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Published: 2008/12/03
by Brian Ferdman

Parliament Funkadelic The Mothership Connection Live 1976

Shout! Factory 826663 11014

When they began touring in October of 1976, Parliament Funkadelic were sitting atop the crest of their popularity. After having toiled for numerous years as one of the few black groups in a largely white psychedelic rock scene, they had solidified a serious funk sound that appealed to a black audience, but their psychedelic rock leanings were a little too white for Black America. Finally, a Top 5 R&B hit arrived in the form of “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” and based on the strength of the Mothership Connection album, impresario George Clinton was given more than half a million dollars to be applied toward a gigantic stage production. With cash in hand, Clinton’s wildest artistic dreams were realized in the form of outlandish costumes and a spectacular set, including a huge flying Mothership that cost $275,000 alone. No one had ever seen anything like this in a concert, and when the assemblage rolled into the Houston Summit on Halloween for only the fifth performance of the tour, the well-rehearsed extravaganza was filmed. After previously circulating in lower-grade formats, the performance has now been officially cleaned up and released on DVD.

While the visual spectacle of this show is often otherworldly, it’s the music that truly steals the spotlight. Sure, Clinton appears dressed in multiple outfits with ridiculous three-foot wigs, and his cronies are also bizarrely attired. Yes, the Mothership is one sparkly (if not rudimentary by today’s standards) machine. You bet the gig descends into virtual chaos with an army of crazed individuals, including tourmates Bootsy Collins and members of Sly and The Family Stone, dancing crazily on stage. However, the music on this DVD is some of the finest you’ll ever hear from Parliament Funkadelic. With Maceo Parker and Fred Wesley leading a top-notch horn section, Clinton’s band is fired up and bristling with energy while burning through many of his biggest songs of the day, including arrangements that are littered with allusions to and phrases from many of their earlier compositions. The unsung hero of this massive effort has to be drummer Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey, who maintains a tight and compact beat amidst a sensational sea of musical mayhem. A good chunk of these songs just feature Brailey’s hyper-addictive pulse, throbbing over-and-over again, tapping into some sort of cosmic pelvic rhythm, as the Parliaments dazzle with brilliant vocal harmonies, not the least of which is Glenn Goins’ soul-stirring call to land the Mothership.

While watching this stellar performance, we are reminded of the genius that was once Parliament-Funkadelic. Though George Clinton’s modern-day backup band is a comparatively sad paean to excess and silliness, The Mothership Connection Live 1976 proves that there once was a time when Clinton helmed the baddest assemblage of funk musicians in the universe, bringing an unparalleled, mindblowing spectacle to unsuspecting cities across America.

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