As a kid, William ‘Bootsy’ Collins was something of a guitar prodigy, learning at the age of 8 and playing alongside Godfather of Soul James Brown at 17 before honing his talents with Parliament and Funkadelic. Unlike so many of his unheralded peers, however, Collins was to get his shot at the big time with his rather marvellously named ‘Rubber Band’, in no small part due to P-Funk visionary George Clinton’s involvement.
Clinton’s grubby hands are over this debut, and he certainly knew how to make a successful record. Clocking in at precisely 40 minutes, Stretchin’ Out In Bootsy’s Rubber Band is essentially two albums in one: the first side being dirty, playful funk and the second descending into slow jam territory.
It’s the first side which really makes its mark, not least the opener Stretchin’ Out, where Bootsy introduces the first of his many alter-egos, Casper the Holy Ghost, whose relationship with his friendly cousin is decidedly unknown. The tune glides by effortlessly, aided by JB-style horns and Bootsy’s own custom-made “Space Bass” – a great start to the album.
Probably my favourite cut is Psychoticbumpschool, which is like Del Tha Funkee Homosapien on acid. You’ve got the whole ensemble introducing themselves in goofy voices, including such luminaries as Maceo Parker and Frankie ‘Kash’ Waddy. Bootsy goes out of his way to seem as laid-back as possible, but there’s not a note out of place. There are even children singing along who may or may not have attended this funky bump school/lunatic asylum.
The strong first half ends with Another Point of View, which starts like a Zappa tune before morphing into a funky Jimi Hendrix jam with an excellent main riff and other-worldly space effects. However, just before I get down on my knees and worship at the altar of Bootsy, the rather pedestrian I’d Rather Be With You comes in, complete with tired lyrics (“I want to be your friend not now and then but ’til the end”) and an over-syrupy arrangement. It was a moderately successful single though, so maybe you just had to be there.
There’s no excuse for Love Vibes though, where Leslyn Bailey takes over vocal duties and over-extends herself trying to make the most of a lacklustre song. She’s much better in Physical Love, where the laid-back noodling is kind of pleasant, and the synthesiser cheesy or heavenly depending on your point of view (I’m a sucker for it, personally…)
I guess there may be some people out there who prefer side two, and I agree that a whole album of goofy funk may be too much. But for me the second half (apart from Physical Love) kind of gets lost, which is a real shame after the wonderfully energetic beginning. Luckily for us, Stretchin’ Out was a hit and gave Bootsy the opportunity to follow it up with solid efforts like “Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy, Baby!” which is far more consistent but lacks the high points of his debut.