Bernie Worrell – All The Woo In The World (1978)

Bernie Worrell
All The Woo In The World
1978 Arista AB 4201
1.Woo Together 04:34   
2. I’ll Be With You 07:26   
3. Hold On 04:53   
4. Much Thrust 03:54   
5. Happy to Have (Happiness on Our Side) 07:36   
6. Insurance Man For The Funk 12:32   
7. Reprise: Much Thrust 00:40    
Lead vocals: Bernie Worrell
    “Assistant lead” vocals: Garry Shider, Walter Morrison, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins
    All keyboards: Bernie Worrell
    Additional keyboards on “Hold On”: Walter Morrison
    Guitars: Garry Shider, Walter Morrison, Eddie Hazel, Glenn Goins, Phelps Collins, Bootsy Collins, Michael Hampton
    Bass: Rodney Curtis, Billy Bass Nelson
    Drums: Tyrone Lampkin, Jim Wright, Gary Cooper
    Horns: Fred Wesley, Maceo Parker, Richard Griffith, Rick Gardner
    Saxophone solo on “Hold On”: Eli Fontaine
    Background vocals: Brides of Funkenstein, Parlet, George Clinton, Bootsy Collins and the voices of the nation.

I’ve been absent from blogging lately for a variety of reasons, none of them important right now.  It’s been brought to my attention that keyboard genius and funk cosmonaut Bernie Worrell is suffering from stage 4 cancer without the means to pay for his treatment, and a fundraiser is being held tomorrow, April 4, at Webster Hall in NYC.   I’ve been throwing my support behind a different guy named Bernie lately, so it seems reasonable to do whatever small thing I can do to help draw attention to what’s happening with Worrell, who’s work has brought me endless hours of pleasure and bemused befuddlement.

For the many non-New Yorkers who follow this blog, you can help the man by buying a download from his Bandcamp site, which you can get to by following the links under “Music” on his main website at http://bernieworrell.com/.  You can also follow him on Facebook for updates on his situation.

I’d like to highlight his first solo release, All The Woo In The World.  If you search around hard enough on this page, you’ll find a link to an imperfect vinyl rip of this album.  I can’t even recall where it came from, to be honest (it’s not my transfer and has no lineage info included).  I’m deliberately going with this one because it’s serviceable but imperfect – if you want audiophile quality this time, consider getting it directly from the man himself and helping him out.

I’m unable compose a post that does the man or this record justice on short notice, but it turns out that the fine people at Wax Poetics have already done so.   I’m going to repost the text here, without permission, so please click on the link to the original piece and send them some web traffic and then wander around their site for a while.  Buy a print copy of one of their exquisitely produced issues while you’re at it.

All the Woo in the World and the legacy of funk

by Travis Atria

Thirty-five years ago, in 1978, Bernie Worrell released his first solo album, All the Woo in the World.
At that point, he was internationally famous for his laser-like
synthesizer licks in Parliament/Funkadelic, and in just five years’
time, he’d help Talking Heads transform from New York new-wave weirdoes
to funky world-music megastars.

Listening back to Woo, it’s no wonder Talking Heads wanted
Worrell’s guidance. The album, co-produced with George Clinton, is so
funky you can smell it through the dust jacket. In seven tracks, Worrell
shows how important he was to the P-Funk sound—in fact, the whole thing
could easily be passed off as a lost Parliament/Funkadelic record, if
not for Worrell’s name up top.

It’s impossible for me to listen to Woo, however, without
remembering an incredible day I spent with Worrell in a recording studio
a few years ago. He came to record an album in my hometown of
Gainesville, Florida, and the local paper asked me to cover it. At the
studio, I was ushered to the engineer’s console; lounging in a leather
chair was the man with the magic hands, slowed by arthritis but never
stopped. He wore a purple jacket that could have come from Prince’s
closet, a “FootJoy” golf glove on each hand to ease his arthritis pain,
expensive shades framing his face, and an ornate cap perched on his head
like an exclamation mark.

