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Maggot Brain

Westbound 2007
Released: July 1971
Chart Peak: #108
Weeks Charted: 16

Funkadelic is a heavyweight psychedelic-soul experiment that pits rough rock guitar and instrumentals against soul chants. A collective of voices and musicians, who also double as Parliament, Invictus group, rock and soul, some of the funkiest, far-out flings in soul music. "Can You Get To That," "You And Your Folks" and "Wars at Armageddon" are typical Funkadelic freak-outs.

- Billboard, 1971.

Bonus Reviews!

Children, this is a funkadelic. The title piece is ten minutes of classic Hendrix-gone-crazy guitar by one Eddie Hazel -- time-warped, druggy superschlock that may falter momentarily but never lapses into meaningless showoff runs. After which comes 2:45 of post-classic soul-group harmonizing -- two altos against a bass man, all three driven by the funk, a rhythm so pronounced and eccentric it could make Berry Gordy twitch to death. The funk pervades the rest of the album, but not to the detriment of other peculiarities. Additional highlight: "Super Stupid." B+

- Robert Christgau, Christgau's Record Guide, 1981.

The best early Funkadelic record. There's some indulgent stuff here that may conjure some art-rock nightmares, but at its best -- "You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" -- this is a brave and pioneering recording. * * * * *

- John Floyd, The All-Music Guide to Rock, 1995.

The 10-minute title track of Funkadelic's Maggot Brain proves that Jimi Hendrix wasn't the only freaky black guitarist. * * * * 1/2

- Lawrence Gabriel, Musichound Rock: The Essential Album Guide, 1996.

"Play like your mama just died," George Clinton told guitarist Eddie Hazel. The result was "Maggot Brain," ten minutes of Hendrix-style guitar anguish. This is the heaviest rock album the P-Funk crew ever created, but it also made room for the acoustic guitar funk of "Can You Get to That."

Maggot Brain was chosen as the 486th greatest album of all time by the editors of Rolling Stone magazine in Dec. 2003.

- Rolling Stone, 12/11/03.

Their first two albums -- the blues-influenced warped acid rock of 1970's eponymous debut and the psych-tinged sophomore, Free Your Mind And Your Ass Will Follow -- introduced The Funk as a way of life, a religion. Their third outing captured the group at the height of their creative and imaginative powers.

First came the packaging; a shrieking woman's head erupts from the soil on the cover, while the sleevenotes quote the Process Church Of The Final Judgement. Then the music -- brave and bold, it meshes spine-tingling lyrics ("I have tasted the maggots in the mind of the universe") with an eerie, demented, transcendental score. "Back then people said, 'You just can't do that sorta thing on a record," explained frontman George Clinton. "And I was sayin' right back, 'You bet yo' ass I can.'"

Recorded at Universal Studios, Detroit, in the latter parts of 1970 and the beginning of 1971, Maggot Brain excelled at gospel-infused, call-and-response ebullience ("Can't You Get To That") and pulsating funk rock stomps ("Super Stupid"). It also hit hard with penetrating social commentary -- "You And Your Folks, Me And My Folks" overtly attacks racism, "War Of Armageddon" tackles the traumatic fallout of the Vietnam War.

But the real power lies with the title track. Myth has it that Clinton disovered his brother's rotting body and cracked the skull, sprawled in a Chicago apartment -- hence the "maggot brain." Locking guitarist Eddie Hazel in the studio he demanded, "Play like your mother just died." Hazel did just that providing a spectral, plaintive nine-minute guitar solo that eclipsed everything he and the group did, before or after.

- Lois Wilson, 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die, 2005.

Every serious music collection needs at least one guitar solo that can stop a party in its tracks. Eddie Hazel's epic journey on the title track of this, the first great Funkadelic record, will do the trick. After an initial eruption of feedback and some ominous words about the maltreatment of Mother Earth, there's a gently plucked electric-guitar arpeggio reminiscent of the background part in "The House of the Rising Sun." Against this backdrop, Hazel enters with a pure single note, as though he's sending out sonar to see how deep the water goes. A few other isolated tones follow -- Hazel is in no hurry, he maxes out every pitch-bending cry, fashioning an elegy. The quest lasts more than ten minutes, and by the end it feels liek Hazel has just delivered some profound and possibly majestic truth, a rousing sermon tdhat affirms (and then subverts) everything worth cherishing about the ritual known as the rock guitar solo.

Maggot Brain was recorded in 1971, a period when many musicians were still grieving Jimi Hendrix, who'd died the previous year. Hazel, a veteran of George Clinton's various ensembles, was often described as a "Hendrix disciple." With this solo and his contributions to the rest of this album, Hazel steps away from that influence to claim his place among the greats. He makes the guitar speak his language, and presents a highly individual refinement of the teachings of Jimi. Hazel doesn't eclipse Hendrix, but instead shows that the great one's inspiration could mutate in countless potent ways.

The rest of Maggot Brain isn't exactly lightweight. There's a scalding bit of gospelized funk ("Can You Get to That") that shows how persuasive George Clinton could be as a singer. Also here is one of the great songs about interracial romance ("You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks"), a showcase for the hot-footed rhythm section ("Super Stupid"), and another extended romp ("Wars of Armageddon") that contains the seeds of the marathon Funkadelic jams to follow, most notably One Nation Under a Groove (1978). Created at a time when super-long jams were common, these Funkadelic workouts push the possibilities to the edge: If you follow Hazel's fitful and twisted path on "Maggot Brain," by the end, you will be a different person.

- Tom Moon, 1,000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die, 2008.

"Play like your mama just died," George Clinton told guitarist Eddie Hazel. The result was "Maggot Brain," 10 minutes of Jimi Hendrix-style guitar anguish. This is the heaviest rock album the Parliament-Funkadelic crew ever recorded, but it also made room for the acoustic-guitar funk jam "Can You Get to That."

Maggot Brain was chosen as the 136th greatest album of all time in a Rolling Stone magazine poll of artists, producers, critics and music industry figures in Oct. 2020.

- Rolling Stone, 10/20.

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