Down Beat (2/91) - 3.5 Stars - Good Plus
Personnel includes: Bernie Worrell (clavinet, organ, synthesizer bass, vocals), Mike Hampton (slide guitar), Jimmy Ripp (banjo, guitar, sitar), Warren McRae, Dennis Chambers, Steve Ferrone (drums), Steve Jordan (drums, guitar, percussion, vocals), Jerome Brailey (percussion), Aiby Dieng (chatan, conga, tambourine, bells), Joe Polanco, Gary "Mudbone" Cooper (programming, background vocals), Davy D (DJ).
Additional guest artists: Vernon Reid (guitars), Maceo Parker (saxophone), Robbie Shakespeare (bass).
The Uptown Horns: Crispin Cioe (alto & baritone saxophone), Arno Hecht (tenor saxophone), Paul "Hollywood" Litteral (trumpet), Robert Fund (trombone).
Background vocals: Lauren Qualls, Sheila Washington, Jenny Douglas-McRae, Jody Bell, Doug Duffy, Patty Maloney, John DiNicola and Michael Camacho.
Producers: Joe Blaney, Bernie Worrell, Bill Laswell.
Keyboardist Bernie Worrell was one of the key members of George Clinton's "Parlaifunkadelicment Thang" and he later went on to work as a sideman with everyone from Talking Heads to Keith Richards, as well as a long series of projects with producer and Material mastermind Bill Laswell. But outside of All the Woo in the World, a tossed-off project which got lost in the glut of P-Funk-related product released in the late '70s, it wasn't until 1991 that Worrell applied his estimable talent to an album with himself as headliner. Funk of Ages is a glossy set of funk workouts and jazz-influenced side trips with an impressive list of guest stars (including David Byrne, Keith Richards, Vernon Reid, Herbie Hancock, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespeare, and Maceo Parker), and while Worrell certainly gives himself plenty of room to show off his estimable skill at the keyboard, he also has the good sense to make room for his friends and collaborators, giving the album the sound and feel of a group effort rather than a declaration of musical independence. In fact, if the album has a flaw, it's that it lacks a central presence giving the material an anchor; this eternal sideman certainly has the skills to take the reins on an album, but this set suggests he lacks the ego to do so (and he's not much of a lead singer). But his years with Clinton and Laswell have taught Worrell more than a little about the fine art of getting a groove on, and Funk of Ages serves up thick, juicy rhythms topped with smart and flavorful melodic support; it's a more ambitious and enjoyable album than anything George Clinton cooked up on his own in the 1990s. ~ Mark Deming