Worrell offered me a chair and spoke graciously about being George
Clinton’s songwriting soul mate. He recalled having a major role in
orchestrating P-Funk’s shaggy jams. He spoke honestly about the massive
amounts of drugs they all consumed, and how there was so much ass it was
hard to get anything done; he liked Eastern European women—“All fit, no
fat,” is how he put it. He talked about writing his first piano
concerto at the tender age of eight and realizing he had perfect pitch.
He remembered David Byrne as a painfully shy man, but sweet and eager to
learn. And he took much of the credit for leading Talking Heads down
the path of rhythm.

After our short chat, he went to work on a new song. As he helped his
bass player feel where the accents should go, it struck me that a great
player knows how to play the notes, but a genius knows why to
play the notes. “Slow your mind down,” Worrell instructed the bass man.
“It ain’t a North American thing. You got to feel the way they’d do it
in Jamaica—sensual.”

The album he worked on that day was never released, if it was even
finished, but Worrell has put out a few things since. And even though
those things don’t capture him the way Woo did thirty-five years ago, perhaps it is important to respect that funk’s flame still burns bright in him.

“This is all I know how to do,” he said to me just before I left the
studio. Then, after a beat, “To teach, to please, and to woo,” he cooed
with a grin.

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18 Comments

  1. Terrific – thanks!

  2. Hi there Flabber, have you heard the 2011 Gal Costa Boxset called "Gal Total"? If yes, what can you say about the masterings? They're the best ones available yet? Cheers.

    • A friend gave me a complete rip of the boxset. Honestly I only really recall listening to the rarities set, as I already had everything else in some other form. I think her original CD pressings sound the most faithful to the original vinyl, for what it's worth. A few months ago I actually did a little A/B listening for one track off India that I put on a podcast to decide which version to use and ended up going with the CD, mostly because I couldn't find the better of my two vinyl copies. But in terms of EQ and compression the CD was very faithful to the original. I don't recall being wow'd by the sound of the Gal Total set, but neither did it seem frustrating and odd-sounding like the salve Jorge! boxset.

  3. Flabber, i have one more question: i don't want to bug you here, but what can you tell me about the masterings of Chico Buarque's work on the market? I know there is more than one box set released and regular CDs too from different dates. Do they sound different or they use the same mastering? Which ones do you have, and do you like the way they sound? Cheers.

    • These are large and detailed questions from a person who doesn't even see fit to identify themselves. And this one would require research to answer that I can't afford to do right now, sorry. Between the different pressings I have on vinyl, CD, and digital lossless rips, I really can't state an overall preference. Some of the original RGE and Philips CDs sound good, other don't. The multiple boxsets (and multiple DVD sets for that matter) of Chico-nalia are confusing and overwhelming. The only thing I can think to contribute is that the original Philips Brasil pressing of Construção, always a favorite, was afflicted with drop-outs and other glitches. As far as I know, all of the subsequent remasters have used a different source.

    • Thank you very much for your answer. About not identifying myself, well, don't take this the wrong way, i'm not trying to be rude here, but to post a message as "Anonymous" or "Flabbergast" or "12vjoe", to me is the same thing. "Flabbergast" isn't your real name and it tells nothing about you. It changes anything if i post a message as… i don't know, something like "Eltonfan349G" or "musicL0ver22", or with my real name? I posted as anonymous cause i was lazy to log into my Google account to do so. Anyway, thanks again for your help.

