Album review: Bootsy Collins – World Wide Funk

“As long as it made you feel good & sexy, like them old house parties, sharing a coke and a smile while doing a bump and grind.” – Bootsy Collins on his music

William Earl aka Bootsy Collins has already been playing in bands for 5 decades, but judging by the energetic sound of his latest album World Wide Funk there is still more to come.

Bootsy Collins has worked alongside many of the best in the business, including James Brown, Fatboy Slim and Snoop Dogg. He is a true icon who is highly revered, and is recognised as one of the world’s finest musicians. Many will recognise his uniquely sung vocals, or his swagger-fuelled bass guitar lines, but much like Prince, Earl is a multi-talented producer whose skills transfer across drums, keyboards and more.

William Earl “Bootsy” Collins is an American musician and singer-songwriter.

Since playing in the legendary James Brown band as a teenager, he went on to release a number of successful albums, and this year saw him return after six years away with World Wide Funk. For this project, he has brought along some huge names, in the form of old friends Stanley Clarke and Victor Wooten, as well as veteran MC’s Big Daddy Kane, Public Enemy’s Chuck D and more. Other helping hands in the studio and on the mic are credited, coming in all shapes and sizes. The album features an eclectic mix of names from Iggy Pop and Guns N’ Roses collaborator Buckethead, to the other side of the spectrum with Mary J Blige affiliate, Music Soulchild. Another old friend, Bernie Worrell, sadly passed away last year but thanks to the earlier recordings, he still also plays on the album.

Bootsy Collins has already sparked conversation this year, following the mild controversy regarding Childish Gambino’s “Redbone”. The 2017 smash hit is clearly heavily inspired by Bootsy Collins’ “I’d Rather Be with You”, but he’s hardly received any praise in return. The timing for this album’s release could not be better, and even if the success of “Redbone” should be credited more towards Bootsy, it will surely have made many younger listeners aware of his existence. “Redbone” has not simply sampled the original, as many first thought, but instead it was crafted from the ground up. However even during a video featuring composer Ludwig Goransson talking about the creation of the homage/ remix/ cover, where each part of the process is broken down, they still neglect to mention Bootsy Collins or “I’d Rather Be With You” at all.

Oddly, he now seems to have almost copied himself, with a clever attempt to give fans a taste of what they may be after. If listeners have gravitated to the album to hear slow, sensual grooves instead of more uptempo funky numbers, “Worth My While” will hit the spot . Even if it is very close to “I’d Rather Be With You”, Earl cannot be blamed for sounding like himself. Kali Uchi’s seductive vocals are flawless here, and Bootsy gives one of the album’s best performances to match. The production is dripping with nostalgia, and is ramped up with Isley Brothers-esque dirty electric guitars and more for the final chorus.

On the title track “Worldwide Funk” you can hear Buckhead’s influence, pulling elements from Rage Against The Machine’s playbook, but adding a heavier dose of funk. Earl’s trademark dominating bass lines on “Bass-Rigged-System” are full-bodied, but his spoken-rapped sections are less so. We hear some west coast G Funk-era traditions on “Pusherman”, before on of the genres innovators appears on the J Dilla inspired “Hi-On-Heels”, which was co-written and produced by Snoop Dogg. Another 90’s star Music Soulchild shows up on “Hot Sauce”, with late 80’s rap hero Bid Daddy Kane. It’s a fun, bouncy modern take on disco, full of suggestive lyrics such as ‘we got this gravy/gonna put it on your body like cheese on grits’. There is a prominently throwback feel to the album, but there are also glimpses of contemporary rap styles. “Ladies Nite” is one that sits between the two, pairing old-school Compton-based gangster rapper MC Eiht with BlvckSeeds.

Earl appears to know when to take centre stage with his attention grabbing vocals, and when to retreat to just a few ad-libs here and there to compliment his singers. The result is a rock solid 15 track album, as maybe the six year break has given him time to concentrate on the album as a whole instead of just the singles. World Wide Funk creates a hedonistic vibe, full of celebration and positivity, as well as a few slow dance opportunities. 50 years since he first set foot into the music scene, and he is far from losing his magic, we recommend booking a demo at Richer Sounds to hear the record in all of its glory.