Do that stuff, aw do that stuff

One of the funkiest albums ever recorded is The Clones Of Dr Funkenstein by Parliament. Even if you never listen to it, you’ll get funkier just by looking at the cover.

There’s much to love about this album beyond its joyously ridiculous science fiction theme. There are the deft, bebop-flavored horn charts by James Brown’s trombonist Fred Wesley. There are the irresistible beats by Jerome Brailey, who laid the rhythmic foundation of hip-hop (along with Clyde Stubblefield and the Incredible Bongo Band.) And there are the squiggly Moog synths by Bernie Worrell.

Bernie’s hottest lick out of many on this album is the one that kicks off “Do That Stuff:”

Bernie’s little synth phrase has had a long musical life outside its original context. Nice And Smooth used it as the hook for their classic “Funky For You.”

“Funky For You” made a big enough impact on hip-hop to have been sampled itself quite a few times. Red Hot Lover Tone used it on “Wanna Make Moves,” featuring Greg Nice himself.

The sample works just as well outside hip-hop. Röyksopp used it just last year in their delightful dance track, “Happy Up Here:”

The most exciting part of this track for me is the bridge, when Röyksopp transposes the sample to fit over a dramatic chord progression. I love it when samplers do this kind of adventurous reharmonizing, it brings electronic music closer to the intellectual spirit of jazz.

George Clinton has always been enthusiastically positive about the use of P-funk samples in hip-hop and elsewhere (though the owners of his copyrights aren’t nearly so open-minded, sadly.) Clinton’s pro-sampling attitude makes sense, given that he sometimes sampled from himself. “Do That Stuff” recycles a riff he used in an earlier song, “You Can’t Miss What You Can’t Measure” by Funkadelic.

If you’d like to hear a mashup I made of all the tracks mentioned above, get in touch.

The Clones Of Dr Funkenstein as a whole has been a rich source of inspiration for electronic musicians. Here’s a map of all the noteworthy samples; click through to see it bigger.

Bernie Worrell’s keyboards have had a bigger footprint in my music-listening life than just P-Funk and the many hip-hop songs sampling them. In the early eighties he was a regular guest member of Talking Heads. He plays on The Name Of This Band Is Talking Heads, Speaking In Tongues and Stop Making Sense. His plangent keyboard melody in “This Must Be The Place” is just begging to be sampled. Pretty much everything he’s put down sounds as fresh now as the day it was recorded. I want to go back and get more of that funky stuff!

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