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Original P

Review 08/20/98 From: Mike Theiss

'PARLIAMENT/FUNKADELIC' A.K.A. ORIGINAL P Live At the Showbox, Seattle, WA August 20, 1998 Concert Review [from] It's rare that I attend a concert with as much anticipation as I did going into the show. 'Original P', is of course the new rejuvination of Parliament/Funkadelic as initiated by original members Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas and Calvin Simon. The concert was promoted and advertised under the group name "Parliament/Funkadelic" (none of the ads said "Original P", though both names were posted on the marquis outside the club) and one particularly ironic ad for the club denoted that they were "The One and Only Parliament/Funkadelic"!!!! One could argue that using this name is misleading, as the big names people usually associate with the band (George Clinton, Bootsy, Bernie Worrell, Maceo,etc.) had no part. On the other hand --- though the supporting musicians were not people that have worked with the funk mob proper in the past, we DO have 4 of the 5 original members of "The Parliaments" which is really the beginning of the P as we know it, thus in my opinion they have as much right to use the name as anybody else does, seeing as how the group has divided into so many factions. I went to the show expecting to see people looking around "Which one is George Clinton?"" , ""What's Bootsy Doin?" etc. Much to my suprise, I swear I didn't hear ONE audience member mention either George's or Bootsy's name the whole night. And believe me, there was no reason to. Original P came in and delivered the goods. Threw down over 2 hours of PURE P FUNK. The show was great, everybody got their funk on and went home satisfied. The band, directed by drummer Ben Powers (Responsible for some much sampled breaks from the "Connections and Disconnections" album) kicked off the show with "Night of The Thumpasorus Peoples" (the whole song, just like on the record). Near the end of the jam, out came the vocalists... Ray Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas and Calvin Simon. Then they kicked into a hot version of "Standing On The Verge of Getting It On". I could hardly believe my eyes seeing Fuzzy and Calvin ---- both have been for the most part absent from the public eye since their "Connections and Disconnections" release in 1981. Ray Davis' powerful baritone voice really puts some meat into any vocal group --- the harmonies were tight and so was the band. The arrangement of "Standing..." was great too. They used it in a medley with "Pumpin' It Up" (like the P-Funk All Stars) and then built up to a frenzy using the bass/guitar vamp from Funkadelic's "Get Off Your Ass And Jam" as an outro. Without a pause, the band kept rolling, and immediately after "Standing..." they kicked into "Up For The Downstroke". Ben Powers was truly in the pocket and laid it down on the one like the groove on the original Parliament album. This was one of a few songs which suffered a bit from a lack of a horn section (synths used as a replacement) but otherwise it was tight. Next up was "Give Up The Funk" which was also on the one. This isn't my favorite P-Funk song, and I think it's a bit overrated, but who can argue with Ray's "Tear the Roof Off The Sucker..."? After this the band took their first pause and Fuzzy took the oppurtunity to say hello and tell everybody that it was "The Original P" we were watching. Next the band launched into an AMAZING rendition of the hit that started it all, the Parliaments "I Wanna Testify". This had to be heard to believed. George Clinton fans may recall that Dr. Funkenstein hasn't dared touch this song in his sets for decades. The Original P live arrangement for this tune was incredible. They basically used the "Up For the Downstroke" album version of this tune as a backbone --- the feel was very similar. But the vocal arrangement was unique and well executed. The first part started out with all four Parliaments singing, "Friends, inquisitive friends..." then the lines sort of split off and each of the four vocalists would sing a segment. It was slick as hell. It was also modernized with a funk keyboard vamp and some different gospel style kicks and rhythm things that really worked nicely. During the "Ooohhh, luscious. Sure been delicious to me-eee" segment the band pretty much cut out except for a kick drum on 2 and 4 as the Parliaments sang away in fat funky harmony. SWEET!! Then keyboardist Douglas Knight-Smith got a solo to show off with some nice energetic gospel style organ playing. This arrangement actually went on for over 12 minutes (though it didn't seem like it), including a long vamp where Fuzzy took the crowd to church "Can I get a witness?", "Did you come to get your funk on Seattle?". He pointed to different segments of the crowd "Can I get a witness over here? Can I get a witness over HERE!!!??" and then he said "I think the FUNK is over here!" and pointed to the crowd in the front and got everyone chanting "F - U - N - K!" Near the end the band jumped into one of those stock hand clappin' foot stompin' double time gospel grooves. Definitely among the highlights of the show. Next up was "The Goose" another highlight for me. Like the "Up For The Downstroke" rendition, nice and slow. This version was almost even