1/ Woo Doo (Laswell,Worrell) 4.08 2/ Flashlight-Redux (Worrell,Clinton,Collins) 3.52 3/ Outer Woo (Laswell,Worrell) 5.28 4/ Flash Back (Laswell,Worrell) 3.26 5/ Shochurolling (Laswell,Worrell) 3.34 Created at Orange Music Sound, W. Orange, New Jersey Engineered by Robert Musso Additional engineering: James Dellatacoma Produced and arranged by Bill Laswell Mastered by James DellatacomaBill Laswell: bass, guitar (1); Bernie Worrell: keyboards; Karsh Kale: drums.
2016 - MOD Technologies Digital (USA), MODDS0028 (Digital)
“Woo Doo” gets the party going with a strong but clean groove, paced by Laswell’s thick bass lines and Worrell’s Headhunters-evoking clavinet. The Parliament hit “Flashlight” is reduced down to its tough core pulse, nearly unrecognizable from the original except for Woo’s occasional synth quote of the chorus. “Outer Woo” begins with stately, huge-assed organ chords before Laswell + Kale breaks in with a pliant bass-led vamp that thumps hard as Worrell proceeds to needle his Moog for a bit. Laswell’s bass line is even more righteous for “Flash Back,” a solid bedrock over which Worrell extemporizes with his signature spacy synth quips. And “Shohurolling” breaks the string of songs without a bridge but is just as biting.
These jams aren’t extended though I wish they’d go on for longer even if no one is exerting themselves that much over these simple riffs. Because after all, simplicity is the point of Funkcronomic: you take out all the weird, zany stuff out of P-Funk and what remains is what changed funk music forever. For twenty minutes, Funkcronomic captures that sweet core of George Clinton’s innovations.
S. Victor Aaron (courtesy of the Something Else! website)
Every Bernie Worrell-related release is a work of art, but Funkcronomic is perhaps the most significant collection of songs the Wizard of WOO has ever delivered.
One of the greatest musicians of our time, Worrell is in the final stages of his battle with a host of ailments including prostate cancer and Stage IV lung cancer. As we say goodbye to such an incomparable creative force, we can find solace in the fact that Worrell spent his final months as productive as ever. Earlier this year, Worrell gifted the world with Retrospectives, an instrumental collection of reimagined Parliament-Funkadelic classics co-produced by longtime collaborator Bill Laswell and featuring the talents of drummer extraordinaire Don McKenzie. At the same time, he stepped up his work in developing Native American-infused Funk with his band Khu.éex', who are set to release a long-awaited studio album in the near future. (I was fortunate enough to catch Khu.éex' – with Worrell in tow – live in Seattle on his 72nd birthday in April. It was easily one of the greatest music events I've ever seen.) But it is Funkcronomic that is closest to many hearts these days, as it could end up being the final new Bernie Worrell music released in the man's lifetime.
Released June 10 on M.O.D. Technologies, the digital-only Funkcronomic is a five-song instrumental EP that finds Worrell taking a sonic voyage with Laswell on bass and guitar and Indian DJ / producer Karsh Kale handling drums. The festivities are bookended by “Woo Doo” and “Shochurolling,” two '70s-style Funk numbers that instantly recall the magic of Worrell's time in Parliament-Funkadelic. The power of this era in Worrell's career is reinforced in “Flashlight-Redux,” which finds Laswell and Kale putting down a bulletproof foundation for Worrell to showcase his trademark groove. Folks, you could get 100 of the world's greatest keyboardists to cover this P-Funk classic, and there ain't nobody out there who's gonna top the Wizard.
A great Bernie Worrell song or live show is a sonic roller coaster that literally takes you somewhere else as the maestro works his magic. As each song ends, listeners and/or audience members (at least those truly paying attention and feeling it) are delivered back to Earth, grateful to have been able to take the trip. Funkcronomic's “Outer Woo” exemplifies this phenomenon, with Worrell's otherworldly keys opening our ears to the EP's trippiest and most mind-altering moments.
While the multifaceted Laswell is as known for instigating unadulterated noise with the likes of Praxis and PainKiller as he is for producing artists like Peter Gabriel and Mick Jagger, his playing on Funkcronomic is both conventional and inspired, offering a solid flow to Worrell's esoteric explorations. Kale's spirited drumming add a bounce and sense of looseness to the affair (especially on “Flash Back”), adding further evidence that three three gentlemen truly enjoyed making this music together. Flawless from beginning to end, Funkcronomic is not only another great addition to the Worrell canon, but an excellent way for the uninitiated to be introduced to a magical soul who is leaving us with a least one more way to enjoy his incomparable craft.
When I interviewed Bernie in January, he left me with these words: “Be careful out there; [it's a] crazy world.”
You too, Bernie. May your journey from this life be peaceful and full of the same beauty and joy you've given us during your time here. We will treasure you always.
Joel Gausten (courtesy of the Joel Gausten website)
At the midpoint of Shochurolling, the fifth song from the new release Funkcronomic by Bill Laswell, Bernie Worrell, and Karsh Kale, Worrell resorts to his keyboard voicing of the playful and inquisitive alien. It’s a childlike tone of exploration that has garnered this master of the keyboard praise and recognition for decades. Laswell’s intricate bass work and Karsh Kale’s steady drum push on the track gives Worrell the proper latitude for stretching ideas and color palettes into a full-on galactic ecosystem.
FunkcronomicThis five song EP, released last week on the M.O.D. Technologies imprint, catches the musicians in a lean, stripped down, power trio stance. Recorded approximately 15 years ago, it serves as a helpful reminder that Worrell, who has influenced and played in two Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Bands, can be an orchestra all by himself. On the track Flashback, Worrell runs three different relationships in sound at once. It is as if the id, the ego, and the superego sat down for brunch and sipped on absinthe for an afternoon. These interlocking sounds all exist outside and within the bass and drum framework. Or on Outer Woo, he begins with a choral chamber introduction before segueing into the groove with a sideway attack.
These compositions, edited, mixed and mastered by Laswell himself earlier this year, give proper perspective to the flexibility of style — either jazz fusion, classical choral references, or outer stellar acid freeze mode — that Worrell still continues to execute on a dime.
“I met Bernie while working on a record with Nona Hendrix. David Byrne met Bernie around the same time and I stayed in touch with him,” said Laswell in an SFSONIC interview. “Bernie is an intuitive musician. He’s spaced out. He doesn’t really know where he is most of the time, but when he sits down to play, it’s a whole different thing. He’s been like that as long as I’ve known him.”
Worrell, who is currently fighting stage four lung cancer, was the Musical Director for Parliament-Funkadelic in the mid to late 1970’s. Then, in the early 1980’s, he accompanied Talking Heads to strengthen their rhythmic sound and stage presence.
David Byrne credited the keyboard player in shaping his own criterion for composing in a heartfelt statement released on Byrne’s website earlier this year.
“Bernie is classically trained (as well as having perfect pitch-I’ve heard him improvise with the sounds of traffic), so he brought those skills to the Afro-Futurism of the P Funk universe…a bit of keyboard cosmos into the funk chants and beats of that world that made it what it was. I learned a lot from that music, and of course from the time spent traveling and playing with Bernie-wordplay, musical attitude and a lot more. He informed the musician and composer I was to become.”
John-Paul Shiver (courtesy of the SF Sonic website)