Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Songs #299 & 300 - It's TWOsday!

Song #299 of 9999                        Song #300 of 9999

Title: Chocolate City                       Title: Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)
Artist: Parliament                            Artist: Parliament
Year: 1975                                     Year: 1975
Album: Chocolate City                    Album: Mothership Connection

Before they realized their all-encompassing vision of "One Nation Under a Groove," George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic seemed to be on a mission to redefine the role of the black man in 1970s America. Taking a page from the if-you-can-imagine-it-it-can-happen book, Clinton wrote songs that imagined a world where a black man could be president or find himself in outer space. (It took eight years to achieve the latter compared to 33 for the former, but he got it right on both counts. Glad he was around to bear witness.) 

Parliament released two albums in 1975 and, although Mothership Connection made the bigger splash, Chocolate City has its merits. More political, but just as playful, the album's title track consists of spoken word dialogue as Clinton pays homage to the nation's capital and the rise of "chocolate cities" (those dominated by black populations) all over the country (as well as their surrounding "vanilla suburbs"). The groove is more contained and subtle than what we've come to expect from Parliament (listen to the incremental dynamic changes in the opening groove) and the frequently polyphonic improvisation delves well into jazz (check out the interplay between pianist Bernie Worrell and saxophonist Michael Brecker at 4:18). I personally think you could almost fool anyone into believing this is a lost Frank Zappa track.

Just a few short months later and "Give Up the Funk" would define George Clinton and Parliament for the masses. The section that begins "you've got a real type of thing..." is unmistakably Clinton with its everyone-in-the-house-join-in chant. The B section that follows is especially interesting in the way Bootsy Collins sets his bass in unison with the vocal line. Speaking of Bootsy, doesn't his bass just shine on this track, percolating over a classic (and deceptively simple) James Brown-style drum groove? Before you get too wrapped up in the fun of this tune, take a moment to notice the synths: crazy pre-"Planet Rock" Afrika Bambaataa-type licks in the left channel and a pad droning on forever in the right. Interesting, almost unnoticeable touches.

Are you not entertained?! Average number of chords for each track: one. That takes skill, people.

No comments:

Post a Comment