Album Review: Bernie Worrell – Wave from the Wooniverse

Musician and producer Bernie Worrell was a beloved figure here in my hometown of Asheville NC. While he didn’t live here, the keyboardist cultivated an ardent following in our mountain town. One reason for that is his close association with Dr. Robert A. Moog, pioneering inventor and founder of Moog Music. Both men are gone now, but their legends loom large here in the city that’s home to the Moog factory.

I was fortunate enough to see Worrell perform live here. Not with Parliament-Funkadelic, but with his own band, plus guest Nick Montoya of The Volt Per Octaves. Nick lived here at the time, worked at Moog and moonlighted doing keyboard repair for friends. He brought my Fender Rhodes 73 back to life, and did some mods on my PAiA Theremax (a cousin to the Moog Etherwave).

Of course, to the rest of the world, Bernie Worrell is know for his synth work as well, for his P-Funk connection and – outside the world of funk – his major contributions to three Talking Heads albums including the essential 1982 set The Name of this Band is the Talking Heads.

Bernie passed I n2016, but it seems he left behind a great deal of unfinished material. A new 2LP set, Wave from the Wooniverse collects superb material from that cache, finished by friends and associates of the man. Those friends are a veritable who’s who of music – Montoya, Sean Lennon, Jerry Harrison, Bootsy Collins, Buckethead, Fred Wesley, Fred Schneider, Marco Benevento, Marc Ribot, Mike Watt and many others. And the players on the original tapes include Eddie Hazel and other P-Funk players.

The music is as all-over-the-place as that roster would suggest, but the unifying element is Worrell’s always-compelling, always lyrical keyboard work. There’s soaring and soothing instrumental tunes, deep-fried funk, , uptempo dance numbers and more.

There’s absolutely nothing unfinished in these tracks; the current-day players add their contributions in a way that – one suspects – would have pleased Bernie. And they’ll please you, too. Essential.