December 11, 2014

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain (1971)

Jody's Review:

Holy shit. I find the opening track on this album unrivalled by any other Parliament/Funkadelic songs. Eddie Hazel may be the most underrated guitarist of all time. When people think of great guitarists, they think of flashy solos, in a competition for the greatest technical proficiency. Eddie hazel is undeniably talented, but what separates him from the slew of talented guitarists throughout rock is the soul he puts into his music. I consider this to be the greatest guitar solo of all time, with every note perfectly placed within the arpeggiating background. The production of this track is likewise perfect, and the mono version doesn't cut it.

But the title track is not the only great song on this album. The whole album is excellent, however I think it falls off slightly at the end, as Back in Our Minds and Wars of Armageddon don't rival the first half of the album. After Maggot Brain, the album becomes far more peppy and fast paced. Can You Get to That is a fun song, very upbeat, but about karma after a breakup. You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks, my second favorite track off the album, has undertones of class-based social injustice, and is a call to arms for second class citizens to join together. As Billie Nelson says, "Ha! But if in our fears, we don't learn to trust each other/ And if in our tears, we don't learn to share with your brother/ You know that hate is gonna keep on multiplying/ And you know that man is gonna keep right on dying."

Otto's Review:

The third and most famous of Funkadelic's legendary hyper-psychedelic trilogy. After this Eddie Hazel would be imprisoned, Michael Hampton was recruited for full-time duties, Hazel would come back, more singers came on board when the Parliament name was ready to use, and then Worrell and Collins would just totally dominate (even on the Funkadelic side of things). And before this Funkadelic had a very bluesy first album showing George's roots and a 300% psychedelic album all recorded (and probably mastered) in one day when the entire band was on acid. So while Maggot Brain is more comparable to its preceding albums, it's still a unique and very well developed statement and shows the true arranging genius of George Clinton.

So here we have kind of a final form of the elements Funkadelic was toying with before; not mixed together in some kind of epic way, but just the band doing what they do best. I'm a firm believer that each of these early Funkadelic albums is the best in its own way, and here the strength is the power and emotion (whereas the debut was the coolness in simplicity and Free Your Mind was pure psychedelic force). Maggot Brain seems to have more singers on board, and even if it doesn't really, it just seems like that since they're actually arranged to be heard, not just to have an effect as an acid blast to the face. Now don't get me wrong, each of these albums share these traits, just balanced differently, and of course there is some absolutely insane musicianship to feed the emotions (like Jody says about the measure of a guitarist's skill). So while the singers are hurling their voices at you, you'll hear Hazel just completely shredding in the background, Billie Nelson completely hammering away some kind of complex funky rhythm and Worrell doing all kinds of crazy stuff between piano and organ. You'll go between a completely original version of solo ideas Hendrix may have thought of towards the end of his career, to poppy-psychedelic fusion, to shudders of Zeppelin-esque hard rock.... and it just works.


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