    • Did you know that you can post under a name without creating an account? It's under "reply as: name/url". I can't speak for all bloggers, but I bet an informal poll among us would reveal that you are actually mistaken that it makes no difference. In the years that I've been doing this, I've actually made quite a few "real life" friends from people who were originally posting comments only under their internet "handles." Now I know their real names and things about their families, careers, and other interest outside music. I have even met a few in person. And even for those who I only know as some made-up name on the internet, there is still an identity associated with their postings. There is my reader Valladão from Brazil, who comments in Portuguese, and Kovina Kris (who I believe is American and who I haven't heard from in a while), who would regularly post comments here even if it was just to tell me that such and such and a record or artist was not their cup of tea. I look forward to seeing their "names" in my inbox: not only are they welcome visitors but it distinguishes their messages from the frightful amount of spam you get from having a public blog. In contrast, I know you only as "that guy who always asks me about mastering, sometimes on unrelated posts," which doesn't quite have the same ring to it as an actual name, assumed or otherwise. Now, I know that you are asking these questions because I am known to go off on tangents about the relative merits of one pressing versus another, and so I know you are actually reading the content of these posts and for that you have my gratitude. It's not to sound unappreciative, but I think these identities we assume DO make a difference. Of course you are under no obligation (in fact, once upon a time this blog *did* require you to post from a registered account – a measure that I had in my settings to discourage the aforementioned spam, but which I was informed had the unintended consequence of discouraging actual commenters as well, so I lifted the restriction). I also have some mischievous internet-friends who know me from other online communities and who post comments here under a different name every time, and I am forced to guess if it's them based on the content, which I rather enjoy. Anyway, just food for thought. BTW, if I didn't expect that it might draw unwanted heat to the blog, I would just post the boxsets you are asking about. I am enjoying staying more or less under the radar lately, however. Perhaps an individual volume or two from the sets wouldn't hurt anything….

    • Nice, i didn't know i could reply with a name without login in. From now on you can call me Riu. Nice to meet you, by the way.

      You're right, i ask about masterings a lot, mainly because the masterings of Brazilian records aren't discussed enough in the web. I just can't find information about it! For USA and UK records you can find everything at Steve Hoffman Forums. And it's incredible what a difference a good mastering makes. I've learned a lot in the last few years just visiting that forum.

      You see, i prefer the vinyl sound, but i just don't buy vinyl anymore and when i buy CDs is just to rip them to ALAC. Since i can't find most of the things i want in FLAC downloads (like Jorge Mautner records), and since the record companies don't offer lossless official digital downloads of Brazilian records (when they do, i buy it, like i did with Joyce's discography available at Bandcamp), my only option is to buy used out of print CDs, usually at a very high price. So before spending a lot of money on a Nana Caymmi boxset, for example, i want to know if it's worth it, cause most of the times remasterings sound like crap to my ears. They sound very compressed, brickwalled if you will, loud, harsh and all that jazz.

      Cheers.

    • Greetings and salutations, Riu!

      Yeah, attention to mastering or even preservation generally is not nearly high enough of a priority in Brazil. I think the same can be said for the deteriorating, occasionally-bursting-into-flames film archives too, unfortunately. To make an extremely broad generalization that I'm not putting much effort into at this exact moment, I think there is kind of a paradox with remasters of the vast back-catalog of the country: in the early days of CDs, I think you actually had a lot of okay masterings that were basically flat transfers, but it was anybody's guess what the sources of those transfers were. Now it seems that, in many cases, studios may have access to better sources or master tapes higher up the lineage even if not quite the original, but which are unfortunately squandered by engineers falling prey to 'loudness wars' techniques or the poor, ham-fisted deployment of digital tools like noise reduction. And, also there are a lot of CDs that are sourced from vinyl without any indication of the process, and usually not done well IMHO.

      It is incredible what a difference a good mastering makes, and also kind of sad to think that with vinyl prices getting out of control, I will mostly likely only ever have digital versions of so many of these classic recordings, and my enjoyment of them is so often compromised by all the flaws you and I have enumerated. It stinks. A lot of music fans have gone back to vinyl in recent years and, while there is certainly a degree of hipster-fetish to it just as there is in the US or Europe, I'd also like to believe (based on my own friends, at least) that the piss-poor sound quality of so many CDs there has driven at least some of that. Until Brazil develops a domestic audiophile market (*for its own music) that would inspire boutique labels to spend more time, money, and care on mastering, I don't see that changing.

