Funkadelic - Maggot Brain
I don't like the term "black music" for a variety of reasons. But for the purposes of the opening part of this review, I am going to use it.
The worst thing that ever happened to black music happened in the early to mid 1970's. The worst thing that ever happened to black music was disco. Disco put a whole generation of people off black music, specifically black American music. The first I heard of Funkadelic was as a kid - One Nation under a Groove being played repeatedly on Radio 1. That was enough. As far as I was concerned Funkadelic were a shitty disco band and I wanted nothing to do with them. It had never occurred to me that the man behind the whole Funkadelic experience, George Clinton, would have similar views to myself about disco.
It has taken a while for that imprint on my formative musical tastes to be overcome - a hell of a while! Even after hearing "Maggot Brain" the track a couple of years back, and listening to some other tracks off a friend's tattered at the edges original vinyl, I still couldn't bring myself to break years of deeply ingrained aversion and buy the album. It seemed like a denial of everything I had believed. Funkadelic were a shitty disco band. To buy an album by Funkadelic was to admit they were not. And that would be like a Christian admitting there is no God!
There is no God!
But eventually, I had to step up to the plate and accept that the years of indifference and disdain were not, of themselves, worth ignoring this album any further. I finally bought the 2005 extended version. That adds little to the original album except for the remixed version of Maggot Brain where all the other instruments which were in the original version of the song, and then taken out by George Clinton to emphasise the brilliance of Eddie Hazel's guitar work in the album version, have been put back in. It is certainly interesting and offers a different take on what is one of the greatest musical moments of all time, but makes you grateful that George Clinton had the vision and the guts to do what he did.
The original album itself is, the title track apart, far from the work of perfection it is sometimes held up to be. "Super Stupid" is the only other track which approaches the standard of "Maggot Brain" while some of the other tracks, especially "Back in Our Minds", do not match up. And while the band might have had a lot of fun making "The Wars of Armageddon" I do not get the same appreciation listening to what is, after all, an extended jam session complete with sound effects, including farting sounds.
But any criticism of the album has to be tempered with a realisation that in "Maggot Brain" one is listening to one of the greatest tracks of the seventies. That alone will bring this album's ratings up. After years of avoiding Funkadelic, it is gratifying to hear some good funk which rocks. And this does rock! So sweep aside the flaccid banality of disco. Turn away from the limp cries of "shake your funky booty". Ignore the feeble exhortations to "get on down", "move your body" and "dance all night". Funkadelic was, in 1971, the future of black music. It is a pity that nobody listened.
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