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The Silent Boatman

“The Silent Boatman” is a real anomaly in the catalog, a pretty folk gospel ballad with organs and bagpipes that builds up to full chorus crescendo. Somehow I love the idea that P-Funk had a bagpipe player. President Clinton is still transitioning here from traditional R&B to interplanetary space funk rock – the troops are not all in place just yet and the overall sound is not as assured as it soon would be. But it’s got hooks. That’s what George always understood: melodies, chants, riffs that dig deeply into your maggot brain, that plant the P-Funk flag right there on your front lawn. P-Funk albums remind me of Zappa’s Mothers with their goofy sense of community, this band of real outcasts and outlaws shunned from the straight world, following their mad ringleader. So this is George’s Freak Out!, his twisted take on traditional forms before blasting off on his own vision. “Moonshine Heather” concerns the widow of war veteran who’s selling dope to feed her kids, and George is torn between somber observations of her predicament and an appreciation for the quality of her product. He’s not judging, just reporting the funk, folks. I like how we get a minute of acapella ‘composing’ of “My Automobile” before the song kicks in proper, with George and Fuzzy Haskins playing around with harmonies. De La Soul fans will recognize the country guitar riff and yodel of “Little Ole Country Boy” and the drum beat from “Come In Out Of The Rain,” although I’m sure there are lots of samples buried in these rich grooves.

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