Funkadelic

TrackAlbum
I Got A Thing… ...Funkadelic
Funky Dollar BillFree Your Mind…
I Call My Baby PussycatFunkadelic Live ...… 1971
Maggot BrainMaggot Brain
Super StupidMaggot Brain
Cosmic SlopHardcore Jollies
Let’'s Take It To The StageLet’'s Take It To The Stage
Red Hot MommaStanding On The Verge Of Getting It On
One Nation Under A GrooveOne Nation Under A Groove
(Not Just) Knee DeepUncle Jam Wants You

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Contributor: Dom Walsh

Writing about Funkadelic is something I have always wanted to do. I am now 30 years old, which means that the songs that I have picked on this list are largely older than me. I have been lucky enough to see George Clinton and his funk mob in whatever guise they take a few times. The first time was in 2006. I was overcome with excitement and joy at seeing someone who had become one of my musical heroes ever since I heard Maggot Brain for the first time. When I made the journey to London in June 2011, the band quite simply blew me away. Not because they were any better, but because they played a set of early Funkadelic tunes which sounded so fresh. Later that year I saw the band again and they were excellent as usual but completely different again, opting for more ‘classics’ in the set.

Picking just ten tracks, as many people have stated in these parts, is a nightmare! First up I have chosen I Got A Thing, You Got A Thing, Everybody’s Got A Thing. This is one that George dropped at the London show I saw and it was ridiculous. The feedback, the wah-wah, the lyric, the handclaps and the passion all just seep through. It’s ludicrously hypnotic and psychedelic in so many ways. Psychedelic and heavy is also the way to describe Funky Dollar Bill (from Free Your Mind… and Your Ass Will Follow). Everything in this recording is turned up to completely mess with your head. The vocals are piercing and in your face.

Many of the early Funkadelic recordings were made synonymous with the legendary guitar work of Eddie Hazel. Seen as some to be the heir to the Hendrix throne, Hazel is in complete face-melting mode on the title track to Maggot Brain. As the story goes, Eddie Hazel and George Clinton were in the studio under the influence of whatever medicine they desired. At one point in the session, Clinton locked Hazel in the studio, turned up the guitar and told him to play like his mum had just died. In the recording of the track, the guitar is very much 80% of the mix; everything else is in the background. Also, is it genius to open up an album with a ten minute guitar solo? I for one am not arguing. It is an apocalyptic track that just tugs at the heartstrings. Also making the top ten cut from Maggot Brain for me is Super Stupid. This again is another that allows Hazel to just let loose on guitar. The rolling intro riff and absolutely blistering solo are second to none. The solo for me is one of the best ever. It would tear the roof off any place played live, and it already sounds so visceral on the album. In recent years this track was covered by Audioslave, but it came nowhere near the sheer perfection of this 1971 cut.

Funkadelic’s live shows in the early seventies were drug addled, blues infused, tribal events. One of the best documents of this era is the Westbound released Live album. I have included I Call My Baby Pussycat from this release. There are two versions on the album; a slow version and a fast version. The slow version is a monstrous version. The guitars are loud and in your face and the drums are furiously heavy. The repeated mantra-like vocals are early indicators of the genius of George to create hooks and melody in the vocal. The set list on the album is made up of early Funkadelic material.

The next track I have included is Cosmic Slop (see above clip). This track has appeared on many different Funkadelic releases. The original version released on the album of the same name is probably the weakest. The strongest album version is on a re-recorded live version from 1978’s Hardcore Jollies. The track is written and led by the sadly departed Garry ‘Starchild’ Shider. The pulsating guitar riff jabs away throughout before a breakout solo that again shows that it was ok for a ‘funk’ band to play rock and roll.

The sound of Funkadelic was gradually coming more in line with that of Parliament (see separate TopperPost). The distortion was out, and a more slick sound was employed. Let’s Take It To The Stage saw Clinton messing around with raps and random lyrics that sound completely out there but work so well. The groove is slow, dirty and naughty. On the live videos available from past Funkadelic shows, seeing Clinton in his mothership get-up blasting through this rap with improvisations is something to behold. Although the band moved towards a more slick sound, there was still a hard element to the music. Standing On The Verge Of Getting It On’s album opener, Red Hot Mamma, is the best showing of this. The track again has a punchy guitar line, backed with some great work on the keys that make the song infectious. Let’s Take It To The Stage and Standing On The Verge… are arguably Funkadelic’s most complete albums. From front to back, I could have included any of the 20 or so tracks. The albums are must haves for any Funkadelic collection, and the artwork, like lots of Funkadelic albums, is intricate and cool.

As the 70s drew to a close, Funkadelic, partly due to Parliament’s success, had more commercial reward in the form of One Nation Under A Groove. The track which was originally included on the album of the same name saw the band move towards a more electronic sound, but the funk is definitely still strong! Clocking in at over seven minutes, the track hypnotises with its groove until the choral outbreak claims the band ‘getting down just for the funk of it!’.

1979’s Uncle Jam Wants You heralded one of the most sampled tracks in history; (Not Just) Knee Deep. Double the length of One Nation…, most famously sampled by De La Soul and Dr Dre, and in similar vein, the track is dominated by a repetitive groove. The difference here is that it has more of a Funkadelic feel with a guitar solo that ensures the fifteen minute duration does not bore or grow arduous.

Funkadelic are still a going concern today and this year released a new single. If you get a chance to experience the genius of P-Funk live, do not hesitate. They’re one of my favourite bands ever, and will always move me. They have veered from complete masters of funk, to hard rock aficionados and many places in between. They toyed with rap before many other people did, and this mixed with songs that had a social voice for Black America during such a significant period in history, makes them one of the most important bands ever in my opinion.

Official site of George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic

Funkadelic biography (iTunes)

TopperPost #97

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