First Thangs (1994)

Jump to album lyrics for Osmium, where most of the tracks on First Thangs were originally released.
Or, jump to lyrics for the songs on First Thangs previously released on Rhenium.
Or, jump to lyrics of the songs first released on First Thangs.
Or, go back up to the Parliament album list.

Track Listing:

Red Hot Mama
	{G Clinton}  4:25
Come In Out of the Rain
	{Ruth Copeland, Clyde Wilson}  2:55
Fantasy Is Reality
	{Parliament}  3:58
	{C Wilson, G Clinton, R Copeland}  3:50
Loose Booty
	{Parliament}  10:15
Unfinished Instrumental
	{Parliament}  5:10
I Call My Baby Pussycat
	{Billy Nelson, Eddie Hazel, G Clinton}  4:21
Put Love In Your Life
	{G Clinton, Vivian Lewis}  5:04
Little Old Country Boy
	{R Copeland}  3:56
Moonshine Heather (Takin' Care of Business)
	{G Clinton}  4:03
Oh Lord, Why Lord/Prayer
	{P Trim, prayer by R Copeland}  4:57
My Automobile
	{Clarence Haskins, G Clinton}  4:42
There Is Nothing Before Me But Thang 
	{Ernie Harris, E Hazel, G Clinton, B Worrell} 3:52
Funky Woman
	{B Worrell, G Clinton}  2:53
Livin' The Life
	{G Clinton, B Worrell, B Nelson}  5:55
The Silent Boatmen
	{R Copeland}  5:50


Vocals: George Clinton, Raymond Davis, Clarence "Fuzzy" Haskins,
 Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas
Keyboards: Bernie Worrell
Lead Guitar: Eddie Hazel
Rhythm Guitar: Tawl Ross, Garry Shider
Bass: William 'Billy Bass' Nelson
Drums: Tiki Fulwood, Tyrone Lampkin

 "Fantasy is Reality"
Lead Vocal: George Clinton

 "Loose Booty"
Lead Vocal: George Clinton

 "Put Love In Your Life"
Lead Vocals: Ray Davis, George Clinton

 "Little Old Country Boy"
Lead Vocals: Fuzzy Haskins

 "Moonshine Heather"
Lead Vocals: George Clinton

 "Oh Lord Why Lord"
Lead Vocals: Calvin Simon

 "My Automobile"
Lead Vocals: George Clinton, Fuzzy Haskins

 "Funky Woman"
Lead Vocals: George Clinton

 "Livin' The Life"
Lead Vocals: Calvin Simon

Rating: GZ ?(Osmium ***) RC **** MM ?


GZ: Osmium is closer in sound to the early Funkadelic than to later Parliament, although I find it much lighter in spirit. This is fun, lightly soulful, psychedelia. I haven't heard Rhenium yet, but I gather that it replaces some Ruth Copeland compositions, with unreleased Parliament songs. Another point of reference here is the early Chairmen of the Board, which was more rocking than the soul harmony group they evolved into; "Finders Keepers" had several Parliament players on it.

MT: It should be noted that the version of "Red Hot Mama", "Breakdown" and "Come In Out Of The Rain" that appear on Rhenium and First Thangs are different versions. Rhenium appears to contain the original 45 versions (though I own none of the 45's) and First Thangs contains alternate versions/edits. The "Red Hot Mama" on First Thangs is a completely different take which is longer and more lively than the version on Rhenium. "Breakdown" is from the same take on both versions - but the First Thangs version contains an intro and bass/drums breakdown which were edited out of the version which appears on Rhenium. "Come In Out Of The Rain" sound the same to me - but the First Thangs version is fifteen seconds longer - so they must have edited something out of the Rhenium version.

Also - there was some bad print through on the master tapes used for First Thangs apparent on "My Automobile" which isn't on the Rhenium release. One of the versions appears with the stereo reversed - only I'd need to own a copy of Osmium to know which one.

RC: First Thangs is definitely the CD to get if you want the complete look at Parliament from around 1970-72. However, it's less coherent than the original album, especially when you add in lengthy instrumentals and singles. The tracks from the original Osmium album are as follows: "I Call My Baby Pussycat", "Put Love In Your Life", "Little Old Country Boy", "Moonshine Heather (Takin' Care of Business)", "Oh Lord, Why Lord/Prayer", "My Automobile", "There Is Nothing Before Me But Thang", "Funky Woman" "Livin' The Life" and "The Silent Boatmen". Added to the Rhenium CD were the Parliament singles "The Breakdown", "Come In Out Of The Rain" and "Red Hot Mama". Lastly, First Thangs tacks on "Unfinished Instrumental", "Loose Booty", and "Fantasy Is Reality". Rhenium is an import-only CD. There's also a CD rerelease of Osmium, but I'm not sure what tracks are on that. I'll review each wave of songs separately.

