With or without the mothership, George Clinton’s P-Funk road-show is the greatest thang on earth, electric big-band soul nonpareil. But the awesome power of a fully operational Parliament-Funkadelic is conspicuously absent from T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. The Hendrixian dueling of guitarists Michael Hampton and Blackbyrd McKnight, the sassy snap of the Horny Horns, the anarchic wail of the full-strength P-Funk chorale — there’s little or no room for any of that in the low-throttle jams that dominate here. The album has a weird kind of tempered charm — techno R&B lightly sprinkled with goofy dust — but the pace is slow and the funk too flattened as a whole, which is surprising, given the way Clinton tears the shrink-wrap off some of these tunes in concert (“Summer Swim,” “Hard as Steel,” “Underground Angel”).
Ex-Living Colour guitarist Vernon Reid is anything but mistaken in his leap of faith into fusion music. Admittedly, Mistaken Identity, Reid’s debut solo album, relies heavily on instrumental facility (his own and that of his supercharged band, Masque) and a quick-draw spray of pan-ethnic samples, sound-bite pranks, rap cameos and DJ Logic’s agile scratchin’. But all that technique and ingenuity fortify rather than crowd the corrosive emotional suggestion deep inside the dizzy science of “You Say He’s Just a Psychic Friend” and the heavy portraiture of “Lightnin'” and “Saint Cobain.” The success of the brief, beautiful “Unborne Embrace” — a snatch of soaring Reid guitar plugged into the bold, swollen grief of an orchestral piece written and recorded by co-producer Teo Macero more than 40 years earlier — may be strictly kismet, but it is emblematic of the risk, ambition and reward in full effect here.