Talk about sneaking up on a mug after 33 years. The Funkadelic 3CD monstrosity dropped in December and bugged out all of us Funkateers, with a spectrum of reactions not heard since, well, Electric Spanking. After the pristine release of George Clinton’s memoir earlier in 2014, many of us Maggots were expecting some polished popular P-funk notions. Well weren’t we just Adolescent Funkin’ !
True to the Funkadelic mantra, this was the nasty, smelly underbelly of the Parlia-FunkadelicmentThang… rebooted for 2015, and in your face like a shot of Mace. To understand Shake the Gate, one must take it all in, all of it. It sinks in like the high from a special brownie, tickling slowly at first, but by the end of the day it overwhelms the senses.
From precision-delivered crunk-raps to baby-face ballads to distorted mutron throbs and relentless metal thrash, there is a bit of everything inside this Gate, yet all of it fits together. Each track sinks in, and has its own stank. There is a reason for the sequence of the songs, and you can get lost, then found again. Eventually you start to think there is a madd master-plan for this madness – and at that point you are hooked!
For a minute I was all into disc 3. Then I started just listening to disc 2, thinking it couldn’t possibly slam as hard as my last experience with disc 3. Well, was I kicked over! Disc 2 had something for disc 3’s ass! Now disc 1 serves more or less as an overture to the kids, the youth sound, the Southern crunk stank funk thang. But George is not just playing nice. Once you realize that he isn’t playing, but he is CLAIMING all of that music as his personal plaything, and his grandkids are more than capable of pushing that sound forward, then the utter untouchable awesomeness of Shake The Gate comes home to roost.
What is most sinister about the 3-disc adventure into the mind of the Main Maggot Dr Funkenstein is the way he allows everyone to take turns playing in the playground of Funkadelic Funk, before The Doctor smokes them all out. If you listen to George’s rapping on “The Wall” and “Snot n Booger,” the standard bearers from the final disc, George comes SO HARD, bringing ass-kicking attitude he gives a psychedelic beat-down to all who preceded him (‘cept maybe Sly). -- We are reminded here that George has been spittin’ rhymes since “Dog Talk,” before many of the pimply pups on the disc were even born –
This is not unlike what Miles Davis used to do with his legendary quintet in the 1960s and electronic swamp funk workouts in the 70s. He would let everybody shine in their own way, then with delicious subtlety emerge and blow them away. George was just slithering on the back burner through most of these tracks, until its time to Drop a Load.
Shake the Gate indeed.
Now at first I was one of the serous non-believers. I wasn’t ready to let go of Garry, to let go of Boogie, to let go of Belita, Jessica or Mallia, and all I wanted was some retro Pee and what remained of the Mob as I knew it. (and maybe some Ronkat) A great deal of that is in there to be sure, like “Jolene,” “Dirty Queen” and “Fucked Up.” But there is so much more.
There are some great clubby tracks like “Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You,” “Boom There We Go Again” and “Catchin’ Boogie Fever,” and some wicked one-of-a-kind jams like the thunderous title track, and “In Da Kar,” “Zip It” and “Yellow Light.” What stands out are the rap/funk collaborations, like “Get Low,” “Roller Rink,” “I Mo B Yodog Fo Eva” and “Snot n Booger.” Some are incredibly creative productions, but they were complete surprises at first. Florida's 13teen and Bay Area producer Rob “G Koop” Mandell are geniuses with the new grooves, but I never thought they would be carrying the weight of the Future of the Funk like this. They deserve all the props for gluing this mad mess together. George knows how to find the top of the line geeps & zeeps for his ideas.
But I’m still not a fan of gratuitous rap tracks over good funk. I’m one of those O.G.’s that often thinks a rap track on good funk is like a cockroach crawling across my pizza slice! (Not only is it a shock, I’m not even hungry anymore!) Good Funk doesn’t need rap, but we all know that rap needs The Funk more than ever.
But as the wild ride through the Gate continued, the depths of the P started to hit me, and then I got it. Even though George Clinton is 21 years older than I am, I had to eat my doo doo and realize that GC is far more forward thinking than this putrid doo-loop driven maggot ever will be.
At first I treated the record like the 80’s Star Trek reboot, thinking of it as “Funkadelic, the Next Generation.” And like a lot of Trekkies who approached Star Trek the Next Generation with mild appreciation, it was ah-rite but at some point we’d say “WTF where is Kirk & Spock & Uhura!” But The Gate is more like the recent reboot of Star Trek -- the same but totally different -- with some true homages to the OG feel, and some Brand New Grooves to boot. Forward thinking Dogs pointing their paws ahead.
This Funkadelic brings new and old together in a truly original way. It is a thrill to hear Trey Lewd getting the space to play like he does, and Sly Stone’s deviousness gets threaded into the mix where he belongs. And let’s face it, Shake the Gate is keyboardist Danny Bedrosian’s Tour De Force. He’s on almost every track, doing the heavy lifting Bernie used to do, with a silly wiggle all his own. Once you understand that, the entire production falls into magnificent, beautiful place. Some Next Shit.
So now I cant wait for the new Parliament album, as much for the new surprises as for the epic, classic horn riffs and O.G. hooks that I will expect. (& maybe some Ronkat) But the bottom line is that P-Funk is alive and well, and that is the best part of this Funkadelic experience.