GEORGE CLINTON: ‘George Clinton And His Gangsters Of Love’ (Label: Shanachie)

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GEORGE CLINTON: 'George Clinton And His Gangsters Of Love'

George Clinton has always been something of an eccentric maverick figure. In a career that goes back to the dawn of soul music in the late 1950s when he led a doo-wop group, The Parliaments, the deep-voiced progenitor of the P-Funk phenomenon has never been afraid to flout convention and play by his own rules. He achieved worldwide notoriety, of course, in the 1970s when he led two stylistically contrasting groups, Parliament and Funkadelic, to chart glory. After a fairly successful four album stint at Capitol under his own name in the ’80s, the trajectory of Clinton’s solo career from the early ’90s onwards was largely a downward one. Cameo appearances on hip-hop albums in the early noughties (Warren G, Killah Priest, Redman) kept his name alive, until his first album for nine years, ‘How Late Do U Have 2BB4UR Absent?’ was issued in 2005. Although it was a sprawling and patchy double set, it confirmed that when Clinton was focused, he could still make interesting music. So when news filtered through earlier this year that the P-Funk maestro had a new album in the pipeline, it was assumed that it would be standard Clinton fare with comic book funk to the forefront. However, now it’s finally materialised, ‘George Clinton & His Gangsters Of Love’ turns out to be a set that will confound some of his staunchest fans. Certainly, given the smooth soul ethos and Quiet Storm sound of the US-based Shanachie label, it seems a little strange that a musical revolutionary like Clinton now finds himself label mates there with the likes of Maysa and Phil Perry. But it’s evident listening to this slickly-produced album (helmed by Philly legend, Bobby Eli, and Chris ‘Big Dog’ Davis) that Clinton’s jettisoned the zany funk template he built his career on and immersed himself, for the most part, in Shanachie’s innocuous, mainstream, radio-friendly, romantic soul sound. There’s nothing wrong with being mainstream of course, but it’s odd and slightly unsettling hearing George Clinton deliver limp and insipid versions of Barry White’s ‘Never Gonna Give You Up’ (sic) and The Impressions’ ‘Gypsy Woman’ (the latter featuring Santana on guitar and El DeBarge on vocals). Even worse, is a horrendous cover of the rock and roll classic, ‘Let The Good Times Roll,’ featuring the Red Hot Chili Peppers. By contrast, one of the best cuts here is a laid-back version of the Smokey Robinson-penned Motown perennial, ‘Ain’t That Peculiar,’ featuring El DeBarge and a rare cameo from Sly Stone – another maverick whose mind has been ineluctably altered by an excess of illegal substances. Also ear-catching is ‘Mathematics Of Love,’ a soulful duet with gospel diva, Kim Burrell. Even so, the album’s best track by far is an authentic-sounding revamp of Prince’s quirky ‘If I Was Your Girlfriend,’ one of four unlisted bonus cuts appended to the main CD. Overall, this is a major disappointment – in fact, Clinton and his Gangsters Of Love should be arrested immediately by the funk police.
(CW) 2/5