Ruth Copeland's second Invictus recording retains the services of Funkadelic vets Eddie Hazel, Bernie Worrell, Tiki Fulwood, and Ron Bykowski, but like the preceding Self-Portrait, I Am What I Am simply fails to jell. Without the leadership and focus of George Clinton, the music zigs and zags in too many opposing directions. Credit Copeland for ambition -- the opening antiwar epic "The Medal" recalls the politicized psychedelic soul of Norman Whitfield-era Temptations classics like "Cloud Nine" and "Ball of Confusion," while "Crying Has Made Me Stronger" shifts gears completely to embrace gospel -- but her reach consistently exceeds her grasp. When I Am What I Am does come together, it's impressively heady stuff. Particularly noteworthy is the deep-fried funk outing "Suburban Family Lament," which showcases Hazel's scorching guitar as well as Fulwood's much-sampled and monstrous introductory drum break.
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