While certainly not among his greatest efforts, Bootsy Collins' Ultra Wave (1980) is still infinitely better than most of the disco dregs being squeezed from the likes of Earth, Wind & Fire or Kool & the Gang. Although Collins (bass/vocals) had not formally split up the Rubber Band -- as the lineup was a continual fluctuation of talent from the seemingly bottomless reservoir of P-Funk alumni -- he takes sole (and quite possibly soul) credit on his fifth long-player in under four years. The title is an homage to the Detroit-based studios where Bootsy collaborated with core Rubber Band contributors Phelps "Catfish" Collins (guitar), Robert "P-Nut" Johnson (vocals), and the superbad dynamic horny horns of Fred Wesley (trombone) and Maceo Parker (sax). Not missing from these -- or any other Bootsy affairs for that matter -- is the unapologetic party atmosphere Collins' infuses within every pulsation of his full-bodied and self-proclaimed "Space Bass". The catchy and sexually tweaked opener "Mug Push" quickly became a dancefloor favorite and garnered a short but significant run on the R&B charts. The overuse of synthesizers becomes increasingly evident, particularly when they practically bury "F-Encounter"'s otherwise stylish groove. The end result sounds like a cross between the Parliament hit "Flashlight" and George Clinton's "Atomic Dog." The shuffling "Is That My Song?" is an arguably lightweight entry. But to its credit, Collins, influenced by Sly & the Family Stone and especially funk-bass originator Larry Graham, gives it a respectable degree of listenability. "It's a Musical" drives hard with brassy and sassy horn arrangements that have the feel of something Quincy Jones might have charted for Michael Jackson circa Off the Wall (1979). The slinky and rubbery backbeat on "Fat Cat" hearkens to the loose booty of former Bootsy's Rubber Band tracks with Johnson's falsetto likened to the shrill warbling often utilized on Prince's seminal sides. The obligatory ballad "Sacred Flowers" also bears trademarks of the Bootsy of old. While that in and of itself is great, it is likewise symptomatic of Ultra Wave's inherent deficiencies. The pseudo-novelty closer "Sound Crack" would probably have more going for it had Collins ditched the dated opening dialogue. Once it gets up to full steam, it roars with an intensity fuelled by the same bounce behind such P-Funk staples as "Up for the Downstroke." The 2007 CD reissue by Collectors' Choice Music has significantly improved sound compared to expensive import editions that can run upwards of a dollar per minute.
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AllMusic Review by Lindsay Planer