“Bootsy Collins has rightfully received accolades as funk’s second officer (after George Clinton — and it should be third after James Brown and Clinton). For decades he has been sampled by every rapper from Snoop Dogg to OutKast, and virtually created the bass sound that made the Red Hot Chili Peppers a household name and that created a career for Les Claypool. Yet, his most influential sound emanated not from his tenure with James Brown or P-Funk, but his own Rubber Band, and until now that wooly, wild, and surreal unit has never been properly anthologized. Rhino, in their usual thorough, crazy fashion, have directed the folks at the Warner archives and have created a massive, drop-the-bomb two-disc set that sets the record straight. This may not be no disco but it sho’ ’nuff is some mean foolin’ around. Sorry. Got carried away. In the middle of “Psychotic Bumpschool,” the refrain David Byrne ripped off for “Life During Wartime” rears its beautiful, black, sassy head and introduces itself. The tune wraps itself around your head with that bass up front and as nasty and greasy as a lube job on a vintage Ford. Released in 1976 and recorded at P-Funk’s home studio, United Sound, in Detroit with Clinton, this is just one of four tunes from Stretchin’ out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Collins’ debut.
And where else but Detroit? This was the place Collins developed his deep-space bass with the P-Funk organization and was encouraged by Papa Funk to go out on his own — with George producing, of course. Also from this revolutionary slab of Roman-orgy pleasure psychoses are “Stretchin’ Out (In a Rubber Band),” “I’d Rather Be With You,” and “Vanish in Our Sleep,” all co-written with Clinton. These are the four singles issued from the LP which hit number ten on the R&B charts and number 56 on the pop charts. Three of the four charted. Some of the cats helping out on this date were guitarists Michael Hampton and Garry Shider, Phelps Collins, and a horn section that included Fred Wesley and the Brecker Brothers. Next up we get five tracks from Bootsy’s breakthrough album, Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!, with space dub sounds that rivaled anything ever spliced together by Lee “Scratch” Perry. And there are no lower ones in recorded bass history than on this heavyweight funk & roll soul record. The title track is a co-write with Clinton and Maceo Parker, who joins the cast of the first album along with P-Funk keyboard-king Bernie Worrell. This is the funk jam disc, where everything comes off, including the damn lid: excess, dirty grooves, and that low-ridin’ bass come steamin’ out of the speakers into meltdown territory. The horns meet the rhythm section in a devilish groove and about 100 voices act as a chorus to phony crowd noise, but who gives a sh*t? It jams! The crazy thing is, it is toppled by the very next cut, “Pinocchio Theory.” From the center of Planet FONK, Bootsy and Clinton weave together the pumped-up bass, stretched to its thumbed limit, and add some obnoxious keyboards that push the tune over the limit. If it weren’t for the chorus, which becomes the tune’s lyric body, the whole thing would disintegrate. “Munchies for Your Love,” “What’s a Telephone Bill?,” and the killer freaky soul of “Can’t Stay Away” close out the selections from an album that reached number one on the R&B chart and number 16 on the pop charts. With the groove throne firmly established, and P-Funk beginning to move the funk into disco territory, Bootsy was the undisputed king of the genre until Rick James toppled him a few years later. Rhino has closed out disc one and opened disc two with four tracks, with “Roto-Rooter” and “Very Yes” from the man’s next chart-topping success, Bootsy? Player of the Year. If you don’t know about “Roto-Rooter,” you should. This is acid-drenched funk at its most extreme. Sweet vocals exaggerated to an extreme are held in check by a bass that pops the groove into their faces. It’s an elongated synth-string freak-out that’s a tribute to bonin’. One can hear Jamaican soul in the backbeat and the fill rhythms. And the distorted vocals stretch out across both channels and drive the keyboards and Bootsy’s strings into overdrive, going out in a freak-out of noisy effects and detuned bass overload.
Disc two slides and slithers its way into deeper, weirder, freakier territory, sampling cuts from no less than five recordings, including the mutation of Bootsy’s Rubber Band into the Sweat Band. Lineups change very little from recording to recording, and Clinton is on board for all of them, but there are different backing vocalists and characters like Detroit’s Larry Fratangelo and Jeanette Washington added to the mix. Of course, we have the anthem of late-’70s freak funk, “Bootzilla” — which if you haven’t heard, drop your TV dinner and go to a record store right now because you’ve been indoors waaay too long. But there are also offerings that wouldn’t be so readily noticed: “She Jam” and “Jam Fan (Hot).” These were singles or B-sides from This Boot Is Made for Fonk-N, which charted at number six on the R&B chart and number 52 in the pop charts (hopeless squares, those pop fans). But in 1979 the climate was changing; James had hit the scene, Prince had made his mark, and disco was on its way to the hell it so richly deserved. By the time we hear the tracks from Ultra-Wave, issued in 1980, we can see Bootsy’s moment had slipped from the skyline. Even with massive jams like “F-Encounter” and “Mug Push,” the set only reached number 30 on the R&B list and failed to crack the Top 50 in pop. The killer single “Freak to Freak,” with a dual bassline and whomping-ass keyboard bass — for a three-bass hit — only marked 26 at R&B, and was Bootsy’s first non-Warner record in six years. Clinton used his CBS deal to issue the single and album on Uncle Jam. Collins was playin’ Rick James’ game and losing; even though he did it far better, he was considered old-school by the funk-buying public, and white kids — other than Detroiters and Ohioans — had yet to encounter the Super FONK. Five of the last six tracks are taken from the criminally underrated The One Giveth, the Count Taketh Away, which slipped to 18 in the R&B charts and failed to crack the Hot 100 in Billboard’s pop bible. What is baffling is that this may be Collins’ strongest, most individual music. Cuts like “Countrakula,” “Landshark”, and “Shine-O-Myte” are so far out in the zone they’re close encounters of a tenth kind. The entire set ends with a 12″ mix of the classic “Body Slam!,” and coincidentally, the listener is exhausted, dragged through the stratosphere to the pit of soul & roll to the elevated plateaus of the funk kingdom. This collection is every bit as necessary as the Funkadelic singles compilation, Parliament’s Chronicles and First Thangs collection, and the James Brown 20 Greatest Hits comp. This is the sh*t that got kickin’ and keeps on tickin’ over 30 years after the original bomb was dropped.” – Allmusic Review.