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45 years of Parliament delivering the party with ‘Dr Funkenstein’

If you had to live in the eternal production of an album like a musical version of Groundhog Day, then the perpetual party of Parliament’s The Clones of Dr Funkenstein wouldn’t be a bad choice. 45 years on, the unrivalled fun of the record can still rouse you into dancing shoes faster than a Saturday afternoon text saying, “You up to much today?”

Five albums into Parliament’s discography the coalition with Funkadelic had established the pair as funk pioneers who would define the dancefloor sound of the decade. But with that much already set in stone, it was time to infuse their records with something new.

For Dr Funkenstein they turned to Fred Wesley, known for his work with James Brown, to introduce some horn arrangements to the party. His brass embellishment to the band’s swinging grooves added another layer of perfectly melodic mayhem to whisk people off of seats as soon as the record started blaring. 

As ever, bandleader and chief party-thrower George Clinton realised that the secret to keeping the merrymaking fresh is always ensuring that it’s slightly different from the last weekend. Thus, aside from the horns he also rolled the record into the realm of science-fiction and continued the meta Afro-futurist narrative that the band were an intergalactic outfit that came in peace to “blow the cobwebs out of your mind.”

It is to the albums credit that rather than be simply content with rolled-down-window grooves and rousing rhythms, that narrative turned it into something like a multimedia project. The album told the story of the Starchild agent who carried the funk down to Earth and now set about creating clones to fulfil his mission. That mission might be relatively unclear, but it sounds great and it’s a lot of fun even if the morality remains unexplored by mere mortals. 

However, as the records very own manic prelude concludes “funk is its own reward”, and the great Dr Funkenstein couldn’t be more right there. Brilliantly it’s a reward that we all get to share in and seemingly everyone in the studio had the same idea. If Marvin Gaye’s classic What’s Going On captured the discussions of a party as the first drinks flowed then this was the 2am carnage where the same virtuoso musicianship was met with totally unbridled fun. 

If there was a question in the studio whether the bass could be dirtier then it was seemingly rolled through the mud, if a backing vocal could be more hysterical then it had to be done and if the swagger wasn’t where it needed to be then it was time for another drink. Everything about the record is joyously carefree and refreshingly bombastic beyond belief. 

Although it has now been absorbed into the wider tapestry of the whole P-Funk movement it is worth remembering that it is actually to the albums credit that they sit together as a whole. It is that unified scope and shared ethos that exudes the profound creative venture that they are part of because when you listen back to the records individually they still stand as an entity of singular class, none more so than The Clones of Dr Funkenstein.

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