Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Parliament / Funkadelic Cover Gallery

George Clinton tried to be a one-man music industry in the 1970s. Well, not one-man, of course, but one leader. The full P-Funk stable was dizzying in its size and breadth - and is still carrying on today. For the purposes of this article, I've decided to stick to the two main brands, "Parliament" and "Funkadelic", and stick to the prime of the 1970s, when each new album was like a new edition of a magazine you subscribed to.

The first five here, four under the "Funkadelic" name and only one as "Parliament", are atypical of P-Funk album designs. They're early efforts, released before the visual side of the P-Funk experience had really settled. But the thing is, they're great covers. Definitely early-seventies post-hippie work, but lovely all the same. The obvious highlight is Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow, an album with a great name and a great cover: it's a gatefold, and it opens up to reveal the naked bottom half of the girl. Mind freed on one side, ass following on the back.

And the Funkadelic 'look' appears, in the form of Pedro Bell. His work is not really 'good' in any real sense, but it's cheap-thrills fun. Sci-fi comic book meets high school kid doodling in his notebook. Scary women with breasts that are actually something else, Halloweeny imagery, and a genuine logo! The two Parliament albums are disparate, though Up for the Down Stroke looks like a Pedro Bell piece acted out, and Chocolate City is a decent cover celebrating Washington, but looks like it belongs to some other band.

And now it's Parliament with the brand power - a definite logo too and a clear visual identity. These look like stills from a "P-Funk Mothership Movie". Silly stuff (and silly names) but clearly identifiable. Pedro Bell is slacking, and Hardcore Jollies in particular is a pretty horrible cover, reminiscent of Bukkake.

And now Parliament has the cartoons and Funkadelic the photographs... But Parliament's anthrpomorphic doodles are a lot cleaner than Pedro Bell's. They don't mean much, but they're pretty. And Uncle Jam Wants You is just an awesome presidential campaign poster.

And the bitter end. The last Parliament album, with the elephant-man, is intriguing, but atypical to say the least. The last proper Funkadelic album had a business-as-usual Pedro Bell cover, that for some reason got censored with a tacky green Inner City Sex Pistols design that, while ugly, makes the cover at least more interesting. The last Funkadelic here has contents as incongruous as its cover: with no George Clinton involvement whatsoever, it was made by three ex-Funkadelic members. Using the same name. The cover looks like it belongs to a different band, as indeed it does.