LOS ANGELES, Calif. - On October 16, Collectors’ Choice will reflect on Bootsy Collins’ evolution as funk’s clown prince. In the 1980s, funk stretched its boundaries under the stewardship of George Clinton’s Parliament/Funkadelic and Bootsy Collins’ Rubber Band. Collins, a veteran of James Brown’s J.B.’s, learned from the best, fusing the Godfather’s riffs with psychedelia, disco, jazz and new wave - serving as a precursor, in fact, many of today’s jam bands. Re-released will be four pivotal funk albums: Stretchin’ Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band, The Boot Is Made for Fonk-N, Ultra Wave and The One Giveth, The Count Taketh Away.
Reissue annotator and venerated funkophile Ron Garman notes: "Bootsy Collins is proof that light-heartedness never needs to be inconsequential. Bon vivant, bedroom philosopher, wielder of the Space Bass and Thumposaurus Rex of the P-Funk, Bootsy belongs to that long line of musical jokers like Louis Prima and Rahsaan Roland Kirk: performers who evolved a comic persona out of their lives, loves and groovy philosophies."
Collins was born in Cincinnati and cut his musical teeth with the Pacesetters, which included brother Phelps "Catfish" Collins on guitar and Frankie "Kash" Waddy on drums, plus future Spinners lead vocalist Phillipe Wayne. They soon came to the attention of James Brown, who folded all four into the J.B.’s, playing on such hits as "Sex Machine" and "Superbad." J.B.’s horn man Fred Wesley took an interest in the Ohio funksters, but in time Bootsy and company felt ready for the next challenge.
Bootsy’s delight in funk’s unexplored possibilities came to full realization via Dr. Funkenstein a.k.a George Clinton, whose Parliament/Funkadelic had taken the genre to the next exponent of expression. When Clinton signed with Warner Bros. in 1975, the label noted the recurrent songwriter "W. Collins" and paid Bootsy a visit. Bootsy’s Rubber Band was thus launched, and a new epoch of bass-propelled funk was about to begin. For nearly a decade, it would prove the wildest music out there.
Collectors’ Choice has prepared four albums from Bootsy’s Warner era for reissue:
Stretching Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band: Bootsy enlisted J.B.’s Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker as well as his Pacesetters core unit to make Stretching Out, released in the U.S. Bicentennial year. Reaching No. 10 on Billboard’s R&B chart, the album featured the hits "I’d Rather Be With You" and "Stretching Out (In a Rubber Band)." As Garman describes it, "The spirit of James Brown hanging over the sessions lent tightness and force to the Clintonian hoopla, setting the template of tight horn arrangements bouncing off Bootsy’s ricochet bass and his uranium-heavy Space Bass that would define the rest of Collins’ ‘70s discography. It also launched a man with star shades and a giggly relationship with fame that continues to this day."
The Boot Is Made for Fonk-N: This 1979 album - Bootsy’s fourth -was best known for its hit "Jam Fan (Hot)" and came at a time when friend and funk competitor George Clinton’s Parliafunkadelicment Thang was arguably peaking. Bootsy had just come off the R&B Top 10 with "The Pinocchio Theory" and "Bootzilla." Fonk-N aimed for the dance floor, riding the crest of disco while maintaining a sense of humor. A caveat on the back cover read: "WARNING: The Surgeon General Has Determined That Listening To This Album May Cause High Butt Pressure." Reference points range from Sgt. Pepper to Steve Martin, and Bootsy introduces characters along the way like Bootzilla and Casper, and a new "space bass" called Gadjitmon.
Ultra Wave: Booty’s fifth album owes much to the new wave scene that conquered the world in 1980. According to Bootsy himself, "I was just trippin’ off (that) scene. I was doing a lot of clubbin’ at that particular time . . . I thought, ‘What could top new wave? Ultra! Ultra wave was the wave, man!" The Bootsy troupe was scaled down for the sessions, retaining the core unit of brother Catfish Collins, vocalist P-Nut Johnson and the Horny Horns (Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker). The single, "Mug-Push," made it to No. 23 R&B, but holds its own in comparison with later P-Funk.
The One Giveth, The Count Taketh Away: Bootsy’s last Warner Bros. album again featured Catfish, Bernie Worrell, P-Nut Johnson, Wesley and Parker, and added fellow Ohioans Midnight Star from funk capital Dayton. George Clinton produced the track "Shine-O- Myte." In many ways Bootsy’s most satirical album - which is saying a lot - it fell victim in the marketplace to the transition from disco to slicked-up dance pop. This album, however, is neither, running the gamut from chunky riffs to slow jams. Highlights include funk anthems "#1 Funkateer" and "Excon (of Love)."
Reflecting on his career, Collins told annotator Garman: "Well, man. You couldn’t even dream this up. You start out playing as a youngster as a hobby and it becomes wow, this is what I do! Then fans tell you things like, ‘You’re the reason I made it through college! You’re the reason I made fifty babies.’ Those things make you feel like it’s all worthwhile. I thank you for keepin’ the funk alive."
And Collectors’ Choice passes those thanks on to you.