If there was ever an example of a success in the funk music relm it would have to be Bootsy Collins. He was there during the infancy of the genre with James Brown and than onto George Clinton. He even survived some of funk’s more challenging periods by collaborating with other artists and doing more session work. And most importantly,he managed to come out of the addiction problems faced by many in the music world period to come out all the better. Now he is emerging as something of an elder statesman of the genre. And he has had enough experiences at this point to create what could be described as a magnum opus. And he also possesses the singular talent,versatility and personality to pull it off. On the other hand he’s also one of the chief architects of P-funk which,even during it’s original era was a lot more fragile than it seemed to be. So this album comes off as perhaps being a grand finale to an amazing career.
What’s good and not so good about it comes from it’s ambition. Bootsy is looking here to do a sort of P-Funk equivalent to Quincy Jones’ Back on the Block,pulling together elements from different generations-musical and culturally to show a generation cycle involved. But here there are some cracks in the jib that are just difficult to avoid. P-funk after the 90’s was always dependent on guest artists,especially hip-hop related. But this one is a bit too reliant on the worn out formula. Every song here has a guest. And often times their presence,considering some of them are relative unknowns,reduce Bootsy to being a sideman on his own recording. Samuel L Jackson rapping about the influence music played in his life on “After These Messages” is a meaningful and happy surprise. As is Al Sharpton discussing the often unheralded importance James Brown has in the culture,showcasing how he “changed the beat”.
On the other hand,the grooves outside of the clever horn melange of “The Jazz Greats” with George Duke and Ron Carter,mostly sound a bit by-the-numbers. And if they get a little more out of the box such as on the more rocky side of “Mirrors Tell Lies” and “Minds Under Construction” the musical ideas are so cluttered,some of the clarity of sound is missing. Bootsy simply overshot the mark just a little and flat out tried to do too much on this album. Had this been spread out over the course of a double set or couple releases with more varied music than it would’be been the intended masterpiece. As a history lesson on how funk is misunderstood nine times out of ten,it’s wonderful. As a musical concept,it simply doesn’t HAVE enough of Bootsy’s own identity to effect. In fact the Quincy analogy works there too. Here Bootsy is more of an MC (and presented as a weaker one actually) than an artist. Than again I enjoy Bootsy the artist. So maybe one more album that draws this concept out more fully might in order? Well I can only hope but what this album looks to is worth exploring further.
Originally posted on October 23rd,2011