One Nation remains in such high reverence because of its ability to distill the chaos of the Funkadelic sound into a 40 minute set of practically flawless funk.
One Nation Under a Groove, if nothing else, boasts a title track with the some of the most stereotypically Funkadelic lyrics on a Funkadelic song: “Do you promise to funk?/ The whole funk, nothin’ but the funk”; “Here’s my chance to dance my way/ Out of my constrictions.” It’s a witty, political song, one underlaid by a fluid groove that highlights Bootsy Collins’ bright, nimble playing excellently. The positive effects run deeper than being a parody of their creators, and the track is instead an infectious, feel-good funk piece that is riddled with equal parts tension and relaxation. The following track, “Groovallegiance” keeps good on the promise of the cover’s muted pink background with Bernie Worrell’s folksy keyboard motif and Jerome Brailey’s tight drum set playing.
These opening tracks show a band in near-perfect condition, a quality that continues throughout the album despite the divergent musical styles. Funkadelic return to their psychedelic roots on “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock?!”and deliver a riff that stacks against “Friday Night, August 14th” and “Super Stupid” for the heaviest of their career. For the fact that all of these tracks—save the closer—run well past 5 minutes, One Nation is decidedly tight. Even when the band is fully improvising and jamming as many notes into a measure as possible, the playing is understated and nonobtrusive. When Michael Hampton hits some blistering hammer-ons in “Who Says a Funk Band,” it sounds like the licks are rolling off of his hands without a bit of effort
One Nation retains the musicality of the band’s previous release, Hardcore Jollies, without the sense of showiness. The skill of the group’s still-unmatched rhythm section is on full display, but the overall feel is more of comping than of shredding. Only on the sprawling “Promentalshitbackwashpsychosis Enema Squad (The Doo Doo Chasers)” does Hampton truly expand. Otherwise, the music focuses more on collective interplay with a few spare solos. The group’s synchronization and precise balancing techniques end up being the most awe-inspiring element here. Moments like the massive collage at the climax of “Promentalshit…,” the ping-ponging bounce during “Groovallegiance” and the driving hook on “Cholly (Funk Getting Ready to Roll!)” are fine showings of how to play together, not on top of each other.
One Nation’s success is furthered by the lyrics, which consistently serve as P-Funk mission statements. The anarcho-dreams of living by the rule of funk on the title track and “Groovallegiance,” the erasure of genre lines built around racial divides on “Who Says a Funk Band Can’t Play Rock” and the delirious lover’s confessions on “Into You” hit all the standard bases of a George Clinton-affiliated release. And, each one of these is an easy candidate for the finest of these core archetypes in the group’s entire discography. The massively positive reception, both commercial and critical, of One Nation is already well-documented. Along with Maggot Brain and Mothership Connection, this album is the most frequently name-checked in best-of lists. Like the former, it’s psychedelic—though more as a result of mind-bending musicianship than substance intake. Like the latter, it’s political—though Clinton returns to earth to preach a more immediate need for protest. As one of the least indulgent albums from one of the decade’s most indulgent bands, One Nation remains in such high reverence because of its ability to distill the chaos of the Funkadelic sound into a 40 minute set of practically flawless funk.