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Class ?

Main Category: Funk/R'n'B
Also applicable: Psychedelia
Starting Period: The Artsy/Rootsy Years
Also active in: The Interim Years, The Punk/New Wave Years,

The Divided Eighties



Disclaimer: this page is not written by from the point of view of a Funkadelic fanatic and is not generally intended for narrow-perspective Funkadelic fanatics. If you are deeply offended by criticism, non-worshipping approach to your favourite artist, or opinions that do not match your own, do not read any further. If you are not, please consult the guidelines for sending your comments before doing so. For information on reviewing principles, please see the introduction. For specific non-comment-related questions, consult the message board.

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(released by: FUNKADELIC)

Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating = 10

These guys got a bit TOO much acid at this time to make this fully enjoyable, but what the heck?

Best song: I BET YOU

Track listing: 1) Mommy What's A Funkadelic?; 2) I Bet You; 3) Music For My Mother; 4) I Got A Thing You Got A Thing Everybody's Got A Thing; 5) Good Old Music; 6) Qualify & Satisfy; 7) What Is Soul.

I'll say this from the very start: I don't give one little shit about the whole "parliafunkadelic" ideology of George Clinton and his croonies. To me, this whole stuff has always looked just as if somebody dropped a bit too much acid and took Hendrix's Electric Ladyland a bit more seriously than he really should. Unfortunately, the vibe of "if you will suck my soul, I will lick your funky emotions" permeates just about every disc Clinton ever put out, and it's pretty hard to close your eyes on it when the guy tries so hard to confront you with it.

This is why Funkadelic's debut could have been a lot better, if you ask me. From the very start, the musicianship is awesome, but the songs are pretty hit-and-miss, and certainly not because they're all "grooves" rather than "songs" - you'd be pretty stupid to expect straightahead pop deliveries with verses and choruses from America's prime acid-oriented R'n'B outfit of the Seventies. No, rather because many of these "grooves" are way too intent on carrying the funkadelicious message. Particularly the opening and closing tracks, 'Mommy, What's A Funkadelic?' and 'What Is Soul' - the titles themselves hint at the songs being the main vehicles for Clinton "initiating" the general public into his musical philosophy. The lyrics are kinda fun if you go through them once (I particularly like the bit at the end of 'Mommy' where it's explained how 'I left my little town in North Carolina, I tried to escape this music, I thought it was for the old country folk, I went to New York, I got my hair slick, I was cool... but I had no groove!'), but you can't live forever with the lyrics, hey, you gotta have the groove too. And the groove is leadenly slow, monotonous, minimalistic even, but not in a good way - just the same simple riff repeated over and over again. 'What Is Soul' is moderately better, featuring some really tasty guitar licks from Eddie Hazel in the left channel, but it still overstays its welcome by a good five minutes or so.

Too bad, because most of the "shorter" songs actually rule ass. The single 'I Bet You', in particular, is redhot and smouldering - psychedelic R'n'B at its best, with the band members trading vocals off each other, with a hooky crowning 'an' I betcha!' at the top of each line and that cute "thin" guitar tone driving the song on and on until Eddie takes over with trippy phased out soloing brooding from speaker to speaker. When you got yourself a terrific groove like that, you can disregard the fact that the song is 'overlong' - the first three minutes give you enough drive to last through the next three. The other major highlight, and the most rabble-rousing track on the album, is 'I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody's Got A Thing', where the band finally fully redeems the "funk" element in its name - the wah-wah arrives on the scene! Together with an incredibly fluent and fast solo from Eddie. This one really gives you a taste of things to come; too bad the passion and the fury of the song's instrumental passage only last for, like, about a minute and aren't to be found anywhere else on here.

The other three songs give you more extended grooves, but fortunately, they're more oriented towards giving you a fun time than towards giving you a public lecture on George Clinton's brand of spirituality. 'Good Old Music' is just an eight-minute slab of generic R'n'B made less generic through Eddie's masterful guitarwork; the guy may not be a "technical superstar", but he's got enough sense so as not to repeat the same licks over and over when he's given the chance. He knows when to pause, when to go off, when to cede the spot to the bass, well you know, a guitar player with a sence of discrepancy. He's just as responsible for salvaging the generic slow blues 'Qualify & Satisfy', which he gives a neat psychedelic treatment as well; and while he's nowhere near as prominent on the remaining groove, 'Music For My Mother', it's at least the shortest of the three.

That said, Funkadelic is still a rather modest beginning for the band. At this point in history, I do believe they were still no match for the wilder drive of Sly & The Family Stone, and Clinton's control over the band wasn't necessarily a good thing either. Shit, as good as Eddie Hazel was on here, most of these songs betray his potential rather than fully demonstrate it, and, want it or not, it does look like the only two bits of real songwriting for the album were 'I Bet You' and 'I Got A Thing'. Then again, one has to come to terms with the fact that Funkadelic wasn't supposed to be a regular crowd-driving funk outfit and nothing more; it was supposed to be a near-religious psychedelic experience, and in that respect, the album does succeed. It's just that it's very very much a product of its time, and I can't really see that many people, black or white, "bonding" with it today. And when you sort out the "dated" elements, all that remains in the end is Eddie Hazel and his skills at playing his instrument - so if you're a fan, go ahead, but if you aren't, you might just skip ahead towards the next few albums.