      *I say that because there IS an audiophile niche in Brazil, but unfortunately in my experience it's mostly people looking for the same old boring classic rock records that most audiophiles in the US are looking for. Brazil leads a label like MFSL or Audio Fidelity, but reissuing Hermeto Pascoal, Zimbo Trio, Cartola and Jorge Ben instead of Beatles and Steely Dan (nothing against either of those, btw). And frankly I think Brazil has other things on its mind right now…

      I didn't know Joyce had a Bandcamp site. Makes sense. She is the one artist whose representation and/or label politely contacted me once about removing a post, which is why you won't find her here in spite of how much I'd like to share. Of course she would be one of the first to start offering FLAC downloads! She's great. (end of comment, Part 1)

    • Hoffman forums, but I gotta admit I'm not a huge fan of his actual mastering. Sometimes I like his work, other times I find it sterile and "boxey" sounding. Also one sometimes gets the impression that he instills a hysterical fear of compression into his followers, perhaps because he doesn't know how to use one properly… It's a tool like any other that can be abused, and – dare I say it? – some analog source material can use a little help from a properly applied compressor going into the digital realm. The goal of mastering, broadly speaking, is to make the same record sound consistently good whether it is played on a transistor AM radio or a hi-fi system, and there is a variety of tools to achieve that. If your mastering only sounds good on a $10,000 stereo then you're doing it wrong, and/or there is a lot of placebo effect going on with the people buying what you're selling. Just my 2-cents, naturally. But when the discussion doesn't involve the pronouncements or opinions of Mr.Hoffman himself, I've found discussions about particular releases among the users of that forum to be occasionally useful. Some chicanery for sure, and dissenting opinions are notoriously censored from that place, by the way. Still, definitely a good place to go before deciding whether it is worth investing in yet another version of a record that has been reissued to death, but also I've found it to be one of the only places where the relative merits of specific digital download offerings are discussed. It's my go-to site for whether or not to bother checking out a given HDtracks title, for example. Unless it's Blue Note on HDtracks, which has been consistently superb in my opinion, in which case I don't hesitate. Kudos to Don Was for knowing his market well enough to take the time to HD audio right.

      p.s. For the price of Brazilian releases on the used or new market in the US, you could save your money and just take a trip down there… Of course, finding a physical store that sells CDs may prove to be a challenge, but there's still a few good ones.

    • Joyce has a Bandcamp site as "Joyce Moreno". Only newer releases though: https://joycemoreno.bandcamp.com/

      I wish every recording company would sell their stuff online. It's so practical! I recently bought the "Big Bill Broonzy Sings Folk Songs" FLAC album at the Smithsonian Folkways site (http://www.folkways.si.edu/big-bill-broonzy/sings-folk-songs/american-folk-blues/music/album/smithsonian) and also the album "Solar" by Lucas Arruda at Bandcamp (https://favoriterecordings.bandcamp.com/album/solar). It's a shame that stores like iTunes doesn't sell lossless files, and that sites like Neil Young's Pono, Qobuz or HDtracks are region restricted.

      ***

      I'd be very happy with a Brazilian MFSL, Analogue Productions, DCC, Audio Fidelity, etc. Some old samba records would be very thankfull for that. Even greater, in my opinion, would be a Brazilian ECM Records or a Brazilian Tzadik Records. We need a Manfred Eicher or a John Zorn to dig the experimental Brazilian music scene and bring it to the light of day.

      About Hoffman, i'm a fan of his masterings, but not of his blind fanbase nor of his inflatted ego. And that forum is the most politically correct place i've ever visited in my life and if you have strong opinions about anything, your comment will be banned or even worse, you will be banned.
      Most people there are guys in their 40's, 50's and 60's who just wanna talk about Beatles, Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin etc, so that makes things a little bit difficult sometimes. Anyway, it's a good place to talk about masterings and audiophile releases in general.

      About masterings, i'm no specialist, but in my opinion an HD album with lot's of dynamic will hardly sound good when played in a cellphone with terrible headphones in a bus commute to work. But the HD mastering should not fold itself to sound good on a iPod, cellphone, car or whatever. Is the device that should be able to reproduce a high quality mastering, as well as a regular one. For people who wants to listen to music with terrible devices and terrible headphones, there's such things like "mastered for iTunes" releases. The new Paul McCartney Archives Collection is being released both with limited and unlimited masterings exactly for that reason.

      For me, i'd be happy if a digital release sounds warm and full like and old vinyl release. No need to be HD, i just want it to sound good and not piercing and tiring to my ears. A recent digital remastering i really enjoyed was that "You Can Make Me Dance" Faces boxset. It almost brought tears to my eyes…

      That's all for today.

      Take care my man.

    • I was being a little hypberbolic to make a point about mastering to sound good on any equipment, but I'll stand behind it. I have no problem with people doing remasterings with a niche market of audiophiles with fancy gear in mind (which should be pretty obvious). But I think there is a fair bit of historical revisionism that happens sometimes at places like the SH Forum. For half a century, most people were listening to their music through really shitty equipment with tiny speakers, or ensconced in big wooden cabinets that double as a liquor cabinet or other furniture. And yet so many of the recordings we think of as representing the pinnacle of great sound were made in that era and played back on that shitty equipment that was not capable of reproducing all the information that was there, yet they still sounded good enough. Of course they weren't going to sound as good as when they were played on a nice system, that goes without saying. But in the early days of "hi-fidelity" listening, engineers still had work with the knowledge that most people weren't going to be playing their recordings back on good equipment. The idea (implied or explicit) that people don't appreciate good sound like they used to, and that somehow technology is responsible for that, is not historically substantiated. I'm thinking of that completely stupid line-drawn flow chart that circulates showing expensive mics and Neve consoles leading to mp3's and earbuds. Bollocks, as they say across the pond. (cont..)

    • (…cont) It's true that people weren't taking their recordings onto a crowded bus in the 1950s. But my point is that there was nothing inevitable about the loudness wars related to iPods or cellphones; mastering did not have to go down the road that it did, which was more of a result of business decisions made by people who don't care about music but merely wanted their product to stand out and grab peoples' short attention spans by being just as loud as the next guy's. It IS possible for a high-fidelity mastering to sound good on mediocre equipment *without compromising its integrity* and there is a half-century of recorded music history to prove it. Yes, you aren't going to be getting all there is to get out of the information, but it should still communicate a fair representation of what's there. (Classical and jazz since post-bop are kind of a different animal than other more "popular" forms of a music as they've always been targeting people who are going to sit down and listen. Sure, a detailed and dynamic ECM recording would not sound so great on a crowded bus or subway but neither would Brian Eno's Music for Airports). I harping on this point because I strongly suspect that some of the people with $100,000 stereos listening to their "hot stamper" pressing of Fleetwood Mac's "Rumours" are a wee bit delusional and claiming to hear distinguishing nuances that don't really exist to justify their mania. I don't expect to alter what seems to be direction of things with this opinion, but it is unfortunate that the record business seems to bifurcating into two discrete camps of one that cares about sound, and another that doesn't. In my idealistic view the goal should be to get those people who say they can't hear the different to be able to appreciate good sound. You certainly aren't going to convince those people by telling them their equipment is too shitty to distinguish a well-made recording versus a poor one (even if there is an element of truth in it), and also you aren't going to do that with a two-tiered system of "audiophile" vs "mastered for iTunes" where there are multiple versions of the same album released simultaneously and at different price points. I'm afraid it's just going to perpetuate and exacerbate the problem. Artists should take a stand and refuse to let their work be released in a ways that are extremely compromised (as some have done). I didn't know about the McCartney archives release but it sounds like a tragic and horrible idea to me (not the first he's had, surely). There, the last round of Beatles Apple remasters are a good example of what I'm getting at: normal, 16-bit, 44.1 khz remasters that sound good on any old consumer equipment, but sound brilliant on a nice system. No need to have musical segregation. Jeez, I hope they don't start offering limited/compressed versions of the Apple box too.

    • Also… Dude I did not know there was a new Faces boxset. I have the Rhino one, as well as most or all of their titles on vinyl. Big fan. For a brief period I used to think Steve Marriot was the heart of the Faces but I've since decided it's Ronnie Lane. I wish somebody would collect all the Ronnie Lane's Slim Chance records into a box.

  4. Great choice but sad news about Bernie. Love this LP.

  5. Thanks a lot for posting this, really sad news, hope Bernie gets the help he needs, he's truly one of the greats. The Bandcamp page for this album is here in case any of you feel like buying it and helping him out: https://bernieworrell.bandcamp.com/album/all-the-woo-in-the-world

    • Thanks for commenting! I linked to his personal webpage rather than bandcamp, but as I mentioned in the post, he does link to the Bandcamp page from his "music" tab on his site.

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