Simply put, Mothership Connection is the album which proved that you could do the ostentatiousness of prog rock and still make the listener want to get up and dance. It’s a headspinningly brilliant throw down from funk to every middle-class prog rocker with aspirations to be taken seriously. Sure, prog rock often showed musicianship, but it also frequently took itself much too seriously. Parliament showed that you could do similarly ambitious musicianship and arrangements, but have groovy fun times that made you want to strut your stuff and dress up like a bunch of itinerant Muppets.
While George Clinton is the name quite rightly and most frequently associated with Parliament, it’s Bernie Worrell and the legendary Bootsy Collins that are Mothership Connection’s MVPs. While Bootsy’s reputation is writ large over funk and beyond, as is Clinton’s, Bernie Worrell’s contributions as probably THE great funk keyboard player are probably only truly appreciated once you’ve glanced at the credits on albums where you’ve gone “what the hell was that sound?” and spotted his name time and time again. Worrell’s playing is all over Mothership Connection and it is spectacular in the level of its invention. While I’ve appreciated Worrell’s playing on Talking Heads’ Stop Making Sense for years, it was only on hearing him on Mothership Connection that I fully realised just how great he was.
At just seven tracks and under forty minutes, Mothership Connection is immense despite its relative brevity, and provides a whole eco-system of music in its own right. It’s one of those albums that truly transports the listener out of the routine and everyday to planet funk each and every time, and while it is Clinton, Worrell and Bootsy who take centre stage throughout Mothership Connection, it’s evidently a truly collaborative endeavour, and if a single element was removed, it just wouldn’t have worked as well.
While there have been countless keyboard twiddlers and prog rock acts that have tried to transport the listener to science fiction universes, the majority have utterly failed to do so. Mothership Connection delivers what it promises, transportation from the mundane, entertaining good times, and the funk. Try as they might to seem interesting, the likes of Yes and their ilk never stood a chance.