In the mid to late 70s, funk stood on two legs. The two legs had names: Parliament and Funkadelic. Which leg was named which is up for debate. However, the legs were of George Clinton, the funk maestro who coined the term P-funk and gave us classics like Atomic Dog and Dr. Funkenstein. Whether P-funk stood for Parliament-Funkadelic, pure funk, or some other funky word is still left unknown, but P-funk was the greatest era of funk. As time went on, the blasting horn sections were replaced with synthesizers and funk became synthesized pop music. However, for a short decade, funk was at the top of its game. Mothership Connection is one of the greatest funk albums of the era.
#274 on Rolling Stone's Top 500 Greatest Albums List
George Clinton had everything nailed down on this album to the handclapping. This was the beginning of his P-funk mythology, bringing the Star Child (inspired by Sun Ra's Black Noah and Jesus) from outer space to bring Holy Funk to the world. This glorification of Parliament's music brings a real heavy burden upon the band to make worthy music of such a proclamation. Mothership Connection does not disappoint. Every song has some of the best groove shown in any funk music ever. The rhythm section is unparalleled, showcasing Bootsy Collins among other great funk musicians. The horns make great background for the groove in the rhythm section and the antics of George Clinton.
The point on the album where the Star Child arrives is in the title track and the second track, Mothership Connection (Star Child). This is the arrival of the Jesus of funk, so the music accompanying had better be epic and most of all, funky. The song opens with rhythm section and George Clinton playing the part of Star Child arriving to Earth. Immediately, the personality of Star Child comes out, he's the coolest...being to ever hit the planet. Horns add in little licks here and there, but mostly, the song is all about being danceable and groovy. The keyboard holds the main instrumental theme, while the horns add countermelodies. The bass is poppy and plays along with the keyboard. Showing how this band makes funk a religion, they refer to a Negro spiritual entitled Swing Low, Sweet Chariot. The lyrics in Mothership Connection read "Swing down, sweet chariot, stop, and let me ride." Most of the song is just Star Child inviting the universe to come on the Mothership for a good time. The riff stays the same throughout, but it really doesn't matter because it sits in the background, only setting the groove for George Clinton to weave his mythological funk story. However, it changes for a bit, letting the bass drop out and the keyboard plays some extended chords. The bass joins once the spiritual allusion closes out the song and fades away.
Oddly enough, the funkiest song on the album is entitled Unfunky UFO. The rhythm section groove is a guitar and bass riff, with the highlight being a deep and powerful pop on 4 and 1. The song follows a verse-chorus-verse-chorus format. The best singing on the album is George Clinton's verse, showing that he created the style of P-funk instrumentally and vocally. The song is about encountering another race that has no funk in their lives, but they see the funk of the Star Child and want some of that funk for their own. However, the story isn't what a listener will be focused on. The real greatness here is in the absolute groove of the music, and how George Clinton's mastery of production and funk can make some of the most danceable songs of all time.
The closer, the instrumentally focused Night of the Thumpasorous Peoples, is just another great funk song, this time showcasing the bassline. As the title suggests, the bassline is thumpy and poppy, as most great funk basslines are. Also, the bass is distorted to add extra effect to it. The horns are also at their finest here, although tracked a bit low and never really come out into the forefront. However, upon listening closely, one will hear that the horns are tight and locked in even on the faster horn lines. The chords built are worthy of the Tower of Power horn line, and showcase the trumpet rather than the saxophone, as most other Parliament songs will showcase. The bassline stays relatively similar throughout, albeit excellent bass fills throughout. The keyboard also plays a great countermelody to accompany the bass. The song continues to groove along all the way to the faded ending.
Mothership Connection is one of Parliament's finest albums, and definitely placed way under where it should be on the Rolling Stone list. Other appearances on greatest albums list include being #55 on VH1's list of 100 and Joe S. Harrington of Blastitude, online music publication, named it #6 on his best albums list. As I've said plenty of times in this review, the best thing about the album is the funkiness of it. The music may not be the most virtuosic or awe-inspiring, but it grooves, and that is all funk is really supposed to do.
Mothership Connection (Star Child)
Night of the Thumpasorous Peoples