How Late Do U Have 2 B B4 U R Absent?

The most surprising thing about George Clinton's first album of new material in almost a decade isn't how long it took to arrive; it's that it's not terribly funky. Recorded over several years, How Late sounds alternately like an audio diary and a slow party, long on spoken-word pieces and bland pop-soul numbers that must have begun as cosmic vibrations in the Atomic Dog's cerebellum and never developed much beyond that. A handful of cuts get off on the good foot: "Bounce 2 This" could fit on a mid-Seventies P-Funk record, and the slow-grooving, Prince-assisted "Paradigm" is a bizarrely seductive bit of stoned philosophizing. But excepting old friend Bobby Womack, none of the guest vocalists prove engaging, and lugubrious love songs such as "Saddest Day" point to a serious lack of focus: When a George Clinton album includes not one but several ballads, you know something's rotten in Funkville.

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