1. Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (1974)
How do I argue that “Jimmy’s Got a Little Bit of Bitch in Him” is not homophobic, but, rather, uses the language of homophobia to praise an outsider? George Clinton liked those. Soupy and inexorable, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On can play for hours in a car, especially with “I’ll Stay” wanking in the background.
2. Funkadelic (1970)
I prefer George Clinton’s men at their chonkyiest, and for me they never surpassed the fetid forward motion of their debut. If they’d never released anything but “I Bet You” we would remember them as strange voices from a distant star that Earth was unfortunate enough to never orbit.
3. Maggot Brain (1971)
The march at a good pal’s wedding? “Can You Get to That.” Fit George Clinton in any context and he triumphs. The title track is what every fan says it is. “Super Stupid” is not better than Sabbath.
4. The Electric Spanking of War Babies (1981)
Hard to find until the new millennium’s batch of reissues, Funkadelic’s last album for almost fifteen years had to settle for being a single disc after the label balked at Clinton’s ambition. The label was probably right. Anyway, “Oh, I” shakes its ass at Stevie Wonder’s “Master Blaster,” “Icka Prick” creates its own disgusting multiverse, and in “Funk Gets Stronger” Sly Stone delivers his most awake performance since the Ford era (his best, period, after the Ford era, depending on what you think of his Jesse Johnson collaboration). Koan: “You can walk a mile in my shoes/But you can’t dance a step in my feet.”
5. Let’s Take it to the Stage (1975)
When I want to get off my ass and jam.
6. Uncle Jam Wants You (1979)
Home of “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” sampled by De La Soul. To demonstrate that a disco backlash had begun, consider this: it peaked at #76 while topping the black and disco chart. I find Uncle Jam a giddier album than the zealously lauded One Nation Under a Groove; even the tunelets (“Holly Wants to Go to California”) impress.
7. Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow (1970)
“Funky Dollar Bill” is the easy entry. Dig into the rest of this double album for material like “Friday Night, August 14th,” boasting Eddie Hazel’s most frenzied playing. When the singers proclaim, “The kingdom of heaven is within!” on the title track, I don’t believe a word. Secular at the cost of quotidian coherence, George Clinton believes, to quote a later descendant, that the world moves on a woman’s hips. This album is the valentine.
8. One Nation Under a Groove (1978)
Besides the defensive “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?!” and titanic title groove, the greatest approximation of Fela’s ebb-and-flow in American popular music, I don’t get the acclaim for this one. They did better before and right after.
9. Music For Your Mother (1993)
A 45 rpm single collection so total that I imagine its nineties purchasers had no need of the studio album. Inspirational Koan: “If you don’t like the effect, don’t produce the cause.”