In general, the album is a brilliant and eclectic collection of styles. Every song tries some new trick or experiment, some of which work, while the failures are at least interesting. As a precursor to most of P.Funk's later work, this album can be regarded as a blueprint for How To Funk Like The Others Don't. With the weird lyrics, instruments and arrangements, this album is really not like any other, before or since. Some of the riffs and songs would be used again later, many would be used in concert for years to come, and others would never be heard from again. But if you want to hear a variety of styles ranging from gospel to country-western to rockabilly to acid rock to waaay-back yonder funk to god knows what else, it's all here.

Starting with the original songs, "I Call My Baby Pussycat" is quite different than the version that would end up on Funkadelic's America Eats Its Young. The vocals, (sung by Fuzzy & Ray, I think), are much clearer, and the guitar line is a lot more straightforward. Plus, of course, the minor lyrical differences, "pussy vs pussycat" and all the connotations therein. I actually almost prefer this version, with the "whoa-ha-hey! whoa-ha-ha" chant thrown in the middle. A funky rocker, but fairly straightforward. But with "Put Love In Your Life", things begin to get weird, with that spoken word intro with a haunting organ in the background. The singers really switch off leads in jarring fashion, and this album features a great deal of Ray Davis, for instance. This song features singing and a number of jarring stops and starts, with odd echoes and reverb behind thrown in. Then it suddenly lurches into high gear, with an incredible Billy Nelson bass vamp, stops again, then steadies itself with a chorus of voices, including Ruth Copeland hitting the high notes. Unmatched weirdness. After that, you get "Little Old Country Boy", which is a country song equipped with yodels, a gorgeous lap-steel guitar solo straight outta Memphis, and hilarious vocals from Fuzzy. We then switch to "Moonshine Heather", a slow, funky groove of a tune about a mother who must sell moonshine to support her kids. A precursor to "Cosmic Slop"? "Oh Lord, Why Lord", a cry against racism, is set to an almost classical-sounding arrangement, with Bernie's influence quite evident here. "My Automobile", with a pre-song conference detailing how it was written, is spectacular rockabilly, pure and simple. A great riff from Eddie and a pure rock bassline drive the amusingly sexist lyrics, and when Fuzzy sings them it strikes you as funny, not nasty. It's interesting that you hear George sort of hum a tune, and Bernie suddenly turns it into a real tune on his piano. I imagine this happened more than once. Things gallop back into the funky neighborhood with "Nothing Before Me But Thang", another Eddie-lead excursion, with such lyrics as "It's good to be hard, but it's hard to be good." Bernie is the star of that ode to menstruation, "Funky Woman", with a great solo, but the guitarists also keep this one rocking. The album's masterpiece, "Livin' The Life", features brilliant lyrics, a delicate Bernie piano intro, a great acoustic/wah-wah guitar interweaving, and a crescendo to an amazing riff that was later lifted for the entirety of "Hardcore Jollies". The section concludes with "The Silent Boatmen", a bizarre song featuring bagpipes and an ode to the Ferryman of Death.

As for the singles, "Red Hot Mama" is great, but would become greater when redone a few years later. I do love the different feedback-fuzzy guitar intro on this one, though. "Come In Out Of The Rain" features lines later quoted in "Gamin' On Ya", and is a great put-down on a complacent society. "Fantasy Is Reality" later popped up on the Earth Tour Album, but this version features George doing the lyrics. Not their strongest song, it does have the line, "I'm free because I'm free of the need to be free," which would be used many times later. "The Breakdown" is an ordinary, but fun, funk/dance jam. "Loose Booty" is mostly unfinished intrumental stuff that would later be sorted out to form the classic on America Eats Its Young. George's lyrics are hilarious.

This album shows George at his most adventurous in the studio, before he knew how to produce P.Funk's trademark sound, but it was also an attempt to be more "commercial" than Funkadelic, with an emphasis on singing. Of course, the album failed miserably commercially, but it's still a brilliant and fascinating collection of songs.