(released by: FUNKADELIC)

Year Of Release: 1970
Overall rating = 11

Well - so far, these guys are at their best when they free their ass first.


Track listing: 1) Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow; 2) Friday Night August 14th; 3) Funky Dollar Bill; 4) I Wanna Know If It's Good To You?; 5) Some More; 6) Eulogy And Light.

A significant improvement overall, but not until you realize there are some major problems as well. First of all, it's so goddamn short. Thirty minutes? Okay, this was a 'rushed' project, and from what I've heard, most of this was recorded overnight in one hell of an acid-induced collective trip, but that's still not an excuse to put out a record that short (especially when it's built on grooves rather than multiple 'song' ideas). Second, it's still preachy as hell. All right, I can find some reasons for the title track to exist; the title may be repeated for way too many times, but at least this time around it's brimming with sound effects, overdriven acid guitar work from Eddie Hazel, and a pretty cool organ riff from Bernie Worrell that keeps jumping from one speaker to another like these guys had waited all their life for the invention of stereo technology only to play that one trick. At ten minutes, it overstays its welcome by half, but I guess I'd better have this long version than a, uh, twenty-five minute long variant of the album.

However, that last track, 'Eulogy And Light', is a pure piece of dated crap that neither I nor you have any need for. Just a buncha guys preaching the Funkadelic creed over backward tapes. Like I said, the "ideology" of Funkadelic is the least interesting thing about this whole shenanigan, and this track is basically nothing but an overstatement of that ideology. So - three and a half minutes of wasted tape, and ten minutes of cool sound effects and occasionally inspiring soloing, but not much else. What am I supposed to enjoy this record for, the girl's naked ass on the back cover?

Nope (although the naked ass certainly qualifies as well). It's for the four tracks in between, which make up for about eighteen minutes (so, an LP side-length) of some of the coolest Funkadelic music ever produced. (Speaking of "produced", I've heard a lot of complaints about how piss-poorly the CD was mastered and how the original LP sounds way cooler, but I'm lucky enough to have never heard the original LP, so I enjoy my CD tracks just fine, thank you. Here's hoping I see the light some day). Eddie Hazel comes into his own as one of the most underrated guitar players on the planet, and the band develops that ferocious jammin' and groovin' power it's regularly known for. So the beginning and ending kinda suck, but in between you find tight, inspired, fiery playing with grooves that border on, or even simply are, memorable, and thus make the album worth having.

'Friday Night August 14th' is a slow piece of burnin' R'n'B, built upon guitar/organ interplay (and what an interplay that is - neither Eddie nor Bernie are content with just replaying their riffs in the same way, so every time you're out there you hear something new). When Hazel hits you with the wah-wah solo, it's like a Hendrix "gone clean": no extra unnecessary distortion, just a lot of cool soulful sound, and a great treat for me who always loves a good wah-wah showcase. Then midway through Eddie tones down, the organ comes through again, and there's more of this flashy interplay, only this time in pure jam mode. Don't forget to turn the volume all the way up when it becomes necessary - even the silence between the notes should be heard out loud.

For 'Funky Dollar Bill', Bernie switches to slightly dissonant electric piano, and the rhythm guitar plays out a straightforward funk rhythm, while Eddie wails in the background again. My favourite track on the album - most inventive in terms of instrumentation (you wouldn't often hear moderate hints of dissonance on an R'n'B album, right? well, maybe they just were tripped right out of their funky minds and playing out of the asses that would follow, but so much for the better) and just as rockin' as everything else in between the first and last tracks.

However, it's still battling for the honour of 'best song' with the sweaty steemy sexy 'I Wanna Know If It's Good To You?'. Ah, now that's the song where you most obviously hear the devil sinfully panting behind the players' backs as the vocals 'I wanna know if it's go-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-od to you baby when you do what you're doing to me... I know that it musta been go-o-o-o-o-o-o-d to you baby 'cause it sure been good to me...'. And with all that lust in the singing, it still rocks like crazy, again, particularly when the solo section hits in. This time, instead of going for "clean", they go for "dirty" - distorted trills, feedback galore, panning between speakers, phasing, you name it. Anything goes in this crazy stew. In this context, the short bluesy sendup 'Some More' certainly looks feebler than the rest, but I still dig the simple, restrainted guitar riff, and its interaction with the "underwater" vocals (fed through the same gadget through which Townshend used to feed his guitar during the 'Going Mobile' solo, I guess; I just forget the name).

So coolness abounds on the record. It's not Maggot Brain, but essentially just because a few of the tracks suck, while all the others are top quality. And in any case it proves the band's greatness - they're supposed to have played all this while riding high, right? What other band could rock the house down with such power with all of its members on acid? Who knows, maybe the P-Funk ideology did have its use - for these guys, at least.



