If you haven’t heard Parliament or Funkadelic, you haven’t really heard true funk — due in large part to the king of funk bass, Bootsy Collins (sorry, but if your idea of ‘real’ funk is “Play That Funky Music, White Boy,” the authentic stuff has obviously passed you by). Collins’ new recording, Tha Funk Capitol Of The World, continues the mastery of his genre with another messy serving of loose funk.
Nothing in this collection will make you forget the pioneering music Collins created with George Clinton, the eternal main man of funk. However, it does find him breaking ground that, even for him, seems fresh. “JB-Still The Man” features a spoken word part by Al Sharpton which points out, quite truthfully, that all great, funky R&B made today owes a huge debt of gratitude to James Brown. This track is immediately followed by “Freedumb,” which sports a musical lecture from Cornel West. After these two political figures comes actor Samuel L. Jackson, who takes almost five minutes to describe his upbringing. Parliament and Funkadelic made many of the same points; only they did it musically, of course, without speaking out loud as Collins’ guests do.
The album’s single, “Don’t Take My Funk,” features the wonderful Bobby Womack on vocals — one of those great, old school screamers that always lights up anything on which he appears. The song is not really a hardcore funk tune. Rather, it’s more of a sweet soul song, the kind often times associated with Womack’s own work. It also features guitarist Catfish Collins, Bootsy’s younger brother.
Throughout Capitol, Bootsy acts like a ringmaster, introducing guests in that circus-like voice for which he’s so well known. “Jazz Greats (A Tribute to Jazz),” features legendary jazz upright bassist Ron Carter. It’s not really much of a song, lyrically, as Collins essentially name-drops some of the jazz greats. But the chance to hear two of the greats together – from widely different genres – is cool. Béla Fleck’s appearance on “If Looks Could Kill,” features the same kind of genre-crossing shock factor that makes for a standout track. George Clinton makes his appearance on “Garry Shider Tribute,” a tribute to the great P-Funk guitarist, Garry Shider. And wow, his voice sounds rough! What happened to the man’s vocal cords? He certainly doesn’t sound like the Clinton of old. Yet lyrically, he shows off the twisted Clinton mind of old, as he sings about stuttering in sign language (whatever that means).
This album is worth the purchase for its guest list alone. After all, where would you ever find Béla Fleck and Al Sharpton at the same party? It’s not a consistent album. It doesn’t even have a recurring theme, unlike so many of those fantastic Parliament-Funkadelic albums of old. It may not be a masterpiece — but, much like its artistic director, you can rest assured it’ll never get boring.