Thursday, May 7, 2015

Funkronomicon: Axiom Funk

Courtesy of the prolific and diverse Bill Laswell came this 1995 release on his Island Records-distributed Axiom imprint, highlighting a varied selection of funk-related music comprised of some previously-recorded tracks and material that had not been released.

With its fundamental contributions from keyboardist Bernie Worrell and bassist Bootsy Collins and an appearance on one track by George Clinton, the lineage with Parliament-Funkadelic is clear, but there are also elements representative of new formulations shepherded by Laswell that add to the appeal of this masterpiece.

For example, who else other than Laswell could get reggae rhythm legends Robbie Shakespeare (bass) and Sly Dunbar (drums) to appear with Clinton and Collins, as well as jazz pianist Herbie Hancock and alto master Henry Threadgill, all on one tune, "Under the Influence (Jes Grew)?  How about violinist Lili Haydn and the amazing guitarist Buckethead teamed with Collins and Blackbyrd McKnight (formerly with Hancock's Headhunters, P-Funk, Red Hot Chili Peppers and others)?

In addition, you've got among the last recordings of the phenomenal guitarist Eddie Hazel, the great alto sax player Maceo Parker, the amazing guitarist Gary Shider, a rare appearance from Sly Stone, Abiodun Oyowole and Umar bin Hassan from the legendary Last Poets, organist extraordinaire Amina Claudine Myers, and other fine musicians added to the mix.

Finally, what would an album like this be without the artwork of Pedro Bell, who illustrated so many classic P-Funk covers?   From the front cover image shown here, to a fantastic collage of images on another panel to the hilarious cartoon "Funkcronomixx: Wot Da Hell Is up?!", the use of Bell's work is a perfect capstone to a great album and it is worth noting that, in the credits, after Bell's listing is the phrase, ". . .And may we be forgiven for we know not what we've done."

A short essay (statement) on Funkcronomicon (a play on Necronomicon), employing clever wordplay, playful nonsense, a nod to the late Eddie Hazel, and possibly a hint of seriousness about what funk can do to shake up a complacent, overly-ordered and jaded word is attributed to Sir Lleb of Funkadelia!

Considering that the funk embodied by Clinton's Parliament-Funkadelic collective had its heyday in the late 1970s, Laswell's embodiment of "collision music," in putting together so many diverse musicians on Funkcronomicon nearly twenty years later is an impressive achievement.  Those expecting a rehash of the prime P-Funk era will be disappointed, but that would be the easy way out.  Channeling the spirit of the collective while moving the music in new and compelling directions is what makes this album so good.

As the label on the packaging calls it, this is music "probing the depths of futuristic funkadelia."  It is a great recording from Laswell and his P-Funk and other partners.

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