(released by: FUNKADELIC)

Year Of Release: 1971
Overall rating = 12

If the cover ain't enough to make you buy it, just listen to the words of the wise.


Track listing: 1) Maggot Brain; 2) Can You Get To That; 3) Hit It And Quit It; 4) You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks; 5) Super Stupid; 6) Back In Our Minds; 7) Wars Of Armageddon.

A great twenty-seven minute album of non-stop magnificence. Then, at the end, you get 'Wars Of Armageddon', and discover how much you've been duped, cuz a single CD made out of the best stuff from here augmented by the best stuff off Free Your Mind would just be the single greatest funk album ever released. But what can be expected out of a bunch of acid-digesting religious pseudo-philosophers? You GOTTA give George Clinton some space where he can just rave on, free from the requests of establishing a good melody or even an interesting groove. On this here album, it's 'Wars Of Armageddon' - almost ten minutes of non stop sound effects splurged onto the most basic of all basic rhythm tracks. Needless to say, it has dated quite badly unless you happen to be one of the few people still subscribing not only to the glory of the music of Funkadelic, but also to its acid-induced post-Woodstock ideology.

Fortunately, not so with the other lengthy sonic exploration on the album - the opening title track, supposed to be some sort of a deeply felt lament for Mother Earth, who is "pregnant for the third time, for y'all have knocked her up". True to his word in letter and spirit, Clinton then commands Eddie Hazel to play like his own mother had just died, and so he does. The solo on 'Maggot Brain' (or, to be more precise, the solo which is 'Maggot Brain') has gone down in history as one of the greatest guitar solos ever captured on tape, and no matter what I say, my words will hardly matter for the general consensus, so why should y'all be misled into the realm of shadows if I say I don't like it nearly as much as I'm supposed to like it? I confess I haven't shed any tears for it, unlike in certain cases of soloing by Hendrix or Clapton. But that doesn't mean Eddie does not have an awesome tone going down, or doesn't wisely use the techniques of stopping-and-starting or mood-shifting (from rip-it-all-out to subtle and minimalistic) or doesn't have these brilliant reverb and delay effects splattered all over the place in exactly the right moments. In a few spots, the playing verges on fantastic, and for all of its ten minutes, 'Maggot Brain' never really gets boring.

On a basic level, though, I think it's the shorter numbers on here that really do the trick. Five songs/grooves, all ranking among Funkadelic's finest, all having the band play on peak level. 'Can You Get To That' is a throwback to the Parliaments, with doo-woppy vocal harmonies and stuff and a wonderful country-blues opening acoustic guitar line that turns out to be quite a nifty deception; upbeat and uplifting. 'Hit It And Quit It' has the epitome of a great funk riff, which becomes twice as great with all these cooing female backing harmonies (used to much greater effect than, say, on 'Mommy What's A Funkadelic?'), not to mention just the general intoxicating effect from that flawless interplay between the band - the organ, the wah-wah guitar, the harmonies, the percussion, all integrated seamlessly into one huge wave of sound. Don't forget about that, integration is the word here: we all need to be together, whether it be sharing the Clintonian beliefs or playing Clintonian-style music.

'You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks' is notorious for introducing that "technophilic" slight electronic echo given off the rhythm section - which later becomes extremely annoying on 'Wars Of Armageddon', but when used in the context of a three-and-a-half minute song, merely adds to the memorability. All of the band's songs have a "preachy" element to them, despite their pure melodic grace, and I guess 'You And Your Folks' gets by its preachiness rather than pure melodicity (the groove has no development at all), but basically it's just important not to overdo it. In George's own words, 'hit it and quit it' - 'You And Your Folks' goes for exactly the right amount of time so as not to become nauseating with its 'yeah yeah yeah's, and then wisely gives way to the monster hard-rock groove of 'Super Stupid', which sounds not unlike something Hendrix could have performed with his Band Of Gypsies, only with a full, sweaty sound that makes as much emphasis on the superb rhythm section and the psychedelic organ trimmings as it does on more of that Eddie Hazel quasi-shredding thing. Finally, the hilarious chimes and more of those sweety sweety Parliaments-style doo-woppy harmonies on 'Back In Our Minds' soothe you and put you in a good mood before 'Wars' comes on to end the record on one heck of a disgusting note.

Overall, Maggot Brain is a heck of an improvement - in terms of epicness, production, basic songwriting and an ever-improving guitar playing technique, it has the previous two albums lying face up in the mud. But you know how it goes: the one thing I hate about Funkadelic is when music, or even groove, is sacrificed in favour of a major Clinton fuckup, and Maggot Brain is even guiltier of that than the other two. So it improves in some respects and loses in others, and for that reason I'm not ready to call the album the "beginning of true Funkadelic" or the band's best record, for that matter. The band's best record sleeve, for sure! Not that I hate the later period comics-like covers, but all of them look alike so it's almost impossible to remember what they look like, much less choose the best. The Maggot Brain cover, though, is downright creepy. Is that a 'drown in my own shit' illustration or what?


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