “Baa baa black sheep / Have you any wool? / Yes sir, yes sir / A nickel bag full.”

The album ends with “Flash Light” which is notable for the baseline which isn’t on bass at all. Bootsy decided he didn’t want to play it, so instead Bernie Worrell created the bass line on three minimoogs. This gave the band their first #1 R&B hit and was later sampled for both “I’ll Take Your Man” by Salt-N-Pepa and “Dowhatchulike” by Digital Underground.

Parliament, “Flash Light”
  • The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (10)
  • Gloryhallastoopid (or Pin the Tail on the Funky) (10)

I love these crazy names of albums and tracks that George Clinton just turn into one work and Pin the Tail on the Funky is also just simply awesome. The voices in Clinton’s head must be loud as the concepts on all these records are just out of this world. (He gets much weirder with Funkedelic records.) The concept on this record is kind of straight forward compared to others. It follows the basic story arch of the P-Funk Mythology which tries to prove that funk created the entire universe. “The Big Bang Theory” and “Theme From the Black Hole” (sampled on Digital Underground’s “Same Song”) push those theories forward. While “Party People” was the hit single from the album, the best track is “The Freeze (Sizzaleenmean)” which Ice Cube sampled the chorus for “Look Who’s Burnin'” off Death Certificate. The part that makes ranking these records in some kind of order, very hard, is that they are all pretty similar. Normally that would turn me off but when they are perfect records, you stick with the formula.

Parliament, “The Freeze (Sizzaleenmean)”
  • Motor-Booty Affair (10)
  • Osmium (8)
  • Live: P-Funk Earth Tour (7)
  • Trombipulation (7)
  • Medicaid Fraud Dogg (7)

You might be thinking to yourself, WTF is Medicaid Fraud Dogg? I don’t blame you if you don’t know this exists. What it is, is a new record from 2018, 38 years after their last record came out. Clinton got the urge for new material after releasing a Funkadelic record a few years earlier, so he brought back a couple original members (Fred Wesley was one of them) but for the most part this was a new band, which takes away some of the nostalgia for sure. He also seems to have let a mess of songs stew in his brain for a long time, as this album is a whopping 23-track, 1:46 album. While this album does of course take the funk route and often with great results, there’s also quite a bit of straight R&B on this, as well as incorporating some rap in the mix. One of the highlights on the disc is “Oil Jones” which takes a shot at people trying to work out to look like a celebrity. Another is the single, “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me” featuring Scarface. While not exactly in tune with 2018, it sounds like a vintage late 70s Parliament tune. Overall though, this could have been cut in half and been great but because it’s so long, it includes all the songs that would have been on the cutting room floor in their heyday. But it’s still a Parliament record, which is better than not having one.

Parliament, “Oil Jones”

Summary: 11 total albums Average: 9.0

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