Album Review: Funkadelic – First Ya Gotta Shake The Gate
first ya gotta Shake the Gate is the first album of new material from George Clinton and his Funkadelic music collective in over 30 years. The last Funkadelic record was 1981’s Electric Spanking of War Babies. To make up for lost time, Clinton has included 33 songs on the album – one for each year that has passed since Electric Spanking of War Babies hit the shelves. The CD version is spread across three discs. So it’s a lot to absorb.
Coming into it, I didn’t set my expectations high. As a practically life long fan of George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, I didn’t want to be disappointed. And when an album’s got 33 songs on it, it’s generally safe to predict that there’s going to be some filler. After 3 or 4 full listens, though, plus lots of repeat plays of individual songs, I’ve got to say I’m pretty amazed by the shear musical scope of the whole endeavor. The songs were recorded over a period of years, with different groups of musicians, but all were produced by Clinton. Most of them are great songs. Some could be timeless. He brings in a huge number of guests from across the musical spectrum, including some notable Funkadelic alum. The number of people involved in the record is astonishing. There must be close to 50 musicians credited in the liner notes across all the songs – close to 20 on the first song alone.
The standout collaborator, though, is Sly Stone. George and Sly have been buddies since the 70s, and Sly showed up on Electric Spanking of War Babies. So there’s precedence. Sly contributes to six different tracks on the record, taking the lead on two of them – “If I Didn’t Love You” and Lord Buckley’s “The Naz”. Right now, I’m completely obsessed with “If I Didn’t Love You”. It’s such a heartbreaking song, with really eerie synth from Sly that just hits me in the gut. “The Naz” came out as a single last year, and has Sly reciting Lord Buckley’s poem over music Sly composed. It’s brilliant.
A guy named Rob Manzoli plays all the music on “The Naz”, and plays a significant role in a few other songs as well. I didn’t know who he was, so I had to Google him. Turns out he was part of Right Said Fred for the better part of 10 years. How he and George hooked up, I don’t know, but Manzoli is a good multi-instrumentalist. And he also played on the Right Said Fred song “I’m Too Sexy”. I love that.
Then there’s Del tha Funkee Homosapien. What is he doing on this record? I was surprised to see him. He and George wrote a song called “The Crease”, with verses from Del. It’s basically a hip hop track. As is the next one, “Not Your Average Rapper”, which has George’s grandson Tracey “Tra’Zae” Lewis-Clinton rapping. It’s interesting to hear a few pure hip hop tracks on a Funkadelic record.
On the flip side, “Jolene” runs in the traditional Funkadelic style – raging guitar riffs from two of the classic Funkadelic guitar players – Garry Shider and Dewayne McKnight. Some scatological and sexual references in the lyrics. A big, thumping fat bass line that acts as the center the rest of the band is dancing around. All the essentials.
And speaking of essentials, so many classic Funkadelic alum are on this record. Garry Shider, Michael Hampton, Dewayne McKnight, Bernie Worrell, and a welcome appearance from Bootsy Collins, just to name some of the highlights.
I could continue to go song by song, guest artist by guest artist, but at some point, we’ll both get tired, so I’m just going to conclude with this: go get this record. It’s the best Funkadelic record in 33 years. Seriously, it’s outstanding. And only $14 at Amazon right now.
A few songs to pay special attention to – because they’re awesome: “Yesterdejavu”, “Roller Rink”, and “Where Would I Go?” Plus the other ones I reference above. Don’t miss the Sly tune!