Chocolate City (1975)

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Track Listing:

Chocolate City
	{G Clinton, W Collins, B Worrell}  5:37  lyrics
Ride On
	{G Clinton, W Collins, B Worrell}  3:34  lyrics
	{G Clinton, W Collins, B Worrell}  4:07  lyrics
Side Effects
	{G Clinton, W Collins, A Kilson}  3:13  lyrics
What Comes Funky
	{G Clinton, W Collins, B Worrell}  2:23  lyrics
Let Me Be
	{G Clinton, Vivian Lewis}  5:37  lyrics
If It Don't Fit (Don't Force It)
	{G Clinton, B Worrell, Garry Shider}  2:07  lyrics
I Misjudged You
	{G Clinton, Clarence Haskins, Ernie Harris}  5:14  lyrics
Big Footin'
	{G Clinton, C Haskins, G Shider}  4:50  lyrics


Bass: Bootsy Collins, Cordell "Boogie" Mosson, Prakash John
Guitar: Gary Shider, Bootsy Collins, Cordell Mosson
Drums: Tiki Fulwood, Ty Lampkin, Man In the Box
Keyboards: Bernie Worrell
Horn & String Arrangements: Bernie Worrell
Rhythm Arrangements: Bootsy Collins, George Clinton
Vocals: Parliament, Gary Shider, Eddie Hazel
Background Vocals: Mallia Franklin, Gary "Mudbone" Cooper

 "Chocolate City"
Lead Vocals: George Clinton
Piano Solo: Bernie Worrell
Sax Solo: Michael Brecker

 "Ride On"
Lead Vocals: George Clinton
Featured Background Vocals: Bootsy Collins, Mallia Franklin, Garry Shider,
 Gary "Mudbone" Cooper
Sax: Michael Brecker
Trumpet: Randy Brecker

Trombone Solo: Fred Wesley

 "Let Me Be"
Lead Vocals: Eddie Hazel

Rating: GZ *** RC ***1/2 MM ***


GZ: Highlights include title track, "Side Effects", "Ride On"

RC: The songwriting team of Clinton-Collins-Worrell starts to get warmed up here, but doesn't quite go all the way off--yet. The influence of the other Parliament members and Eddie Hazel has slowly faded by this time, and this album is 100% funk, all the way through. The early eclecticism is abandoned for jam after rump-shakin' jam. While it makes for a great party record, it doesn't make for the Funk Mob's greatest work of art, but it is certainly a good time. The album is solid from beginning to end, and even if it sounds a bit derivative of other funk acts, it doesn't matter much because of the raw talent of Bootsy & Bernie, the two people who completely dominate the album. Clinton adds such Isaac Hayes-inspired funk conventions as strings, female backing vocals, and wah-wah guitar to his usual mix. Lyrically, he dumbs it down a bit, or at least mainstreams it, making most of the songs typical chants for funk songs. Presumably, this was done for commercial reasons. Of course, the album did not prove to be a huge commercial success, possibly because there wasn't a lot about it that differentiated it from other good funk albums of the time, and there were many. It was only when Bootsy, Bernie and George unleashed their full weirdness and combined funk with jazz (on the musical end) and science fiction as a political metaphor (on the lyrical end) that things really took off.

Of course, the exception to everything mentioned above is the classic title track, "Chocolate City", one of Parliament's most brilliant creations. It features an early George rap, with the rhythm and tone of his voice in perfect synch with the rest of the song. The song is almost jazzy at points, with a lot of superb improvisation from the horns. That is, when they weren't being perfectly arranged by Bernie, another of his many skills. Bootsy holds down the bottom while Bernie plays one of his driving melodies, often doubling up with the bass. This is one of Parliament's earliest political rumblings, a positive, hilarious message about empowerment. `Gettin' deep. Real deep.` The next song, "Ride On", is a great dance groove, featuring irresistable hooks (`It ain't what you know, it's what you feel/Don't worry about being right, just be for real.`), a monstrous bassline from Bootsy, and get-your-feets-to-movin' wah-wah guitar. This is the best dance track on the album, with the heavy rhythm sound matched perfectly by the more muted horn section. "Together" continues that meaty bass sound, doubling up with the keyboard. Mudbone Cooper makes an early P.Funk appearance, with his trademark falsettos the highlight of the song. "Side Effects" is basically more of the same, this time with that Parliament lead-swapping trademark. Mallia Franklin is notable as a background singer. "What Comes Funky" features more lead vocals from George, with a more muted bass sound and a greater emphasis on vocals. "Let Me Be" finally slows down the pace, with a great piano intro from Bernie sliding smoothly into his trademark high synth sounds. It also features my favorite vocal performance of the album, again in perfect empathy with the music, as the vocals and music both swell to a crescendo. Eddie gets the credit here. "If It Don't Fit" is another good dance tune, much lighter in tone and faster in pace than the others on the album. It's driven by great backup vocals and another snappy keyboard melody, and enhanced by more subtle horn work. "I Misjudged You" is the obligatory slow ballad that shows up on most P.Funk albums. This one isn't one of the strongest, with the strings sounding a bit schmaltzy, and the lyrics are a bit weak. The album ends on a good note, with one of Parliament's most underrated dance jams, "Big Footin'", featuring some nice singing from Ray Davis, some great drumming, and standout vocals from Glenn Goins and the backup singers.

All-in-all, solid but not groundbreaking, and somewhat repetitive at points.

TK: The single "Together" was originally recorded by Bootsy & Complete Strangers. The only person I know that has the single is Flip Cornett, rhythm guitarist for the New Rubber Band.

MM: Cohesive, but not enough bite.