Turn My Teeth Up! – Baby Elephant

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George Clinton, David Byrne, a fully animated dead body, Shock G, and a quest to learn “the way of the funk.” If it wasn’t Turn My Teeth Up!, the new album from Baby Elephant (Prince Paul and his newest co-conspirator, keyboard luminary and P-Funk alum Bernie Worrell), it would be the nightmare you had after falling asleep to VH1 Classics. Baby Elephant is more like a music freak’s dream come true, but it takes the album a good three to four tracks to really engage its funk motor. The album opens with a brief skit and then noodles through “Baby Elephants N Thangs” and “Plainfield”. The entire affair nearly goes to mush again later on the disruptive, misplaced ballad “Crack Addicts in Love”. One could be forgiven for beginning to doubt the Baby Elephant by the time Bernie drops the carnie organ intro of reggae trip “Cool Runnins”, but the track is solid and it promises even better things to come.

Title track “Turn My Teeth Up” begins as a shambling, acousti-funk stroll, detours through a honky-tonk dancehall. Then, Paul and Bernie point the camera at the postafunkalyptic buzz of “How Does the Brain Wave”, buoyed to success on the shoulders of guest vocalist David Byrne. “Skippin Stonze” is a sort of Gorillaz-esque piece of post-pop, and “Scratchinatanitchoutareach” unites Worrell with George Clinton on a bluesy guitar-fueled lament. Generally, Turn My Teeth Up is a really enjoyable ride after the initial third of the album burns off. For better or worse, Prince Paul is largely out of sight, if not completely out of mind. The frame may be his, but it seems that Mr. Worrell is usually the one applying paint to the canvas. Not that Paul could really be criticized for letting the two-time Rock & Roll Hall of Famer lead the way: this Baby Elephant has a strong lineage, and it makes sense to let it show.