better than that incredible version cause Calvin Simon was singing lead. Some may not know the voice by name, but believe me you'll remember Calvin's voice if you were to see him sing, and he sounded as great as ever last night. "Livin' The Life" (Parliament's "Osmium") comes to mind as an example of Calvin's heartfelt vocals. But what a moment to hear Calvin singing the leads on this song, for example: "The Goose that laid the golden egg, was a real real goose" followed by the backgrounds of Fuzzy, Grady, Ray and the female vocalists "Real, real goose". Songs like this really exploit the talent of this group. And Ray, RAY!!!! Damn that bottom gets me every time. Ray got the spotlight next, as he sang lead on the next number "Cosmic Slop"!!!!! Worked great that way too. Otherwise they pretty much stuck to the traditional live arrangement that Parliament/Funkadelic/P-Funk has played since the mid 70's and Gene Thomas Jr. (Grady's son) did a faithful re-creation of the guitar solo from the original recording. Next up was "Atomic Dog" a song I don't know that I necessarily would have expected them to do (Ray is the only one in the band connected to the original, though he certainly made his mark on it!) but it sounded great. Keyboardist Douglas Knight Smith sang many of the leads in this song. Doug's got a great voice, sort of like a young Garry Shider. I can't say I'm familiar with the next song, so I assume it's from the forthcoming "Original P" album. My guess at the title is "Party Down People". With a hook that says "Party! Party Down People. Everybody Party Down" this song was great. I'm guessing it's new simply cause I'm not familiar with it, but it sounds like something Fuzzy might have put out on one of his solo records in the mid-late 70's, or even something from a Funkadelic record back around the same time. Nice stuff. After this song the band took another pause and it was Calvin's turn to talk to the crowd. He dedicated the next song to Eddie Hazel, Glen Goins, Tiki Fulwood, Tyrone Lampkin, "and all the other sisters and brothers that have gone to that big funk party in the sky"" Nicely put. As you may have guessed, the next song was 'Maggot Brain'. Believe me, the band more than proved that they got their P down here. They added a unique touch to the arrangement, doing it a little bit different than it has been traditionally. Instead of starting off with a guitar doing the arpeggios at the beginning, keyboardist Peter Pisarczyk played that on his keyboard with a piano patch. There were no drums at the beginning, it was just Peter along with Baatin --- improvising some funky flute lines over the keyboard arpeggios. This went on for awhile and Baatin --- though primarily fuctioning as a keyboard player for the night really can blow that thang. After he was done with his flute solo, Baatin played a synth solo as well, which was also on the one. Still, just Baatin and Peter, but Baatin was really tapping into the spirit of the song, playing what Eddie might have played had he been a keyboardist, if you will. Then the whole band came in and Gene Thomas Jr. ripped the original Eddie Hazel melodies just as good as I've heard anybody play it (including Mike Hampton). One of the better live performances of the song I've heard. After that the band took a short intermission and left the stage for 10 to 15 minutes. The next half of the show was a bit weird in that they mostly did later P-Funk material recorded long after Fuzzy, Grady and Calvin left the group. Before the 4 lead vocalists came out the band performed a loose interpretation of Funkentelechy. This was a bit weird for me --- they started the arrangement off with the whole band playing the horn lines from this song. So the bassist and guitarists and everything were vamping on the line just played by the horns in the original. Different, but I think I prefer the original arrangment. However, this was Baatin's first oppurtunity to blow his saxophone, and believe me, he ain't fakin' the funk!!! I'm an alto saxophonist myself, and no easy critic to please, but Baatin has a sweet ass tone and a great sense for improvisation. I couldn't have been more pleased without Maceo Parker sitting on the stage in front of me. Baatin was so great in fact, that I wished that he was playing sax for most of the show, and that the band would recruit a few other horns, cause those synth horns just don't cut it on songs like "Up For The Down Stroke" and "Give Up The Funk". After that the vocalists came out and did "(Not Just) Knee Deep". Douglas Knight-Smith did the Phillipe Wynne scat. The boy can really sing and did a great interpretation, though he doesn't sound quite as much like Phillipe as Greg Thomas. It was interesting, even if a bit weird to see Ray, Fuzzy, Grady and Calvin singing this tune. Next was One Nation Under A Groove, once again Douglas Knight-Smith did many of the lead vocals. Doug does a pretty good Junie! Interestingly, they followed "One Nation Under A Groove" with a live interpretation of the remix of the God's Property/Kirk Franklin song "Stomp" (which borrows lines from "One Nation Under A Groove"). This was a feature for Emerald, Sonya and Jackie, the three background vocalists, each of whom have experience in various gospel choirs (though you probably wouldn't have guessed it from the outfits they were dressed in that night...). This song came off well and really showed that they had their vocals together. Having seven vocalists do the part of a whole gospel choir ain't easy, but they didn't sound the least bit empty. The guitarists got their turn to shine when the band busted out with Red Hot Mama next. Along with Gene Thomas Jr. and Billy Mimms, Baatin once again demonstrated his versatility playing guitar on this song. Each of them took solos at points in the song. After that Fuzzy started preaching about "Shining a light" or something like that, and who could have guessed.... they went into "Flash Light". This is one of the few performances of the night that left a little to be desired. