Saturday, August 13, 2011

Funkadelic - Maggot Brain

Maggot Brain (1970) ***1/2

The '70s equivalent of the Wu-Tang Clan, George Clinton and his merry psychedelic pranksters seemed bent upon defining the term, "spreading yourself too thin".  Talented and influential Parliament-Funkadelic were (the fact that they felt the need to split themselves into two separate bands speaks volumes, and those were only the main two - keeping up with all of their offshoots can be dizzying), I highly doubt that when tackling their massive discography, many of their albums are going to get very high ratings for that reason.  This album begins and ends with two lengthy tracks that each hover around the ten-minute mark, one of which is a masterpiece, and one of which is a rip-off.  The title track is nothing more than an extended guitar solo courtesy Eddie Hazel, but it's one of the most jaw-dropping post-Hendrix guitar solos in rock history.  It doesn't quite add up to, "play it like your mama died," but what could?  After the ten minutes of that opening track are finished, the rest of the album seems like an afterthought - not that the five shorter songs aren't worthwhile, it's just that the ten-minute guitar solo casts such a deep, brooding shadow over the entire album.  How could it not?  The closing track, "Wars of Armageddon," is a waste of space, a slightly funkier take on "Revolution #9," that was either thrown on hastily at the last minute to fill out the running time, or the result of too many drugs, or most likely both.  In between you get three OK-ish songs that have their funky moments and two really good songs that stand on the verge of great:  the ripping post-Hendrix/proto-metal "Super Stupid," and the gospel-from-funk-groove-freakout, "Hit It and Quit It".  To add it up:  around 18 minutes of this album are great, another 10 minutes of this album are fairly good, and the remaining 10 minutes are awful.  So it's definitely worth the investment of your listening pleasure but it's nowhere near a masterpiece, despite this being revered as one of their best albums.

P.S.  This album was originally entitled Faggot Brain and was filled with homophobic rants - the "drown in your own shit," cover was supposed to represent a gay man literally taking the Hershey Highway.

P.P.S/  Kidding am I?  Guess you may. 

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