October 17, 2007

The Heavy Sh!t

Maggot Brain oozes forth its greatness from all orifices. The title track guitar solo alone works on an impressive number of levels: eulogy for Hendrix; Eddie Hazel's signature track; the cries of our dying mother earth; and, certainly, the mourning over a dead mother followed by a suprise reunion that Hazel imagined to spur his playing on this work.

First, some trippy delay effects bring in George Clinton's spooky spoken word intro, and we know something huge is coming. Next we have Bernie come in with those four moving chords, and I love the snare with the delay effects. When Eddie does come in, his wah is cocked to a perfect point for his first few riffs, before he starts to work it up and down as some tasteful studio doubling, reverb, and delay sweetens it all up. He proceeds to go off for a while, his guitar singing to us about his dead mother with gut wrenching impact for several minutes until, his last tears squeezing out, he sees her coming towards him, and is reunited with her. Sounds to me like he is simultaneously overjoyed to see her and furious that he has been put through all of this, an octave fuzz giving us the higher octave along side his fretted ntoes to show what these two different-pitched souls are enduring together. Clinton speaks again, exhorting us: "Come on, maggot brain; go, maggot brain", before we hear the last few licks trailing off. Not for everyone, but, as a Hendrix-worshipping guitar player, it's irresitably moving to me.

Afterwards, "Can You Get to That" brings some bouncy relief, but then "Hit It And Quit It" has to come and kick our butts again, this time with a sick Hazel riff. Play this one loud to fully appreciate how badass it is when the whole band kicks in. If you don't dig it, then get a new stereo.

"You and Your Folks, Me and My Folks" reprises the "Can You Get to That" riff, and with meat like "Hit and Quit It" in between those two slices, it makes for one damn great sandwich in the middle of this tasty meal called Maggot Brain (so appetizing!).

"Super Stupid" rocks like all hell, and "Back in Our Minds" stands perilously close to sucking with its loud percussion instrument. I can't remember what that thing is called, but I have played in a couple of bands with percussionists who had 'em, and they never found a good use for them, except to annoy their bandmates in between songs at rehearsals. Clinton manages to make it work, though: listening to the way the high pitched, modulating thing is rolling over the rest of the tune packs plenty of entertainment for this brief tune.

The full band jam of "Wars of Armageddon" is a perfect end for an album that started off with the sparse "Maggot Brain" making the whole thing feel almost like a concept album that had been building up to this point, but, really, this track, while pretty good, does not have nearly the impact of "Maggot Brain", so it's almost fitting when they just blow the whole thing up. . .but that snippet of the band launching back into it at the end lets us know that not even "Armageddon" can stop this funk. Excellent final touch on this classic!

So, yeah, I'm sold on the greatness of this album and its place in history. It's great to see Bernie Worrell and George Clinton still out there doing it, and I particularly love how Worrell has been embraced by the jamband community, whether with his own band the Woo Warriors or jamming with Gov't Mule or Les Claypool, since there seems to be more people trying to play funk within that scene than anywhere else these days, and I know that they all appreciate the presence of the master. I sure as hell have loved seeing him at some festivals where my band has played, and I will always regret being too ill to stick around to see my band's keyboardist jam with him on stage one night. If Maggot Brain is a state of mind, as Clinton claims, then one day I hope to tap into it just long enough to unleash one great guitar solo; until then, I'll keep on practicing for that day, whenever it may arrive.


Ancient Scientist said...

Well I like this one better than the last one even. I think Barker has taken the best of my Scientific inquiry and the venerableseed's maternal devotion and made a very nice entry.

I think we are inspiring each other!

Ancient Scientist said...

The youtube video starts off "Maggot Brain" and ends a little bit "Freebird," if you ask me.

venerableseed said...

its the first one I saw that was from the past, had good ratings, and was by funkadelic and not Pearl Jam. If there's a better one just let me know and I can change it. I just wanted to show how cool the post looks with a you tube video.

Ancient Scientist said...

Nah - I actually think it's really cool. It's a really good performance and I like the embedded video feature.

I mean, "Freebird" kicks ass!

LenBarker said...

The embedded video is badass. Thank you, Seed! I love the interplay between Hampton and Hazel there.