Hippo Manchester
November 10, 2005

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George Clinton and the P-Funk All Stars, How Late Do You Have 2BB4UR Absent?

**

We’ve waited an awfully long time for George Clinton.

After years of delays, legal snafus, label problems and the odd drug bust, Uncle Jam has finally returned with a new platter. There’s no question among generations of fans that his return is a welcome one. But need he have bothered?

Though the advent of numerous Clinton disciples in the hip-hop world restored his iconic luster in the early 1990s, the man hasn’t put out a memorable record since about 1983. Sure, he’s knocked off a decent track now and then, but the eternal grooves, riotous aural wit and mischievous spirit of classic P-Funk has been mostly absent, replaced by a muddle of failed rap excursions and undercooked contempo-funk.

I’m dismayed to report that How Late is yet another muddle. It proves only that the P-Funk organization is in need of a serious overhaul. For every clever moment there are a couple of dead ends, the worst being two unlistenable showcases for singer Belita Woods.

The best moments on How Late come when Clinton lifts his head out of the sand and steps to the mike, especially on the tracks credited to Funkadelic. “Because/ Last Time Zone,” channels the cosmic jive of early P-Funk, but “Neverending Love” is the real keeper. The vaudeville-styled number finds George excoriating cynical hangers-on —“Everbody wish I would die/So they can write/My life story” —  even while he reassures the rest of us, “But it’s never-ending, my love.”  Nothing else matches that peak, though, and there’s no way Clinton can justify its two-disc amplitude. The hip-hop acts who owe their careers to him have nothing to fear, and they’ve got better funk besides. Sorry, Uncle Jam, but when I want my funk uncut I think I’ll call Andre 3000 — this placebo just won’t do the trick.

— Ben Doleac