26/4/15 – Funkadelic – Funkadelic – 1970 / Free You Mind And Your Ass Will Follow – 1970 / Maggot Brain – 1971

Album Of The Day

Funkadelic First Album Cover 1970“If you will lick my soul, I will suck your funky emotions”. You are listening to the first Funkadelic album! Oh that slow groove, these post-Hendrix black musicians were inspired and they were connected to the rhythm, they were the rhythm, you couldn’t stand still, you threw your head back, closed your eyes and let go. This music is vital, it makes Led Zeppelin sound clumsy, Funkadelic, inspired hybrids, unsurpassed, inventing a whole mythology, inhabiting a planet all their own.  Somehow, Parliament-Funkadelic transformed themselves from mid-sixties Doo-Wop via freaked out Acid-Funk to a seventies groove machine, all under the guidance of leading light, George Clinton. The Parliaments became Funkadelic due to contractual issues and later became known as the Parliament- Funkadelic collective. I guess those changing times had a profound effect on all the musicians of the day and although Clinton guided them behind the scenes as producer, he was also a priceless spokesperson and flamboyant focus point whose antics, multi-coloured hair and Venusian stage clothes placed him firmly in the spotlight for most of the seventies – P.Funk was born and Prince dreamed of growing up so he could do it too.

Often off the radar in a Rock world dominated by Jimi Hendrix and mostly white Rock guitar players was Parliament-Funkadelic’s Eddie Hazel, contributing mind-blowing feels and licks. Hazel also contributed narration on their 1970 self titled album’s opening track, Mommy What’s A Funkadelic, confirming that these fine beings did come from outer space. The first album is an adventure in sound, a moody spaced-out trip, but the feel is never lost. How did they do it? They were just completely immersed in their thang. They were open minded too, it wasn’t a closed black thing – check the guitar out on “I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing”, that’s Ray Monette, he’s a white guy, guitarist with Rare Earth one of the few white bands sound to Motown.

Clinton’s vision of Funkadelic, and Soul/Funk reveals itself in the closing track on the first album, What Is Soul:

Behold, I am Funkadelic
I am not of your world
But fear me not
I will do you no harm

Loan me your funky mind, and I shall play with it
For nothing is good, unless you play with it
And all that is good is nasty
Fly on, baby [Incomprehensible]

Some orange haze, orange haze, it ain’t purple now more

What is soul?
I don’t know
Soul is a ham hock in your cornflakes

What is soul?
I don’t know
Soul, soul is the ring around your bathtub

What is soul?
I don’t know
Soul is a joint rolled in toilet paper

What is soul?
Man, I don’t know
Soul is rusty ankles and ashy kneecaps, oh yeah

What is soul?
Man, I don’t know
Soul is chitins foo yung, chop chop
Oh, tell ’em, brother

What is soul
Man, I told ya, I don’t know
Soul is a ham hock in your cornflakes
Oh, get on down now, yeah

Soul, soul, soul

A joint rolled in toilet paper
Oh yeah, right on
Yeah, yeah, yeah

Soul is you
Soul is you, baby
(Hey Calvin, it’s the same damn thing)
Soul is you, big mama

Funkadelic Free Your Mind and Your Ass Will Follow 1970 Album CoverFree You Mind And Your Ass Will Follow was also released in 1970 and  Clinton was famously quoted when asked about the album “We wanted to see if we could make a whole album whilst tripping on acid”. It sounds like the effects department from Lost In Space or Star Trek found themselves some post Sci Fi TV work. The album only managed No.92 on the US charts, too freaky for the freaks. It’s Space Rock, it’s funky, it’s jamming, it’s uninhibited but it’s completely and totally accessible. Check out Eddie Hazel’s guitar on the second track, Friday Night August, 14th  Tiki Fulwood’s drumming, Billy Nelson’s bass just groovin’ on, Nelson also sings lead vocals on the track  – and it was him that thought of the name Funkadelic. Tawl Ross also plays guitar and sings on third track Funky Dollar Bill – I guess it’s unclear as to who does what as is often the case with dual guitar bands (Televison, Thin Lizzy, Wishbone Ash) but Tawl Ross was the rhythm player, super important in a band like this. George Clinton sings, Parliament’s members, Raymond Davis, Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas all sing vocals, they are a collective made up of two groups – how did they even manage to organise it? It’s unclear who did actually play on what. But it doesn’t really matter whose doing what because they are doing it for higher beings, beings out there in the universe as Clinton directs paying homage to his alien creator. It’s a religious experience for them, they see God in the drugs and their God is sexy too, they dress up for him and dance for him and they take acid for him.

Maggot Brain released in 1971 must have scared the living daylights out of the critics, the audience, the establishment – how I wish I’d heard this record when it came out. The cover art alone had middle class white boys running home to Mom. Then there’s the opening:

Mother Earth is pregnant for the third time
For y’all have knocked her up.
I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe
I was not offended
For I knew I had to rise above it all
Or drown in my own shit.
Come on Maggot Brain
Go on Maggot Brain

Funkadelic Maggot Brain Album Cover 1971Most famous is Eddie Hazel’s epic ten minute guitar solo on the opening and title track. Why is it great? Well, it’s the most unselfconscious ten minute guitar solo I’ve ever heard. Apparently on this album Clinton told him to play like his mother had just died but then found out that it wasn’t true.

Acoustic guitar? Unexpectedly Can You Get To That a cast of male and female singers covering the vocal spectrum, so many people, so many names? Hit It And Quit brings them back to Funk with regular keyboardist Bernie Worrell on lead vocals. You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks, somewhere here you become aware of the Sly And The Family Stone connection and through all the drugs and the weirdness it’s socially conscious, empathetic, observing the truth in the black American society of that era.

Analysing each track for this music seems rather unnecessary, you just have to feel it, you have to tune in to it, you have take that step onto the spaceship and wonder at the possibilities of the destination, care not about whether you will survive, just consider all you might experience on the way.

These are three of the most essential records ever made in any genre – what happened next is a whole can of maggots.

Eddie Hazel died in 1992 from liver failure.

Tiki Fulwood died of stomach cancer in 1979.

Ray Davis died in 2005 of respiratory problems.

Tawl Ross left after the third album allegedly after a bad acid trip.





















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