Sunday, July 15, 2007

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

I'll just say it up front: the title song of this album contains the best guitar solo in the history of rock music. You won't believe me, probably, because you have your own favorite solos clutched tightly to your chest, and anyway, isn't Funkadelic, well, y'know, a funk band? I salute your right to worship your own guitar gods; that's why we listen to loud music. But don't let the name of the band, or their color, or the age of this album fool you: Eddie Hazel recorded - in one take - the solo against which all other solos would be measured if he hadn't been African American. Sorry to play the race card, but it MUST be true.

The story on Maggot Brain is that George Clinton, out of his mind on Yellow Sunshine, told Hazel to play the first half of the song as if he had just heard that his own mother was dead, and then the second half as if he had found out she was alive. The result is beyond "astonishing" or "powerful" or anything else critics usually say; it's an improvised composition, of both deep blues purity and cold, hard, futuristic vision. There is a band backing it, but it fades out (reputedly because they sounded shitty next to Hazel), and it's pretty much just one man showing us what he's made of. If you've heard it, you know what I'm talking about. If you haven't, well, the record store is open and you just got paid.

The rest of the album is excellent, too, and diverse, with the soul of "Back in Our Minds" sounding great next to the Black Sabbath funk of "Super Stupid" (which contains, by the way, another stunning Eddie Hazel solo), and the Bernie Worrell organ burnout of "Hit It and Quit It." And the whole thing ends in perfect Funkadelic fashion with "Wars of Armageddon," a long-ass guitar workout featuring screaming, hilariously over-the-top crowd chanting, sound effects that make no sense (cows, farts, sirens, canned sitcom laughter), and the overall feeling that everything is coming apart. (Hey: it was Detroit in 1971.) This CD is not quite 37 minutes long, but it runs the gamut of emotions, musical styles, and points of view. And it contains the greatest guitar solo in the world.

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