World Wide Funk is funk, plain and simple – and not just because it seems the album uses the word ‘funk’ over a hundred times in the lyrics. The album is beautifully retro, hitting up all the classic tenets of funk as if it’s going through a checklist.
The album is the ninth solo outing from Bootsy Collins, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame-inducted funk bass legend from Parliament-Funkadelic and The J.B.’s. Its title track especially sounds like it could have been played back in the 1970s, during the height of Collins’ career. “World Wide Funk” is a beautiful celebration, a tightly created party jam. The horns, synths, and percussion all work together perfectly, devolving into an amazingly intricate guitar solo from the guitarist Buckethead. It doesn’t sound over-played or trite, but instead sounds wonderfully familiar. Collins could have released this at any point in his career and it sounds like it would fit.
This also means that if you don’t like funk or find the genre confusing, incomprehensible, or simply TOO much, then you’ll dislike this album. But as someone with a bit of a love for the funk genre? I’m digging this.
It’s always tricky to balance an artist’s classic sound while still finding a way to make it seem bright and fresh. Thankfully, Collins succeeds. The Afro-futurist lyrics are peppered with modern references, contrasting beautifully with the classic funk sound, updating it without changing it. Occasionally, the sound even changes itself: songs like “Hot Saucer” feel very conventional, almost like they could fit in between the current retro-themed R&B of Top 40 stations. Still, the funk tinges in the sound an amazingly funky lyrics keep it from feeling too mainstream.
The album is a celebration of Collins. Spoken-word snippets and brief selections of interviews are spliced in between the songs and throughout the album. While it could seem too self-congratulatory, Collins has undoubtedly earned it, having been in the funk scene for over forty years. Likewise, Collins has always had this larger than life persona through the P-funk mythology, an intertwining and recurring Afrofuturistic mythology sprinkled throughout Parliament-Funkadelic’s work. Through the spoken word bits, Collins turns himself into one of these larger than life Dr. Funkenstein-esque figures not fully as an act of egotism, but also as a call back to the history of funk.
Though this is a celebration of Collins, he’s perfectly fine sharing the spotlight. World Wide Funk is a veritable who’s who of famous faces and up and comers in the funk scene. Artists featured on the album include rapper and beatboxer Doug E. Fresh, bassist Victor Wooten, bassist Alissia Benveniste, and rapper Big Daddy Kane. Songs like “Bass-Rigged System,” a bright and fun funk jam, let everybody show off and have their moment in the sun, showing us what they’re made of. And, considering that Collins has assembled an amazingly talented roster, everyone knocks it out of the park. The best sharing of the spotlight goes to “A Salute to Bernie,” a tribute to funk keyboardist and founding member of Parliament-Funkadelic Bernie Worrell, who died earlier this year. Worrell also shines through in the track, through previously unused synthesizer tracks which remain the star of the show.
This album sounds amazing. It’s edited and arranged perfectly: the sound balance is amazing, letting all the individual pieces shine forth while still having a coherent whole. In true funk fashion, the songs are quite long and very few are under five minutes. But it’s due to the tight songwriting as well as the sound continually pushing forward that the songs don’t feel as long as they are. If World Wide Funk shows anything, it’s Collins’s perfect understanding of the genre and what a master of funk he is in the first place.