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't too great either. Then they performed what I assume was an Original P original. Something about "What's that shakin' behind me like that?" Honestly, I was having trouble understanding what they were saying here, cause the sound system/engineering wasn't too great throughout the night. Everything was pretty distorted. This song was pretty good but had some elements that were a bit on the cheesy side. Never thought I'd ever see Calvin Simon do a rap before! After this song the band said good night, a few members gave everybody in the front row high fives and they left the stage. The crowd kept screaming and chanting though, and after a few minutes the band returned for an encore performance of "Mothership Connection". Interestingly, they stuck to the original arrangement of this song! That is to say, they went back in forth between the main vamp and the "Swing Down Sweet Chariot" section of the song, rather than just dividing the song into two parts and doing and once going to the "Swing Down" section vamping on to the end (as the song is usually done live). "Mothership..." was sort of a medley with "Music For Your Mother" (both them "mother" songs!) as they took us back in the day with the whole "Whoah Hah Hey!!!" routine to rap up their set. Overall I was very impressed with the show. Not too long, not to short -- they played for a total of about 2 hours and 20 minutes. Fuzzy, Ray and Calvin still got it, and I even had the oppurtunity to HEAR Grady! Never heard his leads previously, but the man ain't bad at all. The backing band was great too. Drummer and musical director Ben Powers in particular deserves a shout out, cause he was really in the pocket, something that has been a weak point in the bands led by more than one of the other P-Funk members fronting groups these days (hint, they both use the same guy!). Ben was not too flashy, and not to sparse at the same time and that was refreshing, cause it's the way it should be more often, he really held down the groove. Same goes for bassist Derrick Davis (son of Ray Davis). Derrick was in the pocket and held the bottom down much in the same way his father does with his vocals. The whole rest of the crew was great as well. My only real complaint is I think they need a horn section to really represent the songs to perfection. They've got Baatin who has the sax down, if they could just add a trumpet and trombone I think the show would really benefit. Also, the second set was heavily made up of the later 70's P-Funk material which as I mentioned, Ray was the only one that had any part in. I'd have liked to hear them do more of the earlier stuff. Tunes like "All Your Goodies are Gone" and "All Bet You" might have showcased the talents of the Original P vocalists more than say "Not Just Knee Deep" (kind of seems like they're catering to what fans ignorant to the music and those who made it might expect to see). I would have been estatic to see the group perform Fuzzy Haskin's "Cookie Jar" too. That and some of Fuzzy's other solo material (Which Way Do I Disco?) would have really put the show over the top for me. But I won't talk any more about what the band could have done better, cause they're doing a great job, and should be commended for that. If you're a fan of the P Funk and you decline the oppurtunity to see this band, believe me, you're short changing yourself. Note that the tickets were more than $10 cheaper than they were last time Dr. Funkenstein brought his crew through the same venue here in Seattle, so I don't wanna hear anybody complaining about not getting four hours (which is usually too long in my opinion anyway...) SET LIST: Intro/Night Of The Thumpasorus Peoples Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On/ Pumpin' It Up Up For The Downstroke Give Up The Funk I Wanna Testify The Goose Cosmic Slop Atomic Dog (Party Down People)? Maggot Brain (intermission) Funkentelechy (Not Just) Knee Deep One Nation Under A Groove Stomp Red Hot Mama Flash Light (What's that shakin' behind me like that)? (encore) Mothership Connection/Music For My Mother THE BAND: Original P Vocalists: Raymond Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Grady Thomas and Calvin Simon. Background vocals: Emerald Davis, Jackie Love, Sonya Holmes Keyboards, guitar, saxophone, flute: Baatin Lead guitar: Billy Mims Lead guitar: Gene Thomas Jr. (son of Grady Thomas) Drums and musical direction: Ben Powers Peter Pisarczyk: keyboards Douglas Knight-Smith: keyboards and vocals Derrick Davis -- bass (son of Ray)

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