Wow. George Clinton and friends covering a bunch of old soul tunes with some originals. Sounds great on paper, right? Unfortunately, that great idea didn't really pan out in the execution in this particular case. Rather than going for an old-school vibe, all the musical settings are generic-sounding programmed contemporary R&B and way too many of the vocals sound like they were put through a talk box. Compare these with the old covers done on Clinton's last album, How Late Do U Have 2 B B 4 U R Absent?, which turned out really good. Examining the credits, it appears that the bulk of the blame can be placed on the shoulders of producer Bobby Eli who, along with Chris "Big Dog" Davis and Ricardo Rouse, created almost all the music here. The only tracks that really stand out are "Gypsy Woman" (thanks to the presence of Carlos Santana) and "Let the Good Times Roll," where the Red Hot Chili Peppers (with El DeBarge!) are the band. But this version of "Gypsy Woman" pales next to the one on How Late Do U Have 2 B B 4 U R Absent?, which is so "George Clinton" that you'd swear Clinton wrote it instead of Curtis Mayfield. The version here has none of that personality. There's even a version of "Goodnight Sweetheart, Goodnight" on How Late that receives a similar attempt at a more contemporary setting with programmed beats and it works great, proving again that the problem wasn't the concept, but the execution.
After the listed program, things pick up some with the unlisted bonus tracks. "Heaven" is a nice hip-hop love affair that goes on just a bit too long. "As In" sounds like a classic George Clinton love song: a great arrangement with horns and strings and hooks aplenty. It's easily the best thing on this album by a long shot. "Stillness in Motion" is a bit odd with its underwater utopian vision contrasted with ominous music and samples (which actually resemble "Mea Culpa" from My Life in the Bush of Ghosts). The final track (a cover of "Fever") is a musical return to the beginning of the album with programmed music and tweaked vocals. As good as "As In" is, it can't really save this album from being a disappointment. Maybe Clinton will cast current trends to the wind and revisit this idea, but as it stands, George Clinton and His Gangsters of Love is probably one strictly for the Clinton completist. His vocals are present, but except for "As In," this doesn't really sound like George Clinton. For a too small taste of what this album could have been, try How Late. ~ Sean Westergaard