As Funkadelic and Parliament started to diverge, Standing on the Verge of Getting It On is kind of a return to form for guitarist Eddie Hazell. He dominates some of the best parts of this album, especially the lengthy closer “Good Thoughts, Bad Thoughts” — kind of a sequel to “Maggot Brain.” “I’ll Stay” is another good one. Hell, this whole album rocks like only Funkadelic could. There are heavy grooves, and a heavy commitment to “free love” and whatever remained of the 1960s freak scene. Of course it all sounds like a psychedelic trip too. No other band managed the precarious balancing act of holding forth all the black and white musical elements that came so naturally to this group. As Parliament gained popularity, there would be a lot less chaotic weirdness and more focused grooves, making this something of a last gasp for the offhand, working band qualities that carry much of the album so well.
Maggot Brain is Funkadelic’s most brilliantly executed album. It is a grab bag of styles, each skillfully employed for the desired effect. There is psychedelic balladry (“Maggot Brain”), trippy soul (“Hit It And Quit It”), folky gospel (“Can You Get To That”), dark blues-rock (“You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks”), heavy metal (“Super Stupid”), zany pop (“Back In Our Minds”), and sound collage (“Wars of Armageddon”). Eclectic to say the least, Maggot Brain is one of rock’s most durable recordings.
When Maggot Brain came out, “Funkadelic” and “Parliament” were conceptually different. Both were the brainchildren of George Clinton, and the exact same group of musicians played in both. The two heads of the beast seemed to each have a mind of their own. “Funkadelic” was the rock band while “Parliament” was the funk band. Over time the distinction lost all meaning (the names actually used gets quite confusing), especially after Bootsy Collins later joined.
This is an Eddie Hazel album. Even on great P-Funk albums, the glue sometimes came apart. Though “Wars of Armageddon” tests the limits, Maggot Brain stays together. George Clinton was the ringleader, but Hazel is the “glue” that sticks here. The title track features one of the great psychedelic rock solos of the Vietnam war era. Hazel’s aching and languishing feeling on that song is diametrically opposed to Jimi Hendrix‘s fiery style, though in general Hendrix comparisons are in order.
The drumming from Ramon “Tiki” Fulwood is another highlight. While forceful and snappy, his drumming is simple. However, the percussion is ingrained in the music, right in step with the solos from Hazel and the amazing keyboardist Bernie Worrell. The echo effects on “You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks” bring back a trick from old sides by blues shouters like Big Maybelle. The rough feel gives give this record’s constant inventiveness some firm roots.
“Can You Get to That” returns to the very ancient concepts of love and equality. This crew believes in those things even if they aren’t commonly witnessed. Funkadelic handles this song is such a way that these ideals never seem futile.
Maggot Brain has empowerment on Funkadelic’s agenda. It’s not happy Sixties soul. The record points out some of the biggest mistakes society has brought upon itself. Yet, Funkadelic seem immune. They have the inside track laid out inside their social commentary, and are willing to share it.
Landing on major label Warner Bros., Funkadelic combined the more accessible elements of Parliament (the funk version of the band) and Funkadelic (the rock version of the band) to arrive at the sound of One Nation Under a Groove. The edges have been rounded off some of the rock guitar solos, and the funk is a little less hard — you don’t HAVE to dance, but you still very well could. Things glide by pretty comfortably though. This is definitely shooting for the widest possible audience. So, sure, this is probably the easiest entry point. But at the same time, this falls short of the crazy (and I mean CRAIZEE) unique, grooving, classic music the band made elsewhere. But you could more readily play this for some squares you know (yeah, you know some) and they would be less likely to shit their pants listening to this one than some others.
The debut was pretty jammy, and this one is too but, for better or worse, it’s even more freaky, loose and psychedelic. The black Grateful Dead? Sort-of. If you come to this looking for well-defined “songs” you’ll be disappointed. But guitarist Eddie Hazel proves the star. He lights up side one. This one has its place. It can’t compete with what came next though, the stone-cold classic Maggot Brain.
Funkadelic made an abrupt turn with their fourth album. Rather than extended psychedelic R&B jams, George Clinton & Co. had shifted away from guitar as a centerpiece of the music to vocal harmonies. Some of this could pass for vintage soul, and one track even could fairly be called country rock. Listeners who appreciate Funkadelic as being one of the stranger and weirder rock acts of their day may not warm up to this much, but on its own terms this is a successful album. It marked the group’s first attempt to be more commercially palatable. The approach makes a certain amount of sense, considering that attempting to duplicate or top Maggot Brain would have been futile.