George Clinton’s P-Funk empire took a monumental hit when frontman Garry Shider (a.k.a Starchild, a.k.a. Diaperman) succumbed in 2010 at age 56 from cancer. From the early 1970s onward, the soulful lead singer and rhythm guitar player spent nearly four decades stalking the stage in his trademark diaper as a central figure with Parliament, Funkadelic and other Funk Mob acts. Famous for his vocal chops and playing on hits like “Cosmic Slop” and “One Nation Under a Groove,” his loss left a gaping hole, not just on record and stage but also in the hearts and souls of funkateers everywhere. Fortunately, Shider left behind not just the present of his priceless songs and performances, but also the gift of a progeny to carry forth the funk torch of his indelible legacy.
Born at the height of P-Funk popularity in 1978, son Garrett Shider has followed in his funky father’s footsteps as a fellow singer-guitarist who has spent the past several years touring and recording with Clinton & Co. He was conceived in a year that brought forth the seminal works of Parliament’s Funkentelechy Vs. the Placebo Syndrome and Bootsy’s Rubber Band’s Ahh … the Name Is Bootsy, Baby! Little Garrett then came into the world amid arguably P-Funk’s pinnacle of power, with The Motor Booty Affair (Parliament), One Nation Under a Groove (Funkadelic) and Bootsy? Player of the Year serving as the ultimate trifunkta. One can only imagine at the time seeing proud papa Diaperman posing with his own mini me.
While it would be unfair to expect the younger Shider to match the prowess of his pops vocally, as he was one of the best ever, or on the six-string for which he was nuanced and underrated, junior has held his own taking the lead in concert during such standards as “One Nation Under a Groove.” However, with the release of his new debut album, Hand Me Down Diapers, Garrett Shider has taken a bold leap forward and sprung out of his bloodline’s shadow with an artistic statement that by any name is a funk tour de force.
The eight-song collection embodies the Funkadelic ethos and sound, critically favoring authenticity and sonic quirkiness over mimicry and clichés. Shider’s vocal and musical nuances and lyrical musings add up to a fresh spin on the P-Funk template. Some of the cuts conjure the best aural elements of Funkadelic classics like “Biological Speculation,” “Adolescent Funk,” “If You Don’t Like the Effects, Don’t Produce the Cause” and “If You’ve Got Funk, You’ve Got Style,” to name but a few references. At times, Lonnie Marshall’s Weapon of Choice comes to mind as well.
The album starts off on fire with three of the best tracks right off the bat in the nasty grind groove of “Sugar Rush,” the synth-driven throwdown “Bop Gun ’17” (which honors Parliament’s 1977 classic “Bop Gun (Endangered Species)” with a completely new take) and the mindbending “Hard Pill” (which runs with Parliament’s “the bigger the headache the bigger the pill” concept). The balance includes an instrumental that soars like a blending of Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) the Reaper” with the instrumental B-side version of Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove” 12-inch single (“Jamnastics”); a horns-centric cut (“Nightcap”); a down and dirty Dr. Funkenstein guest spot (“Rawlife Theme”); a funkafied remake of the Stealers Wheel classic “Stuck in the Middle” with updated lyrics fused with a haunting refrain from Funkadelic’s “Smokey”; and the touching title song tribute to his father, with a harmonized intro reminiscent to that of the Ohio Players’ “Little Lady Maria.”
Given that Garry released only a handful of relatively inconsequential songs under his own name, Hand Me Down Diapers instantly becomes the best Shider album ever (nosing out 2006’s Funkin’ It Aloose by Garry’s younger brother and Garrett’s uncle Kevin Shider, who also sings and plays guitar). Further supporting the enterprise is a robust cast of standout P-Funk players including Lige Curry on bass and Danny Bedrosian on keys, along with contributions from Clinton’s son Treylewd and grandson Trazae. Shider also assumes bass duties for several tracks.
I could have done without the album artwork’s overly graphic dirty diaper imagery; it is amusing but a bit much. Plus it’s clear Shider knows where the potty’s at! What I can fully dig is Garrett’s adoption of the Starchild Jr. alter ego. Not only does he have the rarified lineage claim to it but the consistent and fiercely funky Hand Me Down Diapers now gives him the earned right as well.