Maggot Brain

Maggot Brain

Funkadelic (1971)

As their name suggests, Funkadelic were pioneers of funk. The collective was led by whacked-out visionary George Clinton, and over the years, boasted such renowned players as Eddie Hazel, Bernie Worrell, Bootsy Collins, Ray Davis and Clarence “Fuzzy” Haskins.

Dance music had been around for a long time, whether it was swing, rock or pop, but Funkadelic brought a bass-heavy edge to it, with a lot of soul influences as well. Their primary aesthetic impetus was an exploration of astral consciousness, including spiritual/psychedelic philosophy, frank sexual content, and an embrace of ethnicity and mortality. This was also very purposely lively music, so it focused on repetition and grooves to encourage movement and singing along.

They were also part of a tightly-knit community of musicians who acted as session players on each other’s recordings. This army of like-minded individuals driving forward a particular aesthetic was a fresh, novel idea in rock music. They explore several different varieties and crossbreeds of funk on this seminal LP, and the band never fails to be entertaining, melodic, and very talented.

One tune has silly, dippy, chirpy noises and group vocals, while the next boasts crushing, near heavy-metal riffs. The biggest hit here is a folksy jangle fused with R&B call-and-response. There’s a freaky, chaotic sound pastiche at the end. And finally there’s the title track. This ten-minute guitar solo (which is frequently cited as the greatest ever) is certainly captivating, but for unusual reasons. It’s not the fastest, most unusual, most complex, or most melodic. It’s simply fluid – changing its melody and mood several times; displaying chops but never striving to impress; and being unique, while still approachable. Just like the album named after it.

Key track: “Super Stupid”

See also: There’s A Riot Goin’ On – Sly And the Family Stone (1971), Mothership Connection – Parliament (1976)

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