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
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.
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
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.