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A cool Clinton – George, not Roger

Live and Kickin'
Live ... and Kickin'
By George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars

Intersound Records: 1997

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This review first appeared in the December 27, 1997 edition of the American Reporter.

George Clinton should be required listening for all those Gen Xers who think '70s funk was all about giant afros, rhinestones and platform shoes. Clinton may not have invented funk (at least not singlehandedly), but he damn near perfected it with his two monster bands Funkadelic and Parliament.

While those two outfits were known for their out-there stage shows and theatrics – hell, they made Sun Ra look like Lawrence Welk by comparison – any and all Clinton projects were grounded in the music.

Most importantly about Clinton, he's never sat on his ass musically. While even top-notch funk bands like the Ohio Players and The Meters today confine themselves to sentiment tours, cranking out the old hits for a complacent crowd, George Clinton continues to evolve the music, to push funk in places the acid jazz crowd doesn't even know exist.

A two-disc set mixing live and studio tracks from Clinton shows that he's still too far out for most folks. Even covers of his old hits just rip off in new directions. "Maggot Brain" is more metal than any 20-something band could handle. "Make My Funk the P-Funk" sounds as if it could have been arranged by Frank Zappa (really, the only other artist who was on Clinton's level conceptually). "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off)" is Art Ensemble of Chicago meets Taj Mahal: gospel-influenced vocals, tight little horn charts and hard funk back beat.

The sound quality on the live tracks is as clear as the studio stuff; if there's a complaint it's the lack of credits on the liner notes. Be nice to know who the P-Funk All Stars are. (This is on the same small, hip label that a couple years back introduced Philadelphia lounge singer Ronnie James, who had the swingingest bit of jive jazz this side of Cab Calloway or Bob Dorough.) Pretty minor complaint on an outstanding release that shows one of the '70s most creative artists still going strong.