Sunday, July 10, 2016

What the funk?

I remember being in a dollar store in the 90's with a friend.  They always had a bin of $1 CDs that mostly consisted of nature sounds, bad classical recordings, and failed smooth jazz.  My buddy dug out one disc, though, and said, "These guys are great!  Parliament!  70's funk!"  I had never heard of them, but I realized later that I had heard their music all over TV, movies, and the radio.

Later I saw recordings of their unreal performances.  First of all, there are about a zillion people on stage.  There's definitely a tight rhythm section and some horns.  Then there are a bunch of backup singers.  But beyond that there are people in wild costumes running around and dancing.  It's not really choreographed, though.  It's like the audience bought tickets to come and watch the wildest house party imaginable.  Finally, there's George Clinton himself: wearing a white tux, enormous blonde wig, ski goggles, and a dapper cane.  He's the center of everything, but he's not really a lead singer.  Sure, he yells and sings periodically, but there aren't really verses and choruses the way that we usually expect.  He's there dancing, possibly directing, but mostly just being the soul of the whole performance.

I wondered if I could make one of their tunes stand up with a very different set of instrumentation.  Bassoon, banjo, and melodica could cover the parts normally played by bass, guitar, and synthesizer.  Would such a hokey set of instruments bleed all the soul out of the tune or would it still work?  It was a bunch of fun to put together and turned out a bit